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Grand Funk's Mark Farner recall's Goffin & King's classic 'Loco-Motion'

Gerry Goffin died last week, but at last night’s Happy Together Tour stop at NYCB Theatre at Westbury, one of his biggest hits was very much alive.

Mark Farner on the Happy Together Tour
Mark Farner on the Happy Together Tour
Lesia Farner

Mark Farner, on this year’s bill with Gary Lewis, Mitch Ryder, Chuck Negron and tour-hosting The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie, opened his segment on the show with “The Loco-Motion,” the 1962 No. 1 hit by Little Eva that Goffin and Carole King wrote, and that Farner, with Grand Funk Railroad, covered for a No. 1 hit again in 1974—after which Kylie Minogue took it to No. 3 in 1988.

“All those hit versions, three different times and three different decades,” Farner said before the show at Westbury.

“It just shows the power of the song—God rest Gerry Goffin’s sweet soul!”

Farner had “always loved” the song because it was a dance song—and he was a dancer.

“As a young dancer, I couldn’t wait until ‘The Loco-Motion’ came on because it made me feel like dancing,” he said. “And Little Eva had the perfect voice for the first go-round--and Goffin & King—whom we didn’t know were husband and wife, but just a couple of songwriters—wrote it.”

The Goffin and King personal partnership, when known, “made it even that much better for us--and me personally as lead singer when Grand Funk covered it,” continued Farner. The track came from the band’s 1974 Shinin’ On album, which was produced by Todd Rundgren.

“I was walking back from the farmhouse to the studio out in the middle of the country, and singing at the top of my lungs--and the guys were standing out in the back and having a smoke and started singing the background vocals,” he recalled. “Todd came walking out and said, ‘What the hell is that?’ I said, ‘You’re kidding me! That’s Little Eva’s ‘Loco-Motion.’ He said, ‘We’ll do it right now!’”

“I said, ‘Let’s party, man!’ and we did a one-take deal with Todd singing high falsetto and clanging ashtrays and being a clown like he always is and doing great things.”

“The Loco-Motion,” of course, described a train-like line-dance that became popular because of the song.

“My mother--God rest her soul--always encouraged me to dance,” said Farner, who grew up in Flint, Mich.

“She said, ‘There’s not enough guys on the dance floor! You could dance.’ She encouraged me and my older sister--by 17 months, I never let her forget! We’d go to dance contests in Flint and ‘The Loco-Motion' was one of the songs we loved to dance to--and we won dance contests. I always fancied myself a dancer, because guys in school were too scared to get out there, and the guys who did didn’t have a hard time getting chicks! The successful dudes danced.”

Farner has said that “Take You Out,” his last single, was made to compel men to get out on the dance floor.

“Part of my performance is dancing,” Farner said before his Westbury Happy Together Tour set, during which he danced plenty. “It’s part of who I am, and I’m grateful to be part of the history of that great song that has proven to be really timeless.”

“And now that Gerry’s passed on, I’m especially honored to be the one to take that song to No. 1 again the second time around.”

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