Paul Kossoff – Music Biography

Paul Kossoff

You’ve always been a good friend of mine, but you’re always saying farewell.
The only time that you’re satisfied is with your feet in the wishing well…

Although this song was written well before the death of guitarist Paul Kossoff of Free, it was written at a time when Free and Kossoff were at an all time low. The song was written three years before the death of Kossoff, but it does, in fact, show a slight resemblance to the fallen guitarist.

Paul Kossoff, born on September 14, 1950, in North London, was coached in his early years as a classical guitarist, but at an Eric Clapton show in 1965 he found his destiny…

Two years later Kossoff joined the R&B purists Black Cat Bones, and when drummer Simon Kirke joined the group, they found their interests to be very much alike. Shortly after Black Cat Bones backed pianist Champion Jack Dupree on his album, When You Feel the Feeling, Kossoff and Kirke set out on their own. They were now free to explore the world of blues and R&B.

While at the Fickle Pickle, and R&B club, Kossoff heard young vocalist Paul Rodgers and was immediately impressed. After jamming together, Kossoff persuaded Rodgers to join the group. Later Andy Fraser, who had played with John Mayalls Blues breakers at only fifteen, joined the group under blues icon Alexis Korner’s suggestion.

The band now christened as Free were now free to follow their own dreams and style under the guidance of Korner.

With the help from Korner they signed to Island Records, and with producer Guy Stevens, they released their debut album Tons of Sobs, in late 1968. Highlighted mostly by Rodgers superb vocals and Kossoffs mesmerizing guitar work, the album really revealed their blues roots with such songs as I’m A Mover and Walk in My Shadow. Free did also include two R&B classics Going Down Slow and The Hunter, which were perfected into their own versions. The album also revealed they were much steeped in the darker blues with songs like Worry and Over the Green Hills.

Though a stunning and perfect debut album, Tons of Sobs went unnoticed.

But Free were still at the heart of the late sixties movement and went on to record their self-titled second album. While recording in the studios, they encountered some problems. With Fraser and Rodgers emerging as the main songwriters, the two became very selective on how their songs should be intrepeted, which was tough for Kossoff. Because of arguments within the band, Kossoff secretly tried out for the Rolling Stones and Jethro Tull.

With producer Guy Stevens supporting the split of the band Chris Blackwell saved the day when he took over the sessions. Free did not include so much dark mood songs but they did add some ballads into the mix such as Lying in the Sunshine, while keeping some songs similar to their first albums material like I’ll Be Creeping and Women.

With their second album, which was released in 1969, in the books, they went on tour supporting Blind Faith, which was fronted by Eric Clapton who Kossoff had worshipped since that gig in 1965. Kossoff’s spirits were low, but they were brought back up when he met Eric Clapton, who seeked advice on a vibrato technique.

With the band in good spirits, and after two years of touring, they finally captured their sound on Fire And Water, which was blasted into the charts under the strength of their massive hit (and consequent signature song), All Right Now.

Fire and Water included such great tracks as Oh I Wept, Heavy Load and the title cut. The solemn blues was mixed with good time rockers like Mr. Big. It was a perfect album. With the success of Fire and Water, Free headlined the 1970 Isle of Wright Festival, and they seemed destined for greatness.

Their fourth studio album, Highway, which was released in 1970, did not surpass the expectations of fans after they had heard Fire and Water, and the single The Stealer failed to follow up All Right Now.

The album, which was produced by Andy Johns, gave the fans a softer album right from the title track, and the songs meant to follow up All Right Now, which were The Stealer and Ride On A Pony did not succeed.

With all the mounting pressure from all the angles Free broke up.

Following the breakup the single My Brother Jake was released and became a hit in the UK, and the album Free Live was released and also enjoyed success in the UK.

But Free were at an all time low and it seemed things would never be the same…