Gary Graff, Detroit
Despite the excitement surrounding Led Zeppelin's reunion, Paul Rodgers is hoping that fans will remember the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert on Dec. 10 in London is indeed supposed to be about the late Atlantic Records co-founder.
"I do think that the purpose and the point of the show is to celebrate Ahmet Ertegun's life," says Rodgers, the former Bad Company/Free/the Firm/the Law frontman who's a late addition to a lineup that, besides Led Zep, includes Pete Townshend, Foreigner, Paolo Nutini and Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings.
Rodgers -- who met Ertegun when Bad Company signed to Led Zeppelin's Atlantic-distributed Swan Song Records in 1974 -- tells Billboard.com he plans to perform two songs, most likely an acoustic version of something from Bad Company's debut album and Free's enduring hit "All Right Now."
"Ahmet was that very rare example of an entrepreneurial record company chief who was brave enough and intelligent enough to ... follow what his heart told him, and it usually worked," Rodgers notes. "It's an honor to have been signed by the man who discovered people like Ray Charles, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, who were some of my heroes."
Rodgers says that he hopes Led Zep "can live up to the expectations, because they're huge. But God bless 'em and good luck to 'em." There are no plans for he and Zep guitarist Jimmy Page to reunite to play anything from their short-lived '80s band the Firm, though Rodgers notes, "it's not a bad idea, is it? We did make some great music."
Besides preparing for the Ertegun show, Rodgers has been in the studio with Queen's Brian May and Roger Taylor working on an album of new material that should be out under the Queen + Paul Rodgers moniker next year. He says the three of them have been writing individually and "are working towards actually writing together as well."
Each of them are taking turns playing bass, and while Rodgers is inserting the blues and R&B influence that's so much a part of his style, he says May has been carefully orchestrating the "whole orchestra of harmonies" that are Queen's hallmark.
"With any band there's two sides -- there's the image and there's the music," says Rodgers. "I don't feel that I stepped into the image of Queen, although I wouldn't know that. But I really stepped into the music. It's safe to say we're quietly excited about what we're doing."
Rodgers says the group will wrap up its latest round of recording this week and take stock of what it has, then resume around the time he returns to England for the Ertegun concert. He expects a tour to follow the album's release.