ANDY FRASER – Bass Guitarist FREE ” Died 16th March 2015 “

Posted: March 20, 2015 in MUSIC
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Farewell To Andy Fraser

Midge Ure’s words summed up the feelings of many when they heard some some sad news today (Wednesday). “RIP Andy Fraser, bass player from the Rock band Free,” he tweeted. “Way ahead of your time as a bass player.”

Andy Fraser’s death in California at the age of just 62 on Monday (March 16th), by causes yet to be known, may not have been entirely a shock. He had been in poor health for many years, fighting both AIDS and cancer. But it robs us of a musician who made a significant contribution to British rock history, from the late 1960s onwards.

Fraser, who had been playing live until quite recently, notably in support of his protégé Toby Earnshaw, leaves two daughters, his mother and three siblings. ”Andy was a strong social activist and defender of individual human rights,” said an official statement.


As a founding member of Free when he was a mere 15 years old, his most famous role was probably as the co-writer of the band’s anthemic and perennial ‘All Right Now,’ with frontman Paul Rodgers. Later, after Free disbanded, Fraser made another key entry to the annals of pop songwriting as the composer of ‘Every Kinda People,’ one of Robert Palmer’s most celebrated hits. He also wrote ‘Mean Old World,’ recorded by Palmer for his ‘Secrets’ album.

Born in Paddington in London, Andy Fraser was classically trained on the piano from the age of five, and mentored as a promising teenage musician by British blues great John Mayall

Andy Fraser was something of a musical prodigy, and started playing the piano at the age of five. His father, the great-great-grandson of a former slave, introduced his son to calypso and reggae, but the two did not enjoy a close relationship, especially after Fraser’s parents divorced when he was six.

He was trained classically until twelve, when he switched to guitar. By thirteen he was playing in East End, West Indian clubs and after being expelled from school in 1968 at age 15, for refusing to wear his hair short, Fraser enrolled at Hammersmith F.E. College where another student, Sappho Korner, introduced him to her father, pioneering blues musician and radio broadcaster Alexis Korner, who became a father-figure to him. Shortly thereafter, upon receiving a telephone call from John Mayall, who was looking for a bass player, Korner suggested Fraser and, still only 15, he was in a pro band and earning £50 a week, although it ultimately turned out to be a brief tenure.

After a short stint with Mayall, Fraser met Kossoff, Rodgers and their drummer, Simon Kirke, in 1968 – and Free were formed. Their debut album was Tons of Sobs, released in the UK on 14th March 1969. While the album failed to chart in the UK, it did reach #197 in the US. The best song from this album was a Fraser Rodgers composition called I’m A Mover:

Their second album, Free (1969), saw the burgeoning of the songwriting partnership between Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser, which had been glimpsed on Tons of Sobs with songs such as I’m a Mover; here, eight out of the nine tracks bear a Fraser/Rodgers credit. Possibly as a result of the sixteen-year-old Fraser’s influence as a songwriter the bass guitar is far more prominent here than on the previous album. The instrument is used as a rhythm guitar, driving the songs, while Kossoff’s lead guitar develops from it.

While Fraser and Rodgers made a strong writing partnership, tensions in the band increased. Kossoff, whose natural spontaneity had been given free rein up to then, particularly resented being taught very specific rhythm guitar parts by Fraser. However, Chris Blackwell (their producer) managed to keep the band in line to record the album.

Free initially split in 1971, and Fraser formed a trio, Toby, with guitarist Adrian Fisher (later with Sparks), and drummer Stan Speake. Material was recorded but not released, and Fraser re-joined Free in December 1971.

As a founding member of Free in 1968, and it’s a measure of Fraser’s precociousness that when he left the band after their fifth studio album ‘Free At Last,’ in 1972, he was still only 20 years old. His highly imaginative bass playing had underpinned a series of classic recordings by the band that also included ‘The Hunter,’ ‘Fire and Water’ and ‘Little Bit Of Love.’

Fraser then formed Sharks, whose line-up included notable British guitarist Chris Spedding, and then the Andy Fraser Band. After moving to California, he had songwriting success with Palmer; Joe Cocker, who recorded ‘Sweet Little Woman’; Three Dog Night, Chaka Khan,Rod Stewart and others.

After leaving Free, Andy teamed up with guitarist Chris Spedding, vocalist Steve Parsons, aka “Snips”, and drummer Marty Simon for a short-lived tenure in Sharks in 1973. On tour in Europe, Fraser met his future wife, Henrietta, with whom he had two daughters, Hannah and Jasmine. Here he is, explaining how the band got together:

“Originally, Marty Simon, called me out of the blue, came over, jammed a bit, and I thought he was an incredible drummer. I don’t quite remember how Chris Spedding came into the picture, but it was quite soon, and there was no doubt about his abilities. In my mind, I was still thinking this was going to be another way to develop more experience and confidence vocally – we were doing my songs. Perhaps Marty and Chris – maybe Island, I am not sure – sensed I wasn’t ready, and really before I knew it Snips was on board. I have to admit to some sloppiness on my part by allowing myself to just drift along with the proceedings. I certainly learnt the hard way, one should not find out one is in a new band, only after reading about it in the newspaper. So I was indeed very sloppy. Have to take responsibility.”

Their first album, First Water, was released in 1973 and had OK reviews, but not much commercial fortune.

He then formed the Andy Fraser Band, a trio with Kim Turner on drums and Nick Judd on keyboards. He wrote all the songs and for the first time he was on lead vocals. The album opens with Don’t Hide Your Love Away:

After Fraser’s solo album ‘Fine, Fine Line’ in 1984, he was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer known as Kaposi’s sarcoma. But he battled on, playing at the Woodstock anniversary concert in 1994 and returning to greater prominence from the mid-2000s, with more recordings and performances. His most recent solo album was titled ‘Naked…And Finally Free.’


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