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Foreigner singer Lou Gramm explains how drugs and a brain tumor nearly killed him

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Lou Gramm, left, and Mick Jones of Foreigner. (AP)

As the lead singer of Foreigner, Lou Gramm toured the world. The band sold more than 70 million albums, but he bickered with co-writer and guitarist Mick Jones. The Rochester native also developed a serious drug problem and nearly died from a brain tumor. It’s all recounted in his book “Juke Box Hero.” He spoke to FOX 411 about his career and beliefs.

FOX 411: You had quite a health scare.
Gramm: I had a brain tumor. I was 47. Basically I was sent home and told I was going to die. I happened to be watching 20/20 a night or two later and there was a segment on Dr. Peter Black at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. How he was the purveyor of laser brain surgery and he was able to operate on brain tumors that were considered inoperable as mine was. At the end of the segment it gave his office number and I called it early the next morning and his secretary suggested I get my MRI’s, get on a plane and come immediately. I did and a day and a half later I was on the operating table. There was no time to waste, it was a nineteen hour operation.

FOX 411: Isn’t that scary thinking what would have happened if you hadn’t seen that show?
Gramm: I don’t know what I would have done. I found out I was born with the tumor. It took 47 years to grow big enough to make itself known and start interfering with my life.

FOX 411: Like a lot of rock stars you also abused drugs. How long were they a problem?
Gramm: A dozen years. When the brain tumor was discovered I’d been clean and sober for five years.

FOX 411: And you’re born again. When did that happen?
Gramm: That happened just literally before [addiction treatment center] Hazelden.  We had played a sold out concert at Madison Square Garden and there was the record company party afterwards that lasted until four or five in the morning. Everybody was in that condition and I ended up back in my hotel room, of course I wasn’t able to sleep. I just started doing a little self assessment and thinking about what I had become and was very upset about it and worried about my children seeing me like this. I finally fell to my knees and asked God to take this plague away from me.

A couple of hours later I called my attorney and asked him to book me into Halzeden and I wasn’t going home. I spent the best thirty days of my life there.

I’m a devout born-again Christian. God plays a role in everything I do. I know he gave me life and saved my life. I serve him.

FOX 411: Is it hard singing songs like, “Feels Like The First Time” now?
Gramm: As the words come out I’m asking Him to forgive me and I’m only just doing a job. (Laughs). I’m hoping he does. If anyone would understand it would be him.

FOX 411: You recorded a Christian rock album.
Gramm: After I became clean and sober I promised myself at some point I would do this although it took another 10 or 12 years. I remembered that promise and really had the desire to work on an album like that.

FOX 411: Does it bug you that Foreigner isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Gramm: To a degree. I think I know why. It has nothing to do with our music. It’s more politics than anything else. There’s some sort of animosity between someone there and someone in our organization. That’s enough to make sure we’re not a part of it. That’s the scoop that I’ve heard. There’s nothing I can do about it and I’ve learned to live with it. It’s a real honor but it’s not the be all and end all.

FOX 411: You had a very tempestuous relationship with guitarist Mick Jones. How is it now?
Gramm: I spoke to him for the first time about a month ago to call to congratulate for being accepted into the Song Writers Hall of Fame. He and I were both accepted. It was the first time we had spoken in over a dozen years.

I didn’t know how he would take my phone call but he seemed genuinely glad to be speaking to me. We talked about the honor it was we would need to play a few songs live that night.

FOX 411: Why was it so contentious?
Gramm: It wasn’t always that way. It did eventually end up that way. It happens with a lot of very creative people. They want to do everything and they want everything their way. I think they can collaborate with someone up to a point but the big picture has got to have their stamp of approval on everything, being on the other end of it, the guy who co-writes, it’s very tough, to have a few ideas accepted and everything else rejected for no apparent reason other than their pride.

FOX 411: How many times did you think “He’s such an a**hole?”
Gramm: I’d say all of the 1980’s into the turn of the century (laughs).

FOX 411: Where would you place your voice among great rock and roll voices? Top twenty?
Gramm: That’s a tough question to be asking me. Somewhere in there.

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