ROBBIE FRANCE sadly passed away on Saturday, January 14, at the tender age of just 52. Many may only have known him as a fun loving and very knowledgeable sailor and not of his past life as an eminent music journalist, percussion and drum teacher and as someone who had lived the life of an 80’s rock star and all the sex and drugs and rock’n’roll which went with the territory.
Robbie took great pride in ensuring that his wikipedia.org page was kept up to date and he was personally responsible for ensuring that everything there was true and that he could back up everything that was said. You can read the full account of his condensed life here.
The following is a brief extract from Wikipedia in his own words: France was born in Sheffield, and emigrated to Australia around 1970. He studied at the National Academy of Rudimentary Drummers of Australia until 1974, under tutor Harry Lebler. At the age of fifteen, he began to teach at the Australian Academy of Music (1974–1975).
While living and travelling in Australia, France formed the jazz-fusion group, Carnival, performed at the Oz Jazz Festival, and supported John McLaughlin. He worked with Stevie Wright of the Easybeats, Marty Rhone, Ray Burgess, Tim Gaze, and most major Australian artists. He amassed over 1,000 television, radio, and advertising credits, including eight documentaries and four film scores, including Band on the Run, one of the most successful surfing films ever made.
While acting in commercials, for which he often co-wrote the music, he met David Bentley, who would become his mentor and idol. ‘It was a gas! Got a call from David’s wife, Lena, be at the Journalists’ Club at the Twelfth Night Theatre on Saturday night. That was that. So I rocked up not knowing what to expect, having heard David was a bit of a geezer, set up; he arrives, so cool man, and we just hit it off.’ Robbie had a new outlook on life following meeting David. ‘He taught me how to look at jazz in particular under a new light. I adored playing drums with him. Bentley wrote ‘In A Broken Dream’ as member of Australian popstars Python Lee Jackson with Rod Stewart on vocals, which was a hit song all over the world. Twenty years later Stewart recorded a song co-written by France for the album When We Were the New Boys.
France left Australia in 1982 to return to England, where he joined Diamond Head the following year. He played on the hit single “Making Music”. It was at this point where Robbie was noticed as an extraordinary player. He performed at the first triple headliner drum clinic with Simon Phillips & Steve White, worked with Motown U.K.’s C.E.O., ‘Ivan Chandler’s All Star Quintet’ alongside Andy Hamilton ( Duran Duran, Wham!, Elton John, Pet Shop Boys, Tina Turner, and more.) In 1985 France toured and recorded with UFO, replacing Andy Parker. Leaving UFO in 1986, he formed One Nation with Kipper (now Sting’s producer). By now France was also teaching in drum clinics all over the world, from Australia to Scotland, usually on behalf of the Avedis Zildjian cymbal company.
He set up a teaching studio in Kingston upon Thames, where he worked with Gary O’Toole, Hugo Degenhardt, Gary Wallis, Mike + The Mechanics, Power Station, 10 CC, Jean Michel Jarre, The Style Council, Gary Ferguson, Mark Price, Tim Burgess, even touring through Europe & the U.K. with Tim, as support act with Ellis, Beggs & Howard. France had started writing for magazines in Australia, at the age of fifteen. During 1987, he began his acclaimed monthly column for the popular British drummer’s magazine Rhythm.
In 1987 France joined Ellis, Beggs, & Howard (E.B.H.), whose first single, “Big Bubbles No Troubles”, won the Diamond Award for best new group. This was France’s favourite band. It consisted of Simon Ellis, Nick Beggs, formerly with 1980s pop group Kajagoogoo, Austin Howard, who is currently writing for Joss Stone, and Paul Harvey of Prefab Sprout. After E.B.H., in 1990 France joined Wishbone Ash, with whom he toured and recorded the album Strange Affair.
In 1994 he returned to London, ostensibly to promote the solo project where he became a founder member of Skunk Anansie and recorded and co-produced their debut album Paranoid & Sunburnt. He co-wrote the hit track “Weak”, which has since been covered by Rod Stewart. He also recorded the B-side, “Army of Me”, with Björk. This has since been featured (in a remix version) for the blockbuster movie, Sucker Punch directed by Zack Snyder. France left Skunk Anansie in 1995, joining the German group Alphaville the next day. He toured and recorded with Alphaville until an accident in which he severed his Achilles tendon.
In 1998 he moved toPuerto de Mazarron, Spain, in order to concentrate on writing his first novel. The book is being printed on the internet chapter by chapter on Robbie webpage. Robbie’s first novel ‘Six Degrees South’ was published on December 7th 2011, two days after his 52 Birthday.