Paul Bernard Rodgers (born 17 December 1949) is an English rock singer-songwriter, best known for his success in the 1970s as vocalist of Free and Bad Company. After stints in two less successful bands in the 1980s and early 1990s, The Firm and The Law, he became a solo artist. He has more recently toured and recorded with another 1970s band, Queen. Rodgers has been dubbed "The Voice" by his fans. A poll in Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 55 on its list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time".
Rodgers has been cited as a significant influence on a number of notable rock singers, including David Coverdale, John Waite, Steve Overland, Lou Gramm, Jimi Jamison, Eric Martin, Steve Walsh, Joe Lynn Turner, Paul Young, Robin McAuley, Jimmy Barnes, Richie Kotzen and Joe Bonamassa. In 1991, John Mellencamp called Rodgers "the best rock singer ever." Freddie Mercury of Queen in particular liked Rodgers and his aggressive style.
Paul Rodgers was born in Middlesbrough, and played bass (he later moved onto vocals) in local band The Roadrunners, which just before leaving Middlesbrough for the London music scene changed its name to The Wildflowers. Other members of this band were Micky Moody (later of Whitesnake) and Bruce Thomas (later of Elvis Costello and The Attractions).
Rodgers made a mark on the British music scene in 1968 as singer/songwriter for bluesy rockers Free. In 1970, they shot up the international radio charts with "All Right Now", which Rodgers wrote with the group's bassist Andy Fraser.
It was a number one hit in more than 20 territories and acknowledged by ASCAP in 1990 for having received over a million radio plays in the US. The song played a role in introducing Rodgers's vocal style, while helping to establish the sound of the British blues/rock invasion. For a short time, Free were alongside Led Zeppelin as among the highest grossing British acts though Free's status did not sustain. Free released four albums with a combination of blues, ballads and rock that were Top Five successes in the UK. When in 2000, the song "All Right Now" achieved the mark of two million radio plays in the UK, an award was given to Rodgers as one of the two writers.
After the first break-up of Free in the spring of 1971, Rodgers briefly formed a three-piece band called Peace. Alongside bassist Stewart McDonald and drummer Mick Underwood, Rodgers played guitar and sang lead vocal. Peace supported Mott the Hoople's UK tour in 1971, but broke up when Free reformed at the start of 1972. Two songs by Peace were eventually included on the fifth disc of the 2000 Free compilation Songs of Yesterday, along with a song that Rodgers recorded with the Maytals. A bootleg has circulated of a 22 December 1971 appearance by Peace on the BBC's Top Gear program.
1970s: Bad Company
Rodgers formed his next band, Bad Company, with Mick Ralphs, former guitarist of Mott the Hoople The lineup also included Rodgers' band mate from Free, drummer Simon Kirke as well as Boz Burrell, former vocalist bassist of King Crimson. Rodgers said: "Mick and I were trying to come up with names for the band. When I called him and said 'Bad Company', he dropped the phone."
Bad Company was the first act signed to Led Zeppelin's new record label, Swan Song. They toured successfully from 1973 to 1982, and had several hits such as "Feel Like Making Love", "Can't Get Enough", "Shooting Star", "Bad Company", and "Run With The Pack". Rodgers also showcased his instrumental talents on several tracks: "Bad Company" and "Run With The Pack" featured him on piano; "Rock And Roll Fantasy" on guitar; and on the ballad "Seagull" Rodgers played all of the instruments. Bad Company earned six platinum albums until Rodgers left in 1982 at the height of their fame stating that he wanted to spend time with his young family.
It was revealed in April 2011 that after Jim Morrison's death, the rest of The Doors wanted Rodgers to replace him. Rodgers has said that he was unreachably rural at the time, and the moment passed.
1980s: Solo career and The Firm
In the early 1980s, it was rumoured that Rodgers would sing with The Rossington-Collins Band (made up of the survivors of Lynyrd Skynyrd).
In October 1983, Rodgers released his first solo LP Cut Loose. He composed all of the music and played all of the instruments. The album reached number 135 on the Billboard's Pop Albums chart.
