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Robert Fripp

Robert FrippBorn: 16-May-1946
Birthplace: Wimbourne, Dorset, England

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Guitarist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: King Crimson

Doomed to become one of rock music's most distinctive guitarists, Robert Fripp spent the beginning of his music career playing in hotel dance bands while studying economics. Oddly, he did not find either pursuit particularly satisfying, and so in 1967 he moved to London with brothers Peter Giles and Michael Giles to become a full-time, professional musician. As Giles, Giles and Fripp, the trio released a record of goofy, vaudeville-inspired pop tunes. Commercial success was not forthcoming.

Yet from out of the heady manure churned up by the three sprouted King Crimson -- a project that could not have been more different. Shedding Peter and adding multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald and singer/bassist Greg Lake, the music took a turn into heavier and more sinister realms. Success was immediate this time, as many a drug-addled hippie was left dribbling by the blast of Crimson's savage and precise live performances; their debut record In the Court of the Crimson King was met with similar enthusiasm. The good vibes were to be short-lived, however, as the founding line-up did not last long enough to even complete the follow-up record. Similar circumstances were to persist throughout the subsequent development of King Crimson: personnel would rarely endure from one record to the next, with Fripp himself being the only constant.

Arguably the most influential configuration of King Crimson existed between 1972 and 1975, with the potent combination of Fripp, bassist/vocalist John Wetton, ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford, violinist David Cross, and (briefly) percussionist Jamie Muir. Particularly in live performance, the music veered between energetic, freeform improvisation, heavy and complex rock composition, and occasional gentle ballads. This version of the band seemed poised to surpass the success of the first, but by 1975 Fripp had had enough. He dissolved the band, withdrew from public view, and enrolled at The International Society for Continuous Education.

It was with reluctance that Robert Fripp re-entered the music industry in 1977, coaxed out by friend Peter Gabriel to participate in the recording of Peter's first solo record. Notable sessions with other artists followed (David Bowie, Blondie), with Robert also donning a producer's hat for records by Daryl Hall (of Hall and Oates), New York-based vocal trio The Roches, and for Peter Gabriel's second release. Most of these performers were also brought in to contribute to the first Robert Fripp solo release Exposure. It was during this time period that Fripp began a series of performances as a "small, mobile, intelligent unit", utilizing a system introduced to him by collaborator Brian Eno that involved a guitar fed through a tape-feedback system. Fripp dubbed his technique in using this system Frippertronics, later to be re-named Soundscaping in the 90's when the process was translated into the digital realm.

In 1981 King Crimson was resurrected again, this time with its first American participants: guitarist Adrian Belew and bassist Tony Levin. Bruford resumed his role on the drum stool, and the band set out into dramatically different territory from its earlier incarnations. The members of this line-up have proved the most enduring of all, although various changes have taken place in the 1990's.

During yet another hiatus from band activity, Robert Fripp founded Guitar Craft in 1985, founded on techniques learned from the Society for Continuous Education. Distinct from the much more widespread histrionic, bum-shaking approach to playing the guitar, Guitar Craft cultivates a rigorous self-discipline and an economy of movement. An alternate guitar tuning is also adopted.

Perhaps the most difficult ordeal in Robert Fripp's life took place in the business realm. During the heady, optimistic days of the first Crimson line-up, the band's agreement with its management (EG Records) was made on no more than the strength of a handshake. This was to prove disastrous as the music industry quickly became overrun by liars, thieves and parasites. It took many long years for Fripp to become fully aware of, and seven more to extricate himself from, the exploitive bureaucratic tangle into which his business affairs had degenerated. He finally managed to free himself from EG's clutches in 1998. Using his on-line diary as a forum, he has since become a vocal "whistle-blower" of the record industry's corrupt business practices, making public both his own experiences and those of other professional and semi-professional musicians.

Father: Arthur Fripp
Mother: Edith Green
Sister: Patricia Fripp (b. 1945)
Wife: Toyah Willcox (m. 1986)

    Giles, Giles and Fripp Guitarist (1967-69)
    King Crimson Guitarist (1969-present)
    Van Der Graaf Generator Guitarist (1970-71)
    Peter Hammill Guitarist (1971, 1984)
    Fripp and Eno Guitarist (1973-75, 1979, 2004)
    Brian Eno Guitarist (1974-78, 1992, 1994)
    Peter Gabriel Guitarist (1977-80)
    David Bowie Guitarist (1977-80)
    The Roches Guitarist (1979-82)
    The League of Gentlemen Guitarist (1980-81)
    Daryl Hall Guitarist (1980)
    The Flying Lizards Guitarist (1981)
    Andy Summers and Robert Fripp Guitarist (1982-84)
    David Sylvian Guitarist (1985-86, 1999)
    The League of Crafty Guitarists Guitarist (1986-91)
    Toyah Guitarist (1987-91)
    Sunday All Over the World Guitarist (1989-91)
    Sylvian and Fripp Guitarist (1993-94)
    The Robert Fripp String Quintet Guitarist (1993-94)
    FFWD Guitarist (1994)
    No-Man Guitarist (1994-96)
    ProjeKct One Guitarist (1997)
    ProjeKct Two Guitarist (1998)
    ProjeKct Four Guitarist (1998)
    Bass Communion Guitarist (1998-99)
    ProjeKct Three Guitarist (1999)
    Robert Fripp

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