Free (band)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Free in Amsterdam with Steve Winwood, 1970. Left to right: Winwood, Andy Fraser, Paul Rodgers, Simon Kirke, Paul Kossoff.
Free in Amsterdam with Steve Winwood, 1970. Left to right: Winwood, Andy Fraser, Paul Rodgers, Simon Kirke, Paul Kossoff.
Background information
OriginLondon, England
Years active1968 (1968)–1973
LabelsIsland, A&M, Polydor
Past membersAndy Fraser
Simon Kirke
Paul Kossoff
Paul Rodgers
John Bundrick
Tetsu Yamauchi
Wendell Richardson
WebsiteOfficial site

Free were an English rock band formed in London in 1968 by Paul Rodgers (lead vocals), Paul Kossoff (guitar), Andy Fraser (bass, piano) and Simon Kirke (drums, percussion). They are known for their hit songs "All Right Now" and "Wishing Well".[1] Although renowned for their live shows and non-stop touring, their studio albums did not sell very well until their third, Fire and Water (1970), which featured the massive hit "All Right Now". The song helped secure them a place at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, where they played to an audience of 600,000 people.[2] In the early 1970s they became one of the best-selling British blues rock[3][4][5] groups; by the time they disbanded, they had sold more than 20 million records worldwide and had played more than 700 arena and festival concerts. "All Right Now" remains a staple of R&B and rock, and has been entered in ASCAP's "One Million" airplay singles club.[6][7]

Free disbanded in 1973; lead singer Paul Rodgers went on to help found and front the more successful rock supergroup Bad Company, which also featured his Free bandmate Simon Kirke on drums.[8] Guitarist Paul Kossoff formed Back Street Crawler in 1973, but died from a pulmonary embolism at the age of 25 in 1976.[9] Bassist Andy Fraser formed Sharks.[10]

Rolling Stone has referred to the band as "British hard rock pioneers".[11] The magazine ranked Rodgers No. 55 in its list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time",[12] and Paul Kossoff at Number 51 in its "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".[11] Free were signed to Island Records in the UK and A&M Records in North America.


Formation, early years and breakthrough[edit]

Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke first became friends in the R&B band Black Cat Bones, but they wanted to move on. Kossoff saw vocalist Paul Rodgers singing with the band Brown Sugar while visiting the Fickle Pickle, an R&B club in London's Finsbury Park.[13] He was immediately impressed and asked if he could jam with Rodgers onstage. Along with Kirke, they began the search for a fourth member. Alexis Korner recommended Andy Fraser to the band, who had already been playing with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Korner also provided the name "Free" to the newly formed band.

The group played their first gig on 19 April 1968 at the Nag's Head pub, which was at the junction of York Road and Plough Road in Battersea, London. All members were relatively young.[14] Bass player Andy Fraser was 15 years old, lead guitarist Paul Kossoff was 17, and both lead singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke were 18. By November of that year they had recorded their first album, titled Tons of Sobs, for Island Records, although it was not released until the following year. The album documents their first six months together and contains studio renditions of much of their early live set. To promote their forthcoming debut album they also opened some gigs at the end of 1968 for the Who, who played a short theatre tour with Arthur Brown. The group's second studio album, Free, was recorded and released in 1969 on Island Records.[13]

Unlike their previous albums, Tons of Sobs and Free, their album Fire and Water, released in 1970, was a huge success largely due to its hit single "All Right Now", which reached No. 2 on the UK singles chart and No. 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100.[13] The album reached No. 2 in the UK charts and No. 17 on the U.S charts, making it the most successful Free album. "All Right Now" became a No. 1 hit in over 20 territories and was recognised by ASCAP in 1990 for garnering 1,000,000 plus radio plays in the US by late 1989. In 2000 an award was given to Paul Rodgers by the British Music Industry when "All Right Now" passed 2,000,000 radio plays in the UK.[15]

In July 1970 the band, despite their name, were the only advertised band to decline to perform for free for the ailing Phun City festival - according to promoter Mick Farren they "heard the deal and fucked off without even getting out of the car."[16] Kirke's replacement in Black Cat's Bones, Phil Lenoir, played the festival as drummer for Shagrat.[17][18]

Highway was their fourth studio album, recorded extremely quickly in September 1970. Highway performed poorly in the charts, reaching No. 41 in the UK and No. 190 in the US.[19]

First break-up, reformation, and final break-up[edit]

The band disbanded in 1971 because of differences between Fraser and Rodgers, who felt he was not being listened to.[20] This led to the release of the live album called Free Live! In early 1972 the band set aside their differences and reformed in an effort to save Kossoff from his growing drug addiction,[21] and released Free at Last in June of the same year.[9]