When his friend Jimmy Page started to come around to his house, guitar in hand and Led Zeppelin at an end, the duo's first live pairing was on the US ARMS (Action Research into Multiple Sclerosis) Tour, which had first been mooted by Eric Clapton and, besides Rodgers and Page, would include Jeff Beck, Joe Cocker, Steve Winwood and others. The inspiration behind ARMS had been former Small Faces/Faces member Ronnie Lane's own struggle with M.S. This led to Rodgers and Page's further teaming in the group The Firm, which resulted in two albums and two tours. Both Firm world tours managed only average attendance. Despite being panned by critics, The Firm's two albums, The Firm and Mean Business, achieved moderate sales success and produced the radio hits "Radioactive", "Satisfaction Guaranteed", and, in the UK, "All The King's Horses".
During this same period, a series of albums were produced called Willy and the Poor Boys. Rodgers and Page were briefly part of this and recorded "These Arms of Mine", an Otis Redding tune. This recording also became a video promoting the CD.
1990s: The Law and solo career
The Law, Rodgers' 1991 musical venture with former The Who and Faces drummer Kenney Jones, produced Billboard's number one AOR chart hit "Laying Down The Law" written by Rodgers, but the album peaked at number 126 on the Billboard 200 chart. A second album can be found on the bootleg market, which is often referred to as The Law II. It is believed that this collection of songs were leftovers from the first album.
Rodgers acknowledged the influence of Jimi Hendrix by collaborating with Steve Vai, Hendrix's Band Of Gypsys (Buddy Miles and Billy Cox) and the London Metropolitan Orchestra and recorded the track "Bold As Love", on the Hendrix tribute album In From The Storm. Then Rodgers teamed with Journey guitarist Neal Schon and released The Hendrix Set, a live 5-track CD, recorded in 1993 with Rodgers' interpretations of Hendrix songs. A Canadian and US tour followed.
His Grammy-nominated solo CD, Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters was released in 1993. Rodgers wrote the title track and was backed by guitarists Brian May, Gary Moore, David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Steve Miller, Buddy Guy, Richie Sambora, Brian Setzer, Slash and Trevor Rabin.
For Woodstock's 25th anniversary in 1994, Rodgers pulled together drummer Jason Bonham, bassist Andy Fraser (from Free), guitarists Slash and Schon at the last moment to perform as the Paul Rodgers Rock and Blues Revue.
In 1995 he formed a new band consisting of Jaz Lochrie on bass, Jimmy Copley on drums and Geoff Whitehorn on guitar. The band (The Paul Rodgers Band) toured extensively in Europe, US and in the UK until 1998 and released three albums - Now, Now and Live and Electric. Now charted internationally in the Top 40. The single "Soul Of Love" remained in rotation on more than 86 US radio stations for six months but was not a sales success. In 1996, he went to Australia and decided to play congas for The Wiggles' Wake Up Jeff! album. His 1997 world tour included Russia, Japan, Canada, US, UK, Germany, France, Romania, Bulgaria, Israel, Brazil, Greece and Argentina.
Rodgers and Bad Company hit Billboard's US BDS charts with the number one single "Hey, Hey" in 1999, one of four new tracks off Bad Company's The Original Bad Company Anthology. The second single release, Rodgers's "Hammer Of Love", reached number two. For the first time in 20 years, all the original members of Bad Company toured the US.
2000s: Solo career, Queen and Bad Company reunion
Rodgers focused on his solo career in 2000 and released Electric, his sixth solo CD. In its debut week, the single "Drifters" was US rock radio's number one on the Most Added FMQB Hot Trax list, number two on Most Added R&R Rock and number three on Most Added Album Net Power Cuts. "Drifters" remained in the top 10 for eight weeks on Billboard's Rock charts. That year, he played sold-out concerts in England, Scotland, Australia, United States and Canada. After his appearance on TV's Late Show with David Letterman in New York, he met and jammed with B.B. King. That same year, Paul Rodgers, Jimmie Vaughan, Levon Helm, bluesmen Hubert Sumlin, Johnnie Johnson, James Cotton and others performed a sold out concert in Cleveland as a Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters.
The spring of 2001, Rodgers returned to Australia, England and Scotland for the second run of sold-out shows. That summer he toured the US with Bad Company.
