Paul Rodgers: “My greatest regret is not having Paul Kossoff around."

Paul Rodgers singing into a studio microphone
Paul Rodgers

For many, Paul Rodgers is the greatest rock singer of them all. As the frontman for Free and Bad Company, Rodgers’s soulful, bluesy voice featured on some of the all-time classic rock songs: All Right Now, Wishing Well, My Brother Jake, Can’t Get Enough, Feel Like Makin’ Love and many more. He has also recorded a string of acclaimed solo albums, and starred in not one but three supergroups: The Firm (with Jimmy Page), The Law (with Kenney Jones) and, most recently, Queen + Paul Rodgers.

Paul Rodgers with Bad Company

Paul Rodgers with Bad Company (Image credit: Getty)

Were there any personal issues to be resolved before Bad Company’s reunion?

There were a couple of things, but musically we fell right back into the groove, and we were able to put any personal issues aside. Once you’re on stage playing, that’s really the only issue. I wanted to give the people who love Bad Company the real deal. After the US tour we had a lot of emails from the UK saying: “What about us?” So here we are!

You’ve finished working with Queen. Did you feel any sadness about that?

It was a fantastic experience and extremely challenging. There are areas where we definitely cross over, like the first songs we did together, We Will Rock You and All Right Now. But I think we made a lot of people happy. And the door is still open.

What were you like at school?

I had a tough time growing up. I had problems with authority figures that didn’t make sense to me. That made me a very angry young man, and I carried that for a lot of years. I’m much more at peace these days.

Do you believe in God?

I’m not religious. I was brought up a strict Catholic and I’m not keen on religious organisations. But I’m definitely spiritual. I’ve meditated for many years – it’s one of the things that gets me through the crazy times and keeps me sane.

Where do you stand politically?

I’m liking Obama. They handed him a pile of crap and said deal with that. But so far, so good. He’s a man with integrity. And that’s kind of rare in the political field. Politically I’m also very green; I’m for saving the planet, absolutely.

What is the best feeling in the world?

That you can print, you mean? One of the best feelings – it’s almost better than sex, but maybe not quite – is stepping on stage before a welcoming crowd, knowing that you’re fully charged and ready to rock.

What can you do that nobody else can?

I think we’re all capable of great things, it’s a matter of believing. For me, life just gets better and better, and that’s down to being open to possibilities and being grateful.

What is your greatest regret?

That I don’t have Paul Kossoff around. When we started Free, Paul and I became fast friends because we had so much in common. We loved the blues, we’d go and see Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and just knock around London, just dreaming of what might be. It’s a shame that Paul didn’t make it through. He was so great, but I always needed to boost his confidence. I think he was a little bit too sensitive for this business. The music business can be very harsh. When it’s great it’s great, but it can really get tough sometimes, and then you have to dig deep inside you. With Paul, he looked for something else to lean on, and the thing he leaned on had no future in it.

What was the lowest point of your career?

I’ve had highs and lows. But I’ve always learnt extremely valuable lessons from those low points. It was sad the way Free ended. But, looking back, we were babies.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had for one of your records?

It was for Rock And Roll Fantasy. The first line was: “The coffin creaks open…” I thought: “Shit, it’s not gonna be good!” You’ve got to try to be philosophical about it.

What in your life are you most proud of?

My kids. I have three. Although they’re not kids any more. I’m also a grandfather. You live your kids’ lives with them – all their fears, their pains. Then there comes a point where you have to let them live their life and let them go. And if you’ve done a good job they’ll come back. I’m happy to say that mine did.

What is the meaning of life?

Oh, that little thing! I think the meaning of life is to find yourself and understand why you’re here, so that when you take your final bow… I’m not gonna say “I did it my way,” but I did what I set out to do, and it was from the heart.

What would you like to be written on your tombstone?

I might not have a tombstone, actually. I might be scattered to the winds. All you can take with you is how far you’ve developed spiritually during your lifetime. And to die peacefully is probably the greatest blessing there is.

This interview originally appeared in Classic Rock 144.

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”