Andy Fraser: July 3, 1952 – March 16, 2015
Andy Fraser, the former bass player of Free and co-writer of iconic rock songs All Right Now, Fire And Water, Mr Big, The Stealer, Be My Friend and My Brother Jake, passed away on Monday.
The tragic news was released yesterday by his Californian-based management. Cause of death has yet to be confirmed, but Fraser had been dealing with AIDS and cancer in recent years.
Fraser was born in Paddington, London, in July 1952. Expelled by his grammar school, St Clement Danes, officially for the length of his hair, he moved onto Hammersmith College of Further Education, where found friendship with Alexis Korner’s daughter, Sappho. Korner became a father figure, and a recommendation to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers followed. At the tender age of 15, Fraser got the job and never looked back.
A few months shy of 16 years old he became a founder member of the band Free. Despite Free’s incredible success, internal politics were delicate and Paul Kossoff’s drug addiction became a hindrance. Years later, Fraser remarked that the guitarist’s death “was expected – [it] just a question of when”, but his sadness was tinged with confusion. He wasn’t invited to the funeral.
“I received a note from his father David Kossoff, blaming me for his death,” Fraser later rued. “To this day, I don't know if the other [band members] got a similar note, or if I was singled out for some reason.”
Andy Fraser onstage with Free.
Outside of Free, Fraser played with the short-lived Toby, a project curtailed when Free reunited in 1972. He was invited to join the Faces, but was add odds with their laddish image, and came close to joining a reunited version of Traffic.
He co-founded the band Sharks with a line-up that included guitarist Chris Spedding, before forming the Andy Fraser Band, responsible for two albums, Andy Fraser Band and In Your Eyes, both in 1975.
Sharks: L-R Marty Simon, Andy Fraser, Snips and Chris Spedding, posing near Beachy Head.
Onstage with the Andy Fraser Band, 1975.
In 1984 Fraser released an album titled Fine, Fine Line under his own name. Its melodic tones fell largely on deaf ears.
Later that decade, Fraser was diagnosed with HIV and a rare form of cancer called Kaposi's Sarcoma. Little was heard of him during the following decade, though in 1994 he played bass with former Free colleague, Paul Rodgers, at the Woodstock Festival.
In April 2005, reports that Fraser had died appeared on the internet. When I tracked him down at home in America, Andy sent an email that stated: “While many may have considered me dead long ago (artistically or otherwise) and I do confirm I am living with AIDS, I am still very much here, and wish to let my friends and supporters know that I intend to be for quite a while. Let’s everybody be cool, and have faith. Andy.”
The confusion inspired Fraser to complete Naked… And Finally Free, his first album in more than two decades. It dealt candidly with his coming to terms of being gay.
That same year Fraser told Classic Rock that he had endured suicidal feelings and, having been married and enjoyed fatherhood, had also spent a long time at odds with his sexual orientation.
“At first I was in such denial, ‘saying: ‘Well, I won’t be gay’. But then I realised that isn’t actually possible.”
Health-wise, he told CR’s Ken Sharp: “I’m doing excellent. I have had some rough times, but I have the best doctors now. I exercise three hours a day and I must get my eight hours of sleep. I have to eat very, very disciplined. It’s one glass of wine a night and you can forget the drugs and late nights, but not many people of my age are in the shape I’m in.”
As the 2012 London Olympics drew near, US guitarist Joe Bonamassa revealed to Classic Rock that there had been discussions with the surviving members of Free – Fraser, Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke – with a view to reuniting for the opening ceremony. This didn’t happen for a number of reasons, principally because Rodgers had sounded out other guitarists for the Kossoff slot.
“My people were talking to his [Paul’s] people, and for the first time the three of us agreed to do something, but he [Rodgers] had approached Pete Townshend, Keith Richards and Jimmy Page, who weren’t interested because they were already doing the Olympics.”
The chilly relationship with Rodgers was nothing new. When Fraser agreed to appear alongside his former singer at Woodstock, a cassette arrived in the mail. “And I fucking wrote half of the songs,” the bassist told Classic Rock. “Unbelievable. I don’t know if Paul is just unaware or he’s just a complete asshole.”
Fraser was the CEO of his record label/multi-media company Mctrax International and played bass onstage for his protégé Tobi Earnshaw. As a strong social activist and defender of individual human rights, his final live performance was for the non-profit Rock Against Trafficking's Grammy After-Party in Los Angeles on February 8, 2015.
Besides the Free standards that he wrote, Fraser composed for artists including Rod Stewart, Robert Palmer, Chaka Khan, Paul Young, Joe Cocker, Paul Carrick, Wilson Pickett, Three Dog Night, Bob Seger, Randy Crawford, Etta James, Frankie Miller and Ted Nugent.
At the time of his death Fraser was preparing for several projects, including some live dates alongside Simon Kirke in Spike’s Free House, the publishing of an autobiography and the release of Tears Of A Mermaid, a film that he co-produced with daughters Hannah and Jasmine Fraser.