Fraser left the band in mid-1972, frustrated by Kossoff's unreliability at being able to perform at shows or even at showing up. The remaining members recruited Japanese bass player Tetsu Yamauchi and keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick, who had worked with Kossoff and Kirke during Free's initial split, recording Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit[22] and recorded what would be Free's final album, Heartbreaker. Kossoff was replaced by ex-Osibisa guitarist Wendell Richardson for a USA tour in 1973, but shortly thereafter Free disbanded for good. Rodgers and Kirke went on to form Bad Company,[23] Fraser formed Sharks[24] and later the Andy Fraser Band, and Kossoff formed Back Street Crawler.[25]

After Free[edit]

With Kossoff in better health again in late 1975, he was delighted that ex-colleagues Rodgers and Kirke asked him to join them on stage for two nights. A British tour was set to begin on 25 April 1976 with Back Street Crawler headlining with Bad Company in support of Back Street Crawler's second album, but again Kossoff's drug addictions contributed to a drastic decline in the guitarist's health.[21] On a flight from Los Angeles to New York City on 19 March 1976, Kossoff died from a pulmonary embolism at the age of 25.[26]

After parting with Bad Company in 1982, Rodgers went on to explore the heavy blues stylings of Free again in his solo career during the 1980s and 1990s, and in the bands The Firm and The Law.[23] Subsequently, he teamed up as vocalist with two of the three remaining members of Queen (Brian May and Roger Taylor). In September 2008, Queen + Paul Rodgers released their first studio album The Cosmos Rocks. Rodgers also performed Free and Bad Company songs whilst on tour with Queen, in addition to the traditional Queen songs and new cuts from their most recently released album.

Rodgers and Kirke toured again with Bad Company from 2012 to 2016.[27] Andy Fraser died on 16 March 2015.[28] In 2017, Paul Rodgers embarked on a Free Spirit UK Tour in May 2017 to celebrate the music of Free by performing songs strictly from the Free catalogue.[29] In 2019 Bad Company reformed to tour in support of the first leg on Lynyrd Skynyrd's Last Of The Street Survivors Tour.




See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Free | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  2. ^ "All Right Now The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival". YouTube. 1 January 2009. Archived from the original on 17 November 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  3. ^ Nick Talevski (7 April 2010). Rock Obituaries – Knocking on Heaven's Door. Omnibus Press. p. 348. ISBN 978-0-85712-117-2.
  4. ^ Pete Prown; Harvey P. Newquist (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 76–. ISBN 978-0-7935-4042-6.
  5. ^ John Tobler (1991). Who's who in rock & roll. Crescent Books. p. 1988. ISBN 978-0-517-05687-5.
  6. ^ "iTunes – Music – Paul Rodgers". Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  7. ^ "Information on Paul Rodgers". Living Legends Music. 28 June 2011. Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  8. ^ "Bad Company Biography". Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Biography – Paul Kossoff Official Website". Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  10. ^ Joe Viglione. "First Water – Sharks | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  11. ^ a b "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Rolling Stone.
  12. ^ "The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time". Rolling Stone. No. 1066. 27 November 2008. p. 73.
  13. ^ a b c "Free - The Official Website". Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  14. ^ Johns. "York Rd Battersea". Wandsworth Heritage Centre. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  15. ^ "QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS TOUR SPRING 2005". 17 December 1949. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  16. ^ Mick Farren Give The Anarchist A Cigarette – Chapter: Phun City, Here We Come p271 Pimlico Press 2001 ISBN 978-0-7126-6732-6
  17. ^ "Shagrat Records - Steve Took's Shagrat".
  18. ^ "Psychedelic folk – Strona 14".
  19. ^ "Free: Highway". Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  20. ^ "The Band | Free (Band) Official Website". Archived from the original on 17 April 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  21. ^ a b Snow, Mat (5 March 1991). "Out Of It". Q Magazine. 55: 15.
  22. ^ James Chrispell (20 November 2007). "Kossoff Kirke Tetsu & Rabbit – Kossoff/Kirke/Tetsu/Rabbit | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  23. ^ a b "Bio – Paul Rodgers Official Site". Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  24. ^ "Andy Fraser | Free (Band) Official Website". 3 July 1952. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  25. ^ Back Street Crawler. "Back Street Crawler | Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  26. ^ Artist Biography by Greg Prato. "Paul Kossoff | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  27. ^ "Bad Company Concerts". Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  28. ^ "Free bassist Andy Fraser dead at 62". TeamRock. 17 March 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  29. ^ B, Best Classic; News, s StaffThe BCB team brings you the latest Breaking; Contests; stories, On This Day rock history; Videos, Classic; retro-Charts; more. (6 August 2015). "Paul Rodgers Opens 'Free Spirit' Tour". Best Classic Bands. Retrieved 18 June 2020. {{cite web}}: |last2= has generic name (help)

External links[edit]