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Simon Kirke

Drummer Simon Kirke kept the beat for two of the 70s most popular bluesy hard rockers -- Free and Bad Company. Born in London, England on July 28, 1949, Kirke's family didn't include any musicians, but an interest in music developed at a young age, when Kirke sang in his school's choir. Shortly after becoming a teenager, the Beatles perked Kirke's interest in rock music, as he picked up the drums -- leading to a gig with a local band called the Maniacs, ion which Kirke supply drums and lead vocals (something quite uncommon at the time). Kirke worked out a deal with his parents after graduating high school, that if he couldn't "make it" as a drummer in a band within a two-year period, that he would begin a college career. Just a few months before the self-imposed deadline was about to creep up, Kirke landed a gig with a group called the Black Cat Bones. The drummer befriended the group's talented guitarist, Paul Kossoff, who in turn convinced Kirke to leave the group with him and begin a new outfit with singer Paul Rodgers. With ex-John Mayall's Bluesbreakers bassist Andy Fraser signed on as well, Free was officially formed in 1968. Mixing blues with hard rock, the group would prove to be quite influential, especially on the strength of their classic 1970 release, Fire and Water, and its strutting, anthemic hit single, "All Right Now." Although the band showed great promise, a dangerous drug habit began to hamper Kossoff, which led to tension within the group, and after several albums, its breakup in 1973 (sadly, Kossoff would die just three years later). It didn't take Kirke long to find another gig however, as he joined Rodgers in a new band, Bad Company, which was quite similar stylistically to Free. Joined by ex-King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell and ex-Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs, Bad Company was one of the first group's signed to Led Zeppelin's record label, Swan Song. Their resulting debut album, 1974's Bad Company, would go on to become one of hard rock's all-time classics, as it birthed such long-standing rock radio standards as "Can't Get Enough," "Ready for Love," and the title track. While Bad Company never managed to top their debut, the group went on to become one of the decade's top rock outfits, before splitting up in 1982 (the group would reunite later in the decade without Rodgers, with varying results, before Rodgers rejoined during the late '90s). In addition to his work with Free and Bad Company, Kirke has guested on a long list of recordings by other artists over the years, including albums by Jim Capaldi, Mick Jones, Mick Ralphs, Ringo Starr, John Wetton, and Ron Wood, among countless others. In 2003, Kirke launched his very first solo tour, and participated in the fan-based Rock N' Roll Fantasy Camp, alongside other classic rock musicians. ~ Greg Prato
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