Paul Rodgers (Music Artist)1970's Blues/Rock
PUBLISHED: 11:06 11 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:37 20 February 2013
Teesside star Paul Rodgers is the finest blues and soul singer of his generation and this month he's back in Newcastle playing with supergroup Queen WORDS BY MICHAEL HAMILTON
Middlesbrough rocker Paul Rodgers will always be remembered for the classic single All Right Now, which took the charts by storm in 1970, became a world-wide hit and propelled his band Free to pop stardom. It was a number one in more than 20 countries and helped to establish the sound of the British blues/rock invasion. Free released no less than four top five albums in the early Seventies and Paul was eventually honoured with The Multi Million Award in 2000 by the British Music Industry when All Right Now passed two million radio plays in the UK. But the soulful singer has continued to make sweet music for 40 years. After Free came Bad Company, then The Firm, and he has enjoyed immense success as a solo artist. Now, in the latest chapter of an illustrious career, he's touring with Queen, who were largely dormant following the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991. Paul is keen to stress he's not trying to fill a dead man's shoes. And he is still sporting his trademark stagewear of leather trousers rather than flamboyant Freddie's famous white strides. 'I don't think anyone can fill an original person's shoes. He was an original and they broke the mould after him. Freddie was a great frontman and a great songwriter but he also had a lot of heart,' he says. 'I studied the band by watching DVDs and listening to the music when I took this on and I became even more impressed with the power of this stage presence. 'So I decided the way to do it was to reinterpret the songs in my own way, in the same way that I would do with blues or soul classics that I have covered. 'That's the only way we could make this work, to create something brand new.' This latest incarnation of Queen started back in 2004 when guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor proposed a collaboration with Paul after a successful live TV performance. A tour followed and the group - billed as Queen + Paul Rodgers - subsequently released a live album with songs from Queen, Free and Bad Company, called Return of the Champions. 'We got together and had such a blast that it turned into a world tour.We went out playing their hits and mine and then took it to a new level, which was to go into a studio and see if we could cook up something new.' The new studio album, The Cosmos Rocks, was released in September and they will be playing new material from it - as well as all the classics - when the tour hits Newcastle MetroArena on November 4, as part of their 33-date European tour. 'One of the exciting things about this tour is that as well as doing the hits we'll also be doing our own brand new material. 'Each song is so different from the others but there's a blues/soul feel to it and that's what I bring to the band, but we still have the harmonies and the precision that Queen are famous for,' says Paul. Like all great bluesmen Paul has always stayed close to his roots. The tough-voiced singer grew up in Valley Road in Grove Hill, Middlesbrough. The family lived at number 25, two doors down from the legendary football manager Brian Clough. He went to school at St Joseph's and then St Thomas's. Paul remembers: 'My dad came in dead chuffed one day when someone thought he was Brian Clough.We used to play football in Albert Park.' Paul played bass in a school band called The Roadrunners and did his first gig at Sussex Street youth club. 'We had a class band and we used to rehearse in the living room. Then this guy came into the school called Colin Bradley, and he was really very good. He had this older brother Joe who managed us. He opened our minds to a lot of music. I should thank Joe Bradley, my first manager. He was a fantastic guy.' But Paul realised he had to move to London if he wanted to make it. So he hitched 250 miles to the capital and joined a band called Brown Sugar. There he met up with guitarist Paul Kossoff, bassist Andy Fraser and drummer Simon Kirke. It was 1968 and Free was born. Chris Blackwell signed them to Island Records and Tons of Sobs became their debut album. The power and rawness of that recording still impresses today. 'I would see Kossoff around town. And finally I got to meet him. We played a couple of B.B. King songs and I said to him: "You and I are going to form a band. And it's going to be professional."' Paul's career - which has seen him sell more than 90 million records and produce 28 albums over the past 40 years - was on its way to legendary heights. Free broke up in 1973 and the following year he formed the great stadium rockers Bad Company, managed by Led Zeppelin's Peter Grant. They toured extensively from 1973 to 1982 and had a string of hits including Feel Like Making Love, Can't Get Enough, Shooting Star, Bad Company, and Run with the Pack. It was while he was touring with Bad Company that he learned of the death of his close pal Kossoff from a drugs overdose. Paul wrote the classic 1973 hit Wishing Well about the virtuoso guitarist's battle with heroin. And he admits he has never really recovered from the tragedy. 'It broke my heart when Paul Kossoff died.With his demise there was no way we would get Free back again,' he recalls. 'I still don't think I'm over it. I wish that he and I could have got back together in some way, shape or form.' Bad Company earned six platinum albums until Paul left in 1982 at the height of their fame to spend time with his young family. He married Machiko Wada in 1971 and two children by that marriage - Steve and Jasmine - are also musicians and singers who formed a band called Boa in the Nineties. Paul and Machiko got divorced in 1996. He later met beauty queen Cynthia Kereluk, a former Miss Canada and aerobics teacher. They married in a surprise outdoor wedding ceremony in Canada's Okanagan Valley on September 26 last year, ten years after they got together. In 1999 he toured again with Bad Company for the first time in 20 years. In 2002 they released their first live CD and DVD Merchants of Cool. But his route into his current residency with the former members of Queen came in 2004, when Paul performed at Wembley for the 50th anniversary celebration for the legendary guitar the Fender Stratocaster, along with David Gilmour, Ronnie Wood, Brian May, Joe Walsh and Gary Moore. At the bash, Paul sang and played a custom-designed Fender Jaguar and the spark forged with Brian May led to the offer to join forces with Queen for the current collaboration.