Free were an English rock band, formed in London in 1968 and best known for their popular song "All Right Now". Lead singer Paul Rodgers went on to become lead singer of the rock band Bad Company along with Simon Kirke on drums. Lead guitarist Paul Kossoff, a much revered blues-rock guitarist, died from a drug-induced heart failure at the age of 25 in 1976.
The band was famed for its sensational live shows and nonstop touring. However, early studio albums did not sell very well ? until the release of Fire and Water which featured the massive hit "All Right Now". This album brought them to full status as one of the top rock bands of the 1960s?70s. The song helped secure them a place at the huge Isle of Wight Festival 1970 where they played to 600,000 people.
Rolling Stone has referred to the band as "British hard rock pioneers".
Most remarkable about the birth of Free was the young age of the band members who first came together to rehearse and play their first gig, that same evening, at the Nag's Head pub in Battersea, London, on 19 April 1968. 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, having been given the name Free by Alexis Korner, they had recorded their first album Tons Of Sobs for Island Records and, 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.
Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke first became friends in the R&B band Black Cat Bones but they wanted to move on. Paul Kossoff saw vocalist Paul Rodgers singing with Brown Sugar while visiting the Fickle Pickle, an R&B club in London's Finsbury Park. He was immediately impressed, and asked if he could jam with Rodgers onstage. Along with Kirke, they would go on to form Free with the addition of Andy Fraser, who at the tender age of 15 had already been playing with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers.
Free are still cited as one of the definitive bands of the British blues boom of the late 1960s with the release of Tons of Sobs in 1968, but this is the only album that can strictly be called blues-rock. The next album, Free, released in 1969, has a marked difference in the musicianship of the band as well as Paul Rodgers's voice.
Unlike their previous albums Tons of Sobs and Free, Fire and Water - released in 1970 - was a huge success, largely due to the album containing the hit single "All Right Now", which reached #1 on the UK rock music charts, #2 on the UK singles chart and #4 on the U.S. charts. The album reached #2 in the UK charts and #17 on the U.S charts making it the most successful Free album. Highway was their fourth studio album, recorded extremely quickly in September 1970. Though widely considered to be an excellent follow-up to Fire and Water, Highway performed poorly in the charts, reaching #41 in the UK and #190 in the US.
In April 1971, due to differences between singer Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser, the drug problems of guitarist Paul Kossoff, and inconsistent record sales, the band broke up. This led to the release of the live album in 1971 called Free Live!. Early in 1972 the band set aside their differences and reformed in an effort to save Kossoff from his growing drug addiction, and in June of the same year released Free at Last.
But all was not well with the band. Bassist Andy Fraser left the band in mid-1972 due to Paul Kossoff's unreliability in being able to perform at shows or even 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 and what would be Free's final album, Heartbreaker. Free disbanded in early 1973 with Rodgers and Kirke going on to form Bad Company that same year. Fraser went on to form the band Sharks and later The Andy Fraser Band, and Kossoff would form the band Back Street Crawler.
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. On a flight from Los Angeles to New York City on 19 March 1976, Paul Kossoff died from drug-related heart problems at the age of 25.
British blues legend Alexis Korner played a part in the Free story, recommending Andy Fraser to the band, providing the name "Free" and encouraging their early efforts. The sound that would be a trademark of Free is heard in songs like "All Right Now", "Trouble On Double Time", "Fire And Water" and "Wishing Well", with Paul Rodgers being known in the rock media as "The Voice". Paul Rodgers would go on to explore the heavy blues stylings of Free again in his solo career during the '80s and '90s, and in the bands The Firm and The Law.
"All Right Now". A # 1 hit in over 20 territories and recognized by ASCAP(American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) in 1990 for garnering 1,000,000 plus radio plays in the US by late 1989, and 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.
Most recently Paul Rodgers has joined the remaining members of Queen (Brian May and Roger Taylor), as vocalist. In no way is Rodgers replacing Freddie Mercury; the three musicians realized they had excellent chemistry and decided to pursue working together. In September 2008, Queen + Paul Rodgers released their first studio album The Cosmos Rocks. Rodgers also performs 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.
Paul Rodgers - lead vocals, piano (1968-1971, 1972-1973)
Paul Kossoff - guitar (1968-1971, 1972-1973)
Andy Fraser - bass, piano (1968-1971, 1972)
Simon Kirke - drums (1968-1971, 1972-1973)
John "Rabbit" Bundrick - keyboards (1972-1973)
Tetsu Yamauchi - bass (1972-1973)
Wendell Richardson - guitar (1973)
Leigh Webster - keyboards (1972)