Free’s Andy Fraser dies

Andy Fraser, bass player with Free has died, but there was more to him than just a member of Free.

He was born in Paddington in London and started to learn piano when he was five. He studied hard and trained to a classical level until he was 12 when he then decided to leave the keyboard and pick up a guitar. He was expelled from school when he was 15 and began busking around the east end of London eventually playing in a West Indian club near Whitechapel.

He briefly attended Hammersmith College where Alexis Korner’s daughter befriended him and introduced him to her father. Korner recommended him to John Mayall who called him and invited him to join his Bluesbreakers, which he did, albeit very briefly. Korner then pointed him in the direction of the newly formed band, Free for whom he became a permanent member.

Their best known song is All Right Now which reached number two in 1970, and in a 2012 interview with Mojo magazine Andy recalled how it came about, “We’d started work on our third album, Fire and Water and things were going well. The idea for All Right Now came about on a rainy Tuesday night in some godsforsaken minor city – I can’t remember where – in England.” (actually it was Durham) “We were playing a college that could have held 2,000 but had something like 30 people out of their heads on Mandrax bumping into each other in front of us. They didn’t notice when we came on or when we went off. Afterwards there was that horrible silence in the dressing room. To break the intensity, I started singing, ‘All right now…come on baby, all right now.’ As if to say, Hey, tomorrow’s another day. Everyone else started tapping along. That riff was me trying to do my Pete Townshend. We listened to everything, though: The Beatles, Stax and Motown, Gladys Knight and the Pips were one of our main influences then. Paul (Rodgers) said he wrote the lyrics while he was waiting for us to pick him up for another gig. We used to have a dressing room amp, so every night we’d do the song and add a bit, until we tested it live.”

In the liner notes of the Anthology CD, Tom Mautner clarified, “When we got into the dressing room, it was obvious that we needed an uptempo number, a rocker to close our shows. All of sudden, the Inspiration struck and Andy 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 10 minutes.”

Andy left the band in 1972 and launched a solo career and concentrated on writing. Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart have covered his songs and Frankie Miller charted in 1977 with Be Good to Yourself and his beat known track, outside of Free, was Every Kinda People which has been a UK hit for Robert Palmer and the Mint Juleps.

In the 1980s he was diagnosed with HIV and a form of cancer called Kaposi’s Sarcoma, in recent years, he had been involved with the Rock Against Trafficking charity. He survived both of those and became a strong social activist and defender of individual human rights.

In 2008, Fraser wrote and recorded a track called Obama (Yes We Can), which the President used in his campaign for election.

In March 2014, Andy passed away, but the cause is still under investigation. He leaves behind two daughters, Hannah and Jasmine Fraser, and their mother Ri, his sister Gail, brothers Gavin and Alex, and many friends and associates in the industry.

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