March 16, 2015 – Andy Fraser (Free) was born on Andrew McLan “Andy” Fraser 3 July 1952 in the Paddington area of Central London and started playing the piano at the age of five. 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, 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, Andy was in a pro band and earning £50 a week, although it ultimately turned out to be a brief tenure.
Korner was also instrumental in Fraser’s next move, to the ultimately very influential rock band Free, which consisted of Paul Rodgers (vocals), Paul Kossoff (guitar) and Simon Kirke (drums). Fraser produced and co-wrote the song “All Right Now” with Rodgers, a No. 1 hit in over 20 territories and recognised by ASCAP in 1990 for garnering over 1,000,000 radio plays in the United States by late 1989. In October 2006 a BMI London Million-Air Award was given to Rodgers and Fraser to mark over 3 million radio and television plays of “All Right Now“.
Simon Kirke later recalled: “All Right Now was created after a bad gig in Durham. We finished our show and walked off the stage to the sound of our own footsteps. The applause had died before I had even left the drum riser. It was obvious that we needed a rocker to close our shows. All of a sudden the inspiration struck Fraser and he started bopping around singing All Right Now. He sat down and wrote it right there in the dressing room. It couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes.”
Fraser also co-wrote two other hit singles for Free, My Brother Jake and The Stealer. 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. He left for the second time in June 1972.
After leaving Free, Fraser formed Sharks with vocalist Snips (later Baker Gurvitz Army), guitarist Chris Spedding plus drummer, Marty Simon. Despite being well received by the critics, especially for Spedding’s tasteful guitar work, Fraser left after their debut album, First Water (1973).
He then formed the Andy Fraser Band, a trio with Kim Turner on drums and Nick Judd on keyboards. They released two albums, Andy Fraser Band and In Your Eyes, both in 1975, before that too folded. Attempts to form a band with Frankie Miller came to nothing, and Fraser re-located to California, to concentrate on songwriting. He crafted hits for Rod Stewart, Chaka Khan, Paul Young, Joe Cocker, Paul Carrack, Wilson Pickett, Three Dog Night, Bob Seger, Randy Crawford, Etta James, Frankie Miller, and Ted Nugent.
Fraser’s most famous compositions remain “All Right Now” and “Every Kinda People”, which Robert Palmer recorded in 1978 for his Double Fun album. In 1984, Fraser released another album of his own. Fine, Fine Line featured ex-Back Street Crawler drummer Tony Braunagel, Bob Marlette (keyboards), Michael Thompson (guitar) and David Faragher (bass), with Fraser contributing vocals.
Having been diagnosed with HIV, he was later diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma, a form of cancer that had been very rare until the onset of the AIDS epidemic. This time-line was called into question by Fraser’s subsequent revelation that he was homosexual. He played bass with former Free colleague, Paul Rodgers, at Woodstock ’94, but otherwise kept a low profile until 2005, when a new release, Naked and Finally Free, appeared. At the time of the new album’s release, Fraser was interviewed by Dmitry M. Epstein for the DME website and revealed: “To be quite honest, I never thought of myself as a bass-player. I actually only used the bass-guitar because the other kids in our school-band wanted to be the singer, or drummer, or guitarist. I have always thought of myself as doing whatever was necessary to make the whole thing work. I’m happy adding piano, or tambourine, or anything that helped”.
In early 2006, writing for Vintage Guitar magazine, Tom Guerra conducted a comprehensive interview with Fraser, covering his career, influences and instruments and, in April, Fraser responded to the revival of interest in his music by announcing two rare live shows at Southern California’s Temecula Community Arts Theatre on 4 May. The shows, highlighted by an eight-piece band, were his first live performances since the 1994 Woodstock reunion.
In his later years Fraser was very active as CEO of his record label/multi-media company Mctrax International, which lead him to sign to his label UK protégé Tobi Earnshaw in 2008. He enjoyed getting back on the road in recent years, touring in the US, UK and Japan, as well as performing on stage playing bass for TOBI. Andy was currently working on a multitude of projects including the Summer release of “Standing At Your Window”, which he co-wrote with Frankie Miller, planning a UK/European Tour that included the Sweden Rock Festival alongside former Free bandmate Simon Kirke in Spike’s Free House, scheduling the release of his autobiography, and the release of “Tears of a Mermaid”, a film he was co-producing with his daughter Hannah “Mermaid” Fraser.
In 2008, Fraser wrote and sang the song “Obama (Yes We Can)”, to support the campaign to elect Barack Obama as president of the United States.
In May 2010, Andy Fraser was interviewed for BBC2’s documentary series titled Rock ‘n’ Roll. The project includes a five-part documentary, narrated by British music show anchor-man Mark Radcliffe plus online and radio content. “The documentary aims to explain the success of some of the greatest bands of the past 50 years, including the Who, the Police, the Doors, Bon Jovi and the Foo Fighters”.
In mid-2013, Fraser played a supporting role as bassist in the band of protege Tobi Earnshaw for a short series of UK dates. Accompanying Earnshaw and Fraser was a veteran ally, guitarist Chris Spedding. Fraser has produced and mentored Earnshaw on a number of album releases.
Fraser died on 16 March 2015 at his home in California. He was 62 and had been battling cancer and AIDS. The cause of his death however was a heart attack as result of hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
A survivor of both cancer and AIDS, Fraser had a close brush with death in the 90’s, so he took his health very seriously. “Andy practiced a dedicated daily exercise routine and followed a strict healthy diet, he was in excellent shape. We celebrated with him as he performed onstage just weeks before he passed. Andy was bouncing and jamming, flying high on life right to the end!”, states his daughter Hannah Fraser.
He was also a strong social activist and defender of individual human rights, dedicating much of his time and resources to humanitarian and environmental causes. “Andy was such a passionate musician, such a good man, such an unconditional support to me as a father. He had a burning desire to do good in this world, and he single-mindedly dedicated himself to promoting the causes which he believed in.”, states other daughter Jasmine Fraser.
On the news of his death tributes began flooding in from all over the world, Joe Bonamassa dedicated 4 shows at the Apollo Hammersmith in his honor, Gov’t Mule played a tribute to the Free song Little Bit of Love, co-written by Fraser and a show he was slated to perform at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire on May 25th, and many feature articles in Newspapers and Magazines, worldwide.