THE
NEWS AND VIEWS FROM THE BASS
WORLD, COLLATED ВУ
BGM S
TEAM
OF INTREPID NEWSHOUNDS
RIP ANDY FRASER
Andy Fraser, who has died at the age of
62 after a long struggle with AIDS and
cancer, was best known for his songwriting
and bass playing in the British blues-rock
band Free. Their 1970 song 'All Right Now',
which Fraser co-wrote with Free singer Paul
Rodgers, topped charts in over 20 countries
and was given a music-industry award for a
million plays on radio in 1989.
“That song is a blessing and a curse"
observed Fraser in 2013. “But it opened lots
of doors. It still earns a fortune now. Forty
years later, people still want me to play 'All
Right Now' at gigs.”
With its nimble-fingered, chordal bass
solo, 'All Right Now' became Fraser's best-
known composition and brought him
admiration from a generation of electric
bass players. It also led to great commercial
success for Free, whose profile peaked in
1970 when they were flown by helicopter to
perform in front of half a million people at
the Isle Of Wight Festival.
However, Free guitarist Paul Kossoff
developed a debilitating addiction to heroin.
“Deep down, I think Paul was feeling
insecure about the adulation poured on him,
and drugs were his excuse for not being
able to meet those expectations,” recalled
Fraser. Free disbanded permanently in 1972,
with Kossoff dying from heroin-related
heart problems four years later. “His death
was a very painful experience,” said Fraser.
“I received a note from his father David
Kossoff, blaming me for his death. I didn't go
to the funeral: I wasn't invited.”
Born in Paddington in London in 1952 to
a Barbadian/Guyanan father and an English
mother, Fraser was a musical prodigy. 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.
At the age of five, Fraser persuaded his
mother to buy a piano for £5 and studied
classical music, switching to the guitar
at 12 years old. By his early teens Fraser
was playing regular gigs in East End West
Indian clubs. Expelled from his grammar
school, St. Clement Danes in Hertfordshire,
for refusing to wear his hair short, Fraser
enrolled at Hammersmith FE College where
he became friends with Sappho Korner.
Her father, blues veteran Alexis Korner,
suggested that blues guitarist John Mayall
recruit Fraser as a bass player. After a short
stint with Mayall, Fraser met Paul Kossoff,
Paul Rodgers and their drummer Simon
Kirke in 1968. Within two years, Free were a
well-known band.
After Free disbanded, Fraser formed a
band called Sharks, which recorded a debut
album called
First W ater
the following year.
On tour in Europe, Fraser met his future
wife Henrietta, with whom he had two
daughters, Hannah and Jasmine. After
recording two albums with the short-
lived Andy Fraser Band, he relocated to
California, looking for a fresh start.
“It turned out to be more of a change than
[I] expected,” he said, years later. “I went
ahead to find a place, and Ri [Henrietta] was
to join later after getting rid of the place in
England. In between, I had
had my first gay experience
- something I had been in
complete self-denial about
all my life.
.. It would be
many years before I truly
came to acceptance with
the gay issue.”
As a songwriter, Fraser
was successful, with his
songs covered by Robert
Palmer, Joe Cocker, Rod
Stewart and other artists.
His own releases were less
acclaimed, with a 1984
solo album,
Fine, Fine Line,
leaving little trace. Other
than a guest slot with
Rodgers at the Woodstock
94 event, Fraser remained
out of the public eye until
a new album called
Naked
And Finally Free
appeared
in 2004, followed by
his announcement of
his homosexuality in
a magazine interview
the following year. He
founded a record label,
McTrax International,
also in 2005, and played
two solo shows in California in 2006.
A diagnosis of HIV had led Fraser to
suicidal thoughts, worsened by a three-year
period of severe neck pain, which was later
diagnosed as Kaposi's sarcoma, a form of
cancer. “All of this, and taking responsibility
for my own lack of vigilance, have all
strengthened me, and made me fully aware
there is no more time to waste,” he observed,
finding peace in political activism: in 2008
he wrote and performed the song 'Obama
(Yes We Can)' to tie in with that year's
US presidential election. Among his final
activities were the mentoring of singer Tobi
Earnshaw, with whose band he played dates
in the UK in 2013.
Before his death Fraser had been working
on his autobiography, All
Right Now:
Life, Death And Life Again.
It is soon to be
published worldwide by Foruli Codex, www.
forulicodex.com. He had also signed
with Foruli Records. His final album,
On
Assignment
, is due to be released on physical
formats soon.
We also bid a sad farewell this month
to Mike Porcaro, who played bass for a
whopping 25 years in AOR stadium-rock
band Toto. W ith his muscular bass style and
tasteful lines, Porcaro made bass playing in
huge arenas into an art, although his gift
was sadly taken from him with the advent
of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also
known as Lou Gehrig's disease or motor
neurone disease, in 2007. He died in his
sleep on 15 March, a day before Fraser. We
salute both of these wonderful bass players.
Joel McIver
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