Paul Kossoff was one of the most talented and influential guitarists of his generation. He rose to fame as the co-founder and lead guitarist of the rock band Free, whose hit song “All Right Now” became a classic anthem of the 1970s. He also played with other bands and artists, such as Black Cat Bones, Back Street Crawler, and Paul Rodgers. However, his life was cut short by a fatal medical condition that was aggravated by his drug addiction. This article will explore the Paul Kossoff cause of death and how it affected his legacy.
The Rise and Fall of Free
Paul Kossoff was born on September 14, 1950, in Hampstead, London. He grew up in a musical family, as his father was a famous actor and his uncle was a broadcaster. He started playing classical guitar at the age of nine, but soon switched to electric guitar after seeing Eric Clapton perform with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. He joined his first band, Black Cat Bones, when he was 16, and met drummer Simon Kirke, who would become his lifelong friend and musical partner.
In 1968, Kossoff and Kirke formed Free with singer Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser. The band quickly gained a reputation for their powerful and soulful blues-rock sound, which showcased Kossoff’s expressive and melodic guitar playing. Their breakthrough came in 1970, when their third album, Fire and Water, featured the smash hit “All Right Now”. The song reached number two on the UK singles chart and number four on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also helped them secure a spot at the Isle of Wight Festival, where they played to 600,000 people.
Free became one of the most successful and popular bands of the early 1970s, selling millions of records and touring extensively. However, they also faced internal conflicts and pressures, as Fraser wanted to pursue a more progressive and experimental direction, while Rodgers and Kossoff preferred to stick to their rootsy and straightforward style. The band split up in 1971, after releasing their fourth album, Highway, which was a commercial and critical disappointment.
Kossoff’s Struggle with Drugs and Depression
After the breakup of Free, Kossoff was devastated and depressed. He felt that he had lost his musical identity and purpose. He also developed a severe addiction to drugs, especially heroin and Mandrax, which he used to cope with his emotional pain and insomnia. He tried to revive his career by forming a new band, Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit, with Kirke and two other musicians, but the project was short-lived and unsuccessful.
In 1972, Free reunited for a brief and turbulent period, releasing two more albums, Free at Last and Heartbreaker. However, the band was plagued by personal and musical differences, as well as Kossoff’s erratic and unreliable behavior. He often missed rehearsals and shows, or showed up in a poor condition. He also suffered from a heart attack in 1973, which left him in a coma for several days. He recovered, but his health was permanently damaged.
In 1975, Kossoff formed another band, Back Street Crawler, which was named after his solo album. The band consisted of Kossoff, Kirke, and three American musicians. They released two albums, The Band Plays On and Second Street, which received positive reviews but modest sales. They also toured in the US and the UK, but Kossoff’s drug problem continued to affect his performance and well-being.
The Final Flight
On March 19, 1976, Kossoff boarded a flight from Los Angeles to New York, while on tour with Back Street Crawler. He had been feeling sick for a while, and had been advised by his doctor to rest and avoid flying. However, he ignored the warning and decided to join his bandmates. During the flight, he went to the bathroom and never came back. He was found dead by a flight attendant, who screamed and alerted the other passengers and crew.
The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism, which occurs when a blood clot travels from the leg to the lung and blocks the blood flow. The blood clot was likely caused by Kossoff’s drug abuse, which had weakened his veins and circulation. He was only 25 years old.
His body was returned to England and cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium in London. His ashes were scattered in the garden of remembrance, where a plaque with his name and the words “All Right Now” was placed.
Kossoff’s Legacy and Influence
Paul Kossoff’s death was a shock and a tragedy for his family, friends, fans, and fellow musicians. He was widely mourned and remembered as one of the greatest guitarists of his era. His music and style influenced many other artists, such as Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Brian May, Joe Bonamassa, Slash, and Gary Moore. He was also ranked as number 51 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Kossoff’s legacy lives on through his recordings and performances, which showcase his unique and soulful guitar playing. He had a distinctive tone and touch, which he achieved by using a Gibson Les Paul guitar, a Marshall amplifier, and a wah-wah pedal. He was also known for his expressive vibrato, which he used to create a vocal-like quality in his notes. He played with passion and emotion, conveying a range of feelings and moods in his music.
Kossoff’s most famous song, “All Right Now”, remains a classic and a staple of rock radio. It is also one of the most covered songs in history, with versions by artists such as Rod Stewart, Queen, The Who, Bon Jovi, and Christina Aguilera. The song has also been used in many movies, commercials, and video games, such as Almost Famous, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band.
Paul Kossoff was a guitar legend who left a lasting mark on the history of rock music. He was a gifted and troubled soul, who lived and died for his art. He will always be remembered and celebrated for his music and his spirit.