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Robbie France 1/2012

Robbie_FranceJanuary 14, 2012 – Robbie France was born in Sheffield, United Kingdom, on 15th December 1959. He was the youngest of three sons born to Arnold and Margaret. Sadly his father Arnold passed away when Robbie was quite young and Margaret went on to marry Jack who became Robbie’s step-dad and brought him and his two elder brothers, David and Melvin up.

At the age of around ten, Robbie and his family emigrated to Australia, where Robbie continued his schooling and his love for music and drumming started to develop big time. At the age of fourteen he was granted special permission to leave school early and attend the National Academy of Rudimentary Drummers of Australia, where he was tutored by Harry Lebler; at the age of fifteen Robbie started teaching at the Australian Academy of music.

While living and traveling in Australia, Robbie formed the jazz-fusion group, Carnival, performed at the Oz Jazz Festival and supported John McLaughlin. He worked with Stevie Wright of the Easybeats, Marty Rhone, Ray Burgess, Tim Gaze, and most major Australian artists. He amassed over 1,000 television, radio and advertising credits, including eight documentaries and four film scores, including ‘Band on the Run’, one of the most successful surfing films ever made. Robbie also did some acting in commercials for which he often co-wrote the music.

Robbie left Australia in 1982 and returned to England, joining ‘Diamond Head’ the following year; after the band split he went on to work with ‘Ivan Chandler’s All Star Quintet, playing at various venues around London. In 1985 Robbie toured and recorded with UFO for a year and in 1986 he formed ‘One Nation with Kipper’; by this time Robbie was also teaching in drum clinics all over the world.

Robbie set up a teaching studio in Kingston upon Thames where he went on to work with many well known names in the music industry, including Mike and the Mechanics, Power Station, 10 CC and Jean Michel Jarre. In 1987 Robbie joined Ellis, Beggs and Howard, whose first single ‘Big Bubbles, No Troubles’ won the Diamond Award for the best new group. After his time with EBH, Robbie joined ‘Wishbone Ash’ in 1990, touring with them and recording the album ‘Strange Affair’.

In 1991 Robbie returned to Australia and spent the best part of three years concentrating on his favourite music style which was jazz, returning to London in 1994 where he became a founder member of ‘Skunk Anansie’, recording and co-producing their debut album ‘Paranoid and Sunburnt’. He also co-wrote the hit track ‘Weak’, which has since been covered by Rod Stewart.

In 1995 he joined German group Alphaville and toured and recorded with them until he suffered a bad accident which severed his Achilles tendon. The doctors said thet he would probably struggle to walk properly again, let alone play drums… how wrong they were!

Robbie moved to Puerto de Mazarron in 1998 and life continued at breakneck speed, running Pulpo Negro Records, Publishing and Studios until 2004, producing several award winning Spanish bands like ‘Second’ whose album ‘Pose’ was voted Album of the Decade. Over the past few years Robbie played locally with the Cas Band. Robbie broadcasted for a number of radio stations in Spain including TKO Gold, Real Radio and Costa Calida International for the last five years. Robbie had a passion for sailing and three years ago he bought a boat… he told Karen, his partner, that he had bought it for her Christmas present when he unveiled it at the marina and named it ‘Karina’. Robbies first book entitled ‘Six Degrees South’ has just been published and he had started writing the second part of the trilogy. His trademark was his string-vests, one of which he is wearing today, I am told that he has a drawer full of them at home; it seemed fitting for Robbie’s final journey to include a pair of his sticks too.

He died on January 14, 2012 from a ruptured aorta at age 52.

He lived all over the world and moved in esteemed drum circles as an amazing drummer with power and finesse as he packed into 52 years what would have taken most people three lifetimes to complete. 

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