Paul Rodgers and Bad Company released their first live CD and DVD In Concert: Merchants of Cool in 2002. It included all the hits and a new single "Joe Fabulous" penned by Rodgers which hit number one at Classic Rock Radio and Top 20 on mainstream rock radio in the US. In its debut week, the DVD sales sound scanned at number three Canada, and number four in the US. The Joe Fabulous Tour kicked off in the US and sold out in the UK. While in London, Rodgers performed with Jeff Beck at the Royal Festival Hall. Rodgers was invited by long-time fan Tony Blair to perform at the Labour Party Conference. "I had the entire Labour Party singing the chorus of "Wishing Well", a song I wrote and shared with Free, ...'love in a peaceful world'. 'Love in a peaceful world'... over and over and over hoping the words would sink in but we went to war" recalled Rodgers. Twice in 2002, Rodgers performed on Britain's TV show Top of the Pops 2.
In 2003, Rodgers toured as a solo artist for the first time in two years playing 25 US dates. In his solo band were guitarist Howard Leese (formerly of Heart), bassist Lynn Sorensen and drummer Jeff Kathan. Jools Holland invited Rodgers to record "I Told The Truth" for Holland's album Small World Big Band. The CD also featured Eric Clapton, Ronnie Wood, Peter Gabriel, Michael McDonald, Ringo Starr and others. This led to Rodgers performing two sold-out nights at London's Royal Albert Hall with Holland and his 18-piece rhythm and blues orchestra, and several UK TV appearances. He also appeared with Jeff Beck, performing some songs from Beck's back catalogue (along with several other notable musicians, including John Mclaughlin, Roger Waters and the White Stripes) for part of a week-long series of charity concerts put on by Jeff Beck at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
Early in 2004, Rodgers joined Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox (Hendrix's Cry of Love), Buddy Guy, Joe Satriani, Kid Rock's Kenny Olson, Alice in Chain's Jerry Cantrell, Double Trouble, Indigenous, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and blues legend Hubert Sumlin (Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters) and performed three sold-out shows in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco as "Experience Hendrix". Once again, Rodgers only played 25 concerts in the US and Canada. He performed at Wembley for the fiftieth anniversary celebration for the Fender Stratocaster, along with David Gilmour who played Strat #001, Ronnie Wood, Brian May, Joe Walsh, Gary Moore, Rodgers sang and played a custom designed Jaguar Fender Strat. Rodgers was invited by The Four Tops to be part of their fiftieth anniversary TV/DVD concert celebration at Motown's Opera House and performed alongside Aretha Franklin, Dennis Edwards & The Temptations Revue, Sam Moore, Mary Wilson, Ashford and Simpson and The Four Tops.
In late 2004, after a successful live television performance, two of the four members of the British rock group Queen proposed a collaboration with Rodgers, in which he would sing lead vocals on a European tour. Rodgers thus joined Brian May and Roger Taylor (former bassist John Deacon retired in the late 1990s), with the group billed as Queen + Paul Rodgers and they subsequently toured worldwide in 2005 and 2006. The participants clearly stated, including on Brian May's own website, "that Rodgers would be "featured with" Queen as: "Queen + Paul Rodgers", not replacing the late Freddie Mercury". The group subsequently released a live album with songs from Queen, Bad Company and Free, called Return of the Champions, and a DVD of the same name. Both featured live recordings from their Sheffield Hallam FM Arena concert on 9 May 2005. The DVD features "Imagine" from Hyde Park. "For one glorious summer" opined music critic Sean Michaels "we were all Paul Rodgers". Another DVD was released in 2006 from a live performance in Japan, called Super Live in Japan.
Queen + Paul Rodgers also released a single featuring "Reaching Out", "Tie Your Mother Down" and "Fat Bottomed Girls".
The summer of 2006 saw Rodgers again focused on his solo career with a world tour, which commenced in Austin, Texas, US in June, then on to Japan, finishing in Glasgow, Scotland, in October 2006.
On 15 August 2006, Brian May confirmed through his website that "Queen + Paul Rodgers" would begin producing a new studio album beginning in October, to be recorded at Roger Taylor's home.
In April 2007 Rodgers released a live album of his 2006 tour, recorded in Glasgow, Scotland 13 October 2006, with a DVD of the same show released the following month.
