Paul Rodgers: The Iconic Voice of Bad Company, Free and The Firm Is Still a Marvel

Singers have it rough. Because their bodies are their instruments, they always have to take care of themselves.

If a guitarist parties too hard and gets a cold or a hangover, it’s no problem because their Les Paul and Marshall stack will always sound fine. If the same thing happens to a vocalist, it can result in the cancelled show.

Perhaps that’s why there are so few great and consistent lead singers. You almost have to be a freak of nature, void of typical human frailty, to maintain and persevere.

After seeing classic rock legend Paul Rodgers sing a brilliant set Saturday in New Jersey, I can happily declare the ageless vocalist a total and absolute freak — and I mean that in the best way possible. Authorities such as Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart and Brian May have hailed Rodgers one of the great ones, and his effortless run through his many hits with Bad Company, Free and The Firm showed why.

At the age of 60-plus, all the notes of his rich baritone were completely intact, and soulful rockers like “All Right Now,” “Bad Company” and “Burnin’ Sky” were delivered with the same confidence and intensity as they were in the Seventies.

While watching the show, I casually commented to a record exec standing next to me that it was very difficult for me to think of any young singer in recent memory that was in such total command of his voice. The exec just ruefully nodded and said, “I’ve been looking, I’ve been looking. If I could find one, I’d sign them in a second.”

Then it hit me. Perhaps the last time I’d seen any vocalist so relaxed and in control was decades ago. When I was young and growing up in Detroit, I’d go to the county fairs and see the great Motown groups. I was always struck by how guys like Smokey Robinson and Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops had absolute command over their voices. There was not a chance they would let the audience see them sweat or strain, much less hit a bum mote. Paul Rodgers has that quality, and it is rare, indeed.

From what I understand, Paul doesn’t tour all that much these days, so if you get the opportunity to see him, go check him out. He’s so good, it’s freaky!

Brad Tolinksi is the editor-in-chief of Guitar World.

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Brad Tolinski

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Brad was the editor of Guitar World from 1990 to 2015. Since his departure he has authored Eruption: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen, Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page and Play it Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound & Revolution of the Electric Guitar, which was the inspiration for the Play It Loud exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 2019.