Personalities | Paul Kossoff | Free for All | Guitar Heroes

Blues and hard-rock guitarist Paul Kossoff, son of British actor David Kossoff, was born in Hampstead, London in 1950. He studied classical guitar as a child, but had given it up by his early teens.

Inspired by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, featuring Eric Clapton, he resumed playing and teamed up with drummer Simon Kirke in the rhythm and blues band Black Cat Bones in 1966.

The band often supported Fleetwood Mac, and a friendship arose between Peter Green and Kossoff, based on their shared enthusiasm for the blues. Kossoff saw singer Paul Rodgers singing in the band Brown Sugar, which led to the formation of Free at the height of the British blues boom in 1968. Bassist Andy Fraser, another former Bluesbreaker, was recruited at the suggestion of pioneering blues musician Alexis Korner, who also came up with the band’s name. All four members of Free were in their teens at the time.

Korner helped broker a deal with Island Records, and Free’s debut Tons Of Sobs (1969) was recorded on a minimal budget. The album showcased the band’s blues rock at its most raw, driven by Kossoff’s guitar. ‘Goin’ Down Slow’, one of only two non-originals on the album, featured his long, complex solo. Free (1969) was more polished, with Fraser’s rhythmic bass coming to the fore and providing a springboard for Kossoff’s lead. Before Fire And Water (1970), Kossoff was disillusioned by the band’s lack of commercial success, until the classic single ‘All Right Now’ rectified that. Kossoff’s aggressive riff, played on his trademark Gibson Les Paul, remains his best-known work. Free temporarily split after the failure of Highway (1971), but reconvened for Free At Last (1972). But Kossoff’s drug problems spiralled out of control, and he had minimal input into the final Free album Heartbreaker (1973).

The guitarist was able to complete a solo album, Back Street Crawler (1973), and subsequently assembled a band of the same name, which made two albums with him. Still struggling with drug addiction, he almost died in rehab in 1975, and on a flight from Los Angeles to New York in March 1976, Kossoff suffered a fatal, drug-induced heart attack.

Essential Recordings

Free: Tons Of Sobs

Free: Free

Free: Fire And Water

Solo: Back Street Crawler

Personalities | Lenny Kravitz | Retro Rocker & Trendsetter | Guitar Heroes


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