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Grand Funk guitarist Mark Farner wrote this and sang lead. Literally, the song is about the captain of a ship who is sick and fears he is going to lose his vessel. The song has much more metaphoric significance, however. In a Songfacts interview with Farner, he explained how the lyric came to him from the heavens:
"Initially the song came to me after I said my prayers one night and I put a P.S. on the end of my prayers. I asked God to give me a song that would touch the hearts of people that the Creator wanted to get to. I got up at 3 o'clock in the morning - I'm always getting up at different times of the night and writing things down. A lot of them are not songs but this happened to be one.