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- Posted on Apr 10th 2012 1:00PM by Lonny Knapp
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Platinum selling singer-songwriter Paul Rodgers has one of the most distinctive voices on classic rock radio. His unique timbre earned him the nickname "the Voice." It's a fitting handle; as frontman for English blues band Free, '70's supergroup Bad Company, Jimmy Page's post-Led Zeppelin project the Firm, and more recently a revamped version of Queen, he has voiced some of rock's most memorable tracks.
Rodgers has released 30 albums, sold over 90 million records, and is a rock radio staple. In fact, BMI, an organization that collects royalties for songwriters, reports that Free's 1972 single "All Right Now," has logged a staggering four million spins in the U.S. alone.
As part of the recent Canadian Music Week, Rodgers sat for a celebrity interview and dropped in for an impromptu set with Canadian classic rock revivalists the Sheepdogs.
During the festival Rodgers also chatted with Spinner about his recent Canadian citizenship, the incredible staying power of a simple song, and why Adam Lambert might not be ready for a full-time gig fronting Queen.
"All Right Now" has played over four million times in the U.S. alone. I did the math. On repeat the track would run non-stop for 31.5 years. Do you ever get sick of hearing it?
I didn't play "All Right Now" for more than 20 years, and I didn't think I missed it. A few years ago, I was doing a blues tour with Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer, John). He kept shouting from behind his kit, "Let's do 'All Right Now,'" and the audience picked up on it. We went into it and blew the doors off the place. I've kept it in the set ever since.
When you wrote it, did you know you were creating a rock radio anthem?
At the time Free was doing an all-original set except for a cover of (Albert King's blues staple) "The Hunter." We didn't have a song that was more popular than that. So, I said, "We have to write a song that is really simple, and that people can sing along to." I started singing, "All Right Now." It's a simple song, but it does have a certain magic. I wish they all came that easy. (laughs)
Your vocal prowess has earned you the nickname "the Voice." Do you like that handle?
That's not something I'd call myself, but I take it as a compliment. However, I feel like I'm more than just a voice. I put a lot of energy into forming all the bands I've been in.
In 2003, you teamed up with the surviving members of Queen. Despite your reputation, stepping in for the late Freddy Mercury must have been intimidating. How did that collaboration come about?
If Brian May had called me and asked if I wanted to be their singer, I would have been reluctant. (laughs)
But, we had played together for a broadcast celebrating (Island Records founder and record producer) Chris Blackwell. Chris had asked me if I'd close the show with "All Right Now." Queen was appearing on the same show, and Brain said Queen would back me up if I'd sing "We Will Rock You" and "We are the Champions." Those songs are right up my street, so I agreed.
A couple of days later, Brian called me up and asked if I'd fancy doing some dates in Europe, just for fun. All of a sudden, it just expanded into four years.
Queen and Paul Rodgers sold out arenas around the world. It was a lucrative and enviable gig, so why did you opt out? And can you imagine getting back together?
We parted the best of friends and I wish them every success. We'll do a couple of gigs in the future. That's where we left it.
Being in a band is all-consuming and I like to have a life. After leaving Queen I decided to stop doing those mega-four-month tours. I go out for a month and my dog recognizes me when I come home.
I met the Sheepdogs yesterday and we had a little jam session. Those guys live on the road. I've been there, and frankly, I'm too long in the tooth.
American Idol runner up Adam Lambert was set to front Queen at the band's appearance for the now-cancelled 2012 Sonisphere festival at Knebworth. Do you think his stint on a televised talent show has prepared him for that high profile gig?
It's probably a dream come true for Adam, but I wonder if he has the groundwork to see him through a big tour with those guys.
In 2010, after a 30-year absence, Bad Company reformed to tour the UK. Can fans expect more tours and perhaps new material?
There are a couple of thing coming up, but honestly, I don't like reunions that much. It's just so many people want it and I get talked into it. Who am I to stand in the way? (laughs)
As a solo artist, you've worked with Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Slash, and Joe Walsh and many more of the world's top guitarists. You formed and fronted Free and Bad Company, and later stepped in to help Queen. You've even popped up on a record from Eminem. Looking at your bio, it seems you've worked with just about everyone. What attracts you to these collaborations?
I collaborate with people that intrigue and excite me musically. They don't have to be big famous stars, though often they are.
Last year you sang the Canadian anthem at your citizenship ceremony. Why did you decide to become a Canuck?
My wife Cynthia (Kereluk, Miss Canada 1984) is Canadian. I've lived here for 14 years, and it seemed about time. I sent the paperwork, and thankfully it came through. If they let me in, apparently, they will let anyone in. (laughs)