Grand Funk Railroad is a band full of intriguing conundrums when it comes to their place in the history of rock & roll music. A lengthy successful series of albums must be balanced against a small number of familiar hit singles. A short period of peak popularity must be balanced against a deep influence that was inspirational in providing the template of funk mixed with rock that would allow bands like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Red Hot Chili Peppers to forge their own path later on. Nor does this exhaust all of the ironies of this particular band–they were known as Grand Funk Railroad for the longest part of their careers but had their biggest success when they were using their shortened form “Grand Funk.” Like a handful of other 70’s bands , they have an influence that goes far beyond the small number of hit singles for which they are known for today, and it is from that perspective that I write about them today.
The Influence Of Grand Funk Railroad
One of the more ironically titled albums in the Grand Funk discography is Grand Funk Lives, which was released towards the tail end of their career. In another sense, though, Grand Funk continues to live. Three of their hits continue to live on in classic radio–“We’re An American Band,” “The Loco-Motion,” and “Some Kind Of Wonderful,” all of which are pretty familiar to even casual fans of the music of the early to mid 1970’s. One of those hits, “The Loco-Motion,” was itself a remake and it was re-made in turn by, of all people, the young Kylie Minogue, herself a future member of this list of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame snubs unless she is inducted in Cleveland before I get around to her in this series. The other important line of influence is, as I mentioned earlier, through bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers who blend rock and funk. As a band with an essential place in the history of the music of their time, they are definitely a band that deserves to be remembered for more than a few hit singles and a great deal of band personnel drama.
Why Grand Funk Railroad Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Did Grand Funk Railroad, under whatever name they were known under, leave an influence for later bands? Yes. Does their music endure and remain appreciated to this day? Yes. Did they show a sustained period of worthwhile albums? Absolutely. From 1969 to 1974 Grand Funk Railroad racked up two multi-platinum albums (one of them live), four platinum albums, and five gold albums (a later compilation album also went gold). That comes out to two albums a year that sold 500,000 copies or more . Many bands struggle to produce one of those albums ever three or four years, and Grand Funk Railroad was putting out multiple successful albums every year for half a decade: On Time and Grand Fun in 1969, Closer To Home and Live Album in 1970, Survival and E Pluribus Funk in 1971, Phoenix and Mark, Don, and Mel: 1969-71 in 1972, We’re An American Band in 1973, and Shinin’ On and All The Girls In The World Beware!!! in 1974. Can you imagine many musicians or bands able to produce that much material that rapidly in contemporary music and have that music endure for decades as being quality music?
Why Aren’t Grand Funk Railroad In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?
I don’t know. Although not all of their successful albums are critical darlings, a large number of them have been well-regarded by All Music and Rolling Stone, and that ought to be enough for some kind of critical approval. Perhaps the band is only remembered for having a few hit singles, many of which were covers, rather than for their sustained success in studio albums and their early efforts at opening the door for arena rock. Whatever the case, though, there aren’t any good enough reasons to deny them induction.
Verdict: Put them in–all eight current and former members if possible.
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