Lou Gramm Admits He’d ‘Given Up’ on Foreigner’s Rock Hall Induction Until This Year

Before the band he fronted for nearly 25 years was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2024, Lou Gramm says he “had given up” on the idea of Foreigner ever getting in. Even now he’s trying hard to temper his expectations as public and professional voting for this year’s inductees goes on through April 26.

“I was not feeling good that our peers were in years ago and we were completely neglected,” Gramm tells Billboard from home in his native Rochester, N.Y. “I personally had given up that we would ever be considered. I didn’t even think about it anymore, to be honest with you. So (the nomination) was a big surprise to me, and I didn’t want to be too excited about it when I heard. I didn’t want to be amped up or get my hopes up because of the way things have gone down in the past. I was, ‘OK, that’s good. Let’s see what happens. I hope we get in.’ I’m patiently waiting to see what happens.”

Gramm does feel that “things look pretty good,” and he’s been particularly appreciative of the campaign efforts by Mark Ronson, son-in-law of Foreigner founder Mick Jones, who’s enlisted artists such as Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Slash, Jack Black, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith and others to publicly express disbelief that the veteran act isn’t in the Rock Hall already.

“I think he’s a pretty creative guy, and there hasn’t been anything too boisterous or outlandish,” Gramm says of Ronson’s efforts. “It’s telling the story the way he sees it, from his vantage point with his stepdad. It makes sense.” McCartney’s participation, Gramm adds, “was awesome. That one I certainly didn’t expect, and if you just see it once you know it was completely off the cuff for him. He said what needed to be said [‘Foreigner? Not in the Hall of Fame? What the f–k?!’] and that was it. I was very impressed and very thankful.”

Gramm was Foreigner’s original frontman and was with the band from 1976-1989 and 1992-1993, serving as Jones’ principal songwriting partner; the two were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013, the same year Gramm published his memoir Juke Box Hero: My Five Decades in Rock ‘n’ Roll. Gramm was part of Foreigner reunion shows during 2017 and 2018 and currently performs with his Lou Gramm All Stars. He’ll be part of Poison frontman Bret Michael’s Parti-Gras 2.0 tour this summer as well.

Gramm says he hasn’t been in contact with any of his bandmates, but he’s been told that if inducted, Foreigner — which has remained in the top 5 of the fan vote since it opened in February — will perform two songs at the ceremony in Cleveland. “One I’m sure is gonna be ‘I Want to Know What Love Is,’” Gramm notes. “I don’t know what the other one is gonna be.” He’s up for most of them, however. “I think they were very well-written songs, you know? At that time of our careers Mick and I had a blossoming chemistry and were having a lot of fun writing the songs, and we knew what it would mean if these songs were recorded and produced correctly and became very popular.”

Gramm does feel like there’s some unfinished business for Foreigner, however. He says that “there’s a whole albums worth of songs” from the early 2000s that he and Jones wrote and only recorded in rough form. Several years ago he was contacted by Foreigner management saying Jones could not find his recordings of the material; Gramm sent what he thought was a spare copy only to find it was, in fact, his only copy. He says that despite requests the band has not returned his CD or copied the songs for him.

“They’re great songs…some of our very best songs,” Gramm says. “There were about eight or nine of them. We didn’t have a record company then, so we were waiting to see what happened. Then Mick and I had a huge falling out, and I left the band…So now Mick’s got the copy and I don’t have one and I don’t know if he’s ever gonna do anything with them. I kind of doubt it, but I would like to at least listen to those roughs that we did. Those were great ideas.”

Bassist Jeff Pilson, who along with singer Kelly Hansen leads the current incarnation of Foreigner, has said that Jones has been working on some new songs with Marti Frederiksen and even predicted they would come out at some point, though no concrete plans have been announced. Last month Jones disclosed he has Parkinson’s disease, which has kept him from performing with Foreigner since 2022.

The current Foreigner lineup is in the midst of a farewell tour that will likely go into 2025. Gramm, meanwhile, is also planning to retire after his 2024 run. “I’ve been doing it for years now, and I’ve thought about (retiring) a few years ago, and a few years before that. I still enjoy playing but I can’t stand the travel anymore. I’m sure I’m gonna miss it initially, but I have a lot of memories, fantastic shows performed all over the world. I’m not becoming a reclusive person, but I value my time on my own, and when I’m out there, I don’t have that, and I don’t like that anymore.”

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