Paul Kossoff

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Paul Kossoff
Background information
Birth name Paul Francis Kossoff
Born (1950-09-14)14 September 1950
Hampstead, London, England
Died 19 March 1976(1976-03-19) (aged 25)
en route to New York City, U.S.
Genres Blues rock, blues, hard rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, record producer
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1968–1976
Associated acts Black Cat Bones, Free, Back Street Crawler, Kossoff/Kirke/Tetsu/Rabbit

Paul Francis Kossoff (14 September 1950 – 19 March 1976) was an English blues rock guitarist. He was most notably a member of the band Free.

He was ranked 51st in Rolling Stone magazine list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.[1]

Early years[edit]

Kossoff was the son of Margaret (Jenkins) and the English actor David Kossoff.[2][3][4] His father was of Russian-Jewish descent. Kossoff started playing the guitar in the mid-1960s, being taught by session guitarist Colin Falconer, and at age 15 was a founder member of the band Black Cat Bones. The band played with touring blues piano player Champion Jack Dupree, often supporting Fleetwood Mac and other gigs with Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green. Kossoff's bandmate in Black Cat Bones was drummer Simon Kirke, and the two went on to play on Champion Jack Dupree's April 1968 album When You Feel the Feeling You Was Feeling.[5]


Free (Amsterdam, 1970). Paul Kossoff, Andy Fraser, Simon Kirke, Paul Rodgers & Steve Winwood

In April 1968 Kossoff and Kirke teamed up with Paul Rodgers (vocals) and Andy Fraser (bass) to form Free. They toured for two years and recorded two albums: Tons of Sobs (1968) and Free (1969). Both albums showcased the band's blues- and soul-influenced sound, a style which was in contrast to some of their progressive and heavier counterparts at the time.

Success came in 1970 when their third album, Fire and Water (1970), spawned the hit "All Right Now". The band played the Isle of Wight festival to both audience and critical acclaim. Sellout tours in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Japan followed, but after the release of the next album, Highway (1970), band pressures led to a split. The live album Free Live, recorded in 1970, was released in 1971 as a farewell record. While Rodgers and Fraser pursued unsuccessful solo projects, Kossoff and Kirke teamed up with Texan keyboard player John "Rabbit" Bundrick and Japanese bass player Tetsu Yamauchi to release the 1971 album Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit.

Free reformed and released the album Free at Last (1972). Following its release Fraser decided he had had enough and quit to form Sharks. Free drafted Tetsu and Rabbit for Free's 1973 album Heartbreaker (1973) after which the group disbanded.

Rodgers and Kirke went on to form the successful Bad Company while Kossoff released a solo album, Back Street Crawler (1973). He then accompanied John Martyn on a 1975 tour before assembling a group called Back Street Crawler.

Back Street Crawler released two albums: The Band Plays On in 1975 and 2nd Street in 1976. Recordings from one of the band's UK concerts in 1975 were also released under the title Live at Croydon Fairfield Halls 15/6/75.

Kossoff's guitar playing was also much in demand for session work and he contributed solos on several albums including: Jim Capaldi's Oh How We Danced (1972), Martha Veléz's Fiends and Angels (1969); Blondel's Mulgrave Street (1974); Uncle Dog's Old Hat (1972), Michael Gately's Gately's Cafe (1971) and Mike Vernon's 1971 album Bring It Back Home.

He also played on four demos by Ken Hensley (eventually released on the 1994 album titled From Time to Time) and three tracks which appear on the CD-only issue of John Martyn's Live At Leeds album from 1975.

An unreleased guitar solo also surfaced in 2006 on the title track to the album All One by David Elliot who recorded with Paul Kossoff in the 70s.

The song "Seagull", from Jim Capaldi's 1975 solo album Short Cut Draw Blood, was reputedly written about Kossoff.[citation needed]

A 16-track career retrospective, Koss, was issued in 1977.

The late 1990s saw a renewed interest in Kossoff, and another career retrospective was released, 1997's 14-track Blue Soul (actually a reissue of a double vinyl release from the mid-1980s of the same name), as well as the five-disc Free box set Songs of Yesterday, and a Free biography entitled Heavy Load: The Story of Free.


Kossoff's unhappiness with the end of Free and his drug addictions contributed to a drastic decline in his health. On a flight from Los Angeles to New York on 19 March 1976, he died from a pulmonary embolism after a blood clot in his leg moved to his lung. His body was returned to England, where he was cremated and his ashes interred at Golders Green Crematorium. His epitaph there reads: "All Right Now".[6]


One of Kossoff's guitars, a 1957 Fender Stratocaster, was bought after his death by Dave Murray of the band Iron Maiden and was used by Murray from 1978 to 1990.[7]

Selective discography[edit]


Paul Kossoff, Simon Kirke, Tetsu Yamauchi, John "Rabbit" Bundrick[edit]

Solo albums[edit]

Back Street Crawler[edit]

(Note: after Kossoff's death, the band now called simply 'Crawler' made further albums)


  1. ^ "100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke's Picks: Paul Kossoff". The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Rolling Stone. 
  2. ^ Dimery, Robert; and Macdonald, Bruno. Rock Connections: The Complete Family Tree of Rock 'n' Roll, p. 94. HarperCollins, 2010. ISBN 0-06-196655-X. Accessed 1 September 2011. "Green befriended another Anglo-Jewish guitar player Paul Kossoff, who formed Free"
  3. ^ Barker, Dennis. "David Kossoff: Actor and storyteller who charmed audiences on stage, screen, radio and in books", The Guardian, 24 March 2005. Accessed 1 September 2011.
  4. ^ Barker, Dennis (24 March 2005). "Obituary: David Kossoff". The Guardian. 
  5. ^ "Champion Jack Dupree discography". Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  6. ^ "Paul Kossoff". Find A Grave. Retrieved March 29, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Iron Maiden's Dave Murray Talks About His 1957 Fender Stratocaster Guitar". May 7, 2008. Retrieved March 29, 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]