On 27–28 December 2007, Rodgers performed with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra during their Winter 2007 Tour in Houston, Texas and Dallas, Texas. Unannounced, he joined the band at the end of their show to sing "Bad Company" and "All Right Now".
Rogers was a judge for the sixth and seventh annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists.
On 27 June 2008, Rodgers and Queen performed at the Concert for Nelson Mandela to celebrate Mandela's 90th birthday.
On 8 August 2008, Rodgers and original members Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke reunited as Bad Company to perform a one-night only, sold-out performance at the Seminole Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida. The live performance was released on Blu-ray, DVD, and CD on 9 February 2010 and the tracks included seventeen Bad Company hits. Rodgers dedicated "Gone, Gone, Gone" to original bassist Boz Burrell, who died in 2006.
On 14 May 2009, Rodgers announced he was ending his five-year-long collaboration with Queen, although did not rule out the possibility of working with them again. On 17 November 2009, it was announced he would join the other surviving members of Bad Company for an eight date UK tour in April 2010.
2010s: Solo career
On 5 June 2010 he began a mini-California tour by performing at the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival. One week later, on 12 June, Rodgers and his band appeared as headliners on the Grandstand Stage at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, California, followed by casino shows in Lemoore on 17 June and in Santa Ynez on 18 June.
It was recently announced that Rodgers would be taking part in a Paul McCartney tribute album that would also feature contributions by Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, BB King, and KISS. Originally planned for a late 2010 release, no further information has been announced and no release has taken place as of June 2012.
Rodgers performed a solo UK tour in April 2011 with Joe Elliot's Down 'n' Outz. The 28 April concert at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena was filmed for a future live DVD release.
Paul Rodgers married Machiko Shimizu in 1971, and has two children by that marriage, Steve and Jasmine. The two children are also musicians and singers who formed a band, Bôa, in the 1990s. Rodgers and Shimizu divorced in 1996.
On 26 September 2007, Rodgers married a former model and Miss Canada, exercise physiologist and artist Cynthia Kereluk in Canada's Okanagan Valley.
Rodgers became a Canadian citizen on 21 October 2011, and resides in Surrey, British Columbia.
- Cut Loose (1983)
- Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters (1993)
- The Hendrix Set (live EP, 1993)
- Paul Rodgers and Friends: Live at Montreux (1994, edited 2011)
- Live: The Loreley Tapes (live album, 1996)
- Now (1997)
- Now and Live (2CD compilation, 1997)
- Electric (2000)
- Extended Versions (live album, 2006) (10 of the 13 Loreley Tapes in different order)
- Live in Glasgow (2007)
- Live at Hammersmith Apollo 2009 (2010)
- The Royal Sessions (2014)
- Tons of Sobs (1969)
- Free (1969)
- Fire and Water (1970)
- Highway (1970)
- Free Live! (live album, 1971)
- Free at Last (1972)
- Heartbreaker (1973)
- The Free Story (1973)
- The Best of Free (1991)
with Bad Company
- Bad Company (1974)
- Straight Shooter (1975)
- Run With the Pack (1976)
- Burnin' Sky (1977)
- Desolation Angels (1979)
- Rough Diamonds (1982)
- The Original Bad Company Anthology (compilation CD, 1999, produced by Paul Rodgers for Bad Company)
- In Concert: Merchants of Cool (2002)
- Hard Rock Live (2010)
- Live at Wembley (2011)
with The Firm
- The Firm (1985)
- Mean Business (1986)
- The Firm Live at Hammersmith 1984 (DVD, 1984, limited release video)
- Five From the Firm (DVD, 1986)
with The Law
- The Law (1991)
with Queen + Paul Rodgers
- Return of the Champions (CD/LP/DVD, 2005)
- Super Live in Japan (DVD, 2006; Japan only)
- Live in Ukraine (CD/DVD, 2009)
- The Cosmos Rocks (CD, 2008)
- Rock Therapy "Reaching out" (With Brian May+ Single 1996)
- "Reachin' Out" / "Tie Your Mother Down" (CD single, 2005, Europe only)
- "Say It's Not True" (Download/CD single, 2007)
- "C-lebrity" (Download/CD single, 2008)
- The A-Z of Queen, Volume 1 (Two DVD tracks only)
- Official website
- MSS Magazine interview
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