Robert Fripp quit music

Robert Fripp Robert Fripp says his legal battle against Universal Music Group has rendered his musical career “an exercise in futility” – and that’s why he’s given it up.

The King Crimson mainman has been embroiled in a rights fight with the giant label for five years, leading to his abandonment of music-making, with no certainty he’ll return.

He’s furious over the way in which Universal has bought up a series of independent labels that own parts of his back-catalogue, and believes it’s led to the release of unauthorised and unaccounted works under his name.

He cites the example of rapper Kanye West’s single Power, based on Crimson’s classic track 21st Century Schizoid Man – which had been heard over a million times on YouTube before he was even asked whether the sample could be used.

Fripp tells “I couldn’t concentrate on music, so I made the choice to give up my career as a musician in the frontline to deal with the business.”

He says the arrangement between artist and label has “moved from a symbiotic relationship to a parasitic relationship.”

His last live outings were in 2009 when he performed with wife Toyah Willcox’s band the Humans and toured with Theo Travis to support the duo’s Threads album. Last year saw the release of his collaboration with Jakko Jakszyk and Mel Collins, entitled A Scarcity Of Miracles. Since then he’s ended his involvement with creative projects.

Fripp says: “Going back to early King Crimson, the remarkable explosion of the creative impulse came from these young men who didn’t know what they were doing, yet were able to do it.

“What has changed in 40 years? It’s very simple: 40 years ago there was a market economy. Today there is a market society – today everything, including ethics, has a price.”

But that doesn’t mean Fripp’s fight is all about money. He says: “Music is a language in which we can express our struggle with what it is to be a human being. This is at the centre of what created King Crimson.

“Today I remain responsible for that. How can I lie to that? If I do, I cease to be human.”

Fripp’s own label DGMlive will release a 40th anniversary edition of King Crimson album Larks’ Tongues in Aspic on October 15. It will be available as a CD/DVD package, a double-CD pack and a 15-disc box set limited to 7000 units.

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8 Responses to Robert Fripp quit music

  1. This is unfortunately, a typical scenario: giant corporation with a fistful of lawyers, against artist whose rights should be protected – and yet, are not, leaving only the artist to defend those rights – often, with no assistance from anyone.

    Robert has been embroiled in this scenario more than once in his career (I think back to a serious problem with his previous label E.G. Records that was not good in any way) and has persevered, but eventually, I think, it just wears you down. It’s very unfortunate though, that so much time has to be spent dealing with these “problems” – which are all created problems, not real problems – problems created by record companies to begin with, which then moves on out through the whole distribution chain.

    That an artist of Fripp’s stature should have to stop playing music just to deal with legal…nonsense…is in itself, nonsense of the worst kind.

    But it’s the sad truth, and this is not the first time that Robert has had to stop playing just to deal with a “problem” created for him by yet another errant corporation – who do not have music at heart, their interest is ***not*** in music as we have plainly seen over and over again.

    Things are changing though, and we can hope that perhaps, generations of future musicians can wrest control of their catalogues and their legacy from the “record industry” and start to put things right. Lessons learned? None really, except, the guy with the most lawyers often wins, and that is not a good thing.

    For Fripp…it’s possibly too little too late – and what an incredible shame.

    I wish Robert all the best and hope that there will be a point in time where he can begin to make music again.



    • Richard McCargar says:

      To make matters worse, all his work is being stolen by kids who think they have a right to free music.

      He’s taking it from his business partners, *and* from the younger audience who rips-off music by illegal file-sharing.

  2. Lawrence Clayton says:

    There was a common Yiddish saying, from other days, other battles, which ran, translated into English, “Better a Jew without a beard than a beard without a Jew”. Somehow it fits this situation, but, still sitting here in shock (but not surprise, having read many of Mr. Fripp’s statements about the problems of (paid (or not)) music-making), I’m not sure quite which way.

  3. Theo (@Crow74) says:

    So the short reunion tour that Robert Fripp talked about in his online diary on July 22nd is out of the question then? That makes me sad…

  4. Ed Lucas says:

    Now, there is no really telling with Uncle Bobby here but every time he has quit the business because of the business, he’s gone into metamorphosis only to come out with yet one more way to relate to music, to the guitar, to the industry, and I suppose, even to life.

    I wasn’t able to mourn his first death in 1974. But eventually he came back after a period of internal struggle and got into another version of KC. Then after some years, that had to die and be reborn slowly into the pre-KC projects that led to another great and prolonged period of creative work. Are we here again? Do we just need to wait it out and see what emerges in a few years?

    If King Crimson is a “way of being in the world” as Fripp is keen on saying, then sooner or later that tap upon his shoulder will become enough to get his attention and he’ll have to reluctantly answer the call, but of course in his own way.

    A Robert Fripp that did not do the requisite inner work of grappling with all this lame business stuff, the muse, and his own motivations would not be the Fripp that’s held in awe by legions of fans who appreciate his integrity and even his mercurial way.

    And if he did pack it in and just left us with ITCOTCK, Lark’s, Red, No Pussyfooting, Discipline, and some other titles, that would be an enviable body of work that anyone could go out.

    But I think he’ll be back someday. I dare him to make an album of children’s songs with some message of how to follow your bliss while the lions and tigers rage all around.

  5. Atomix says:


    Unless article skimps on details, his complaint seems to revolve around issues of back catalog ownership and sample clearance – latter is normally responsibility of artist or producer doing the sampling: he should talk to Kanye.

    regarding back catalog, much of his work may qualify under the termination rights clause in U.S. copyright law.

    hope he can work things out.

  6. Ira Cord Rubnitz says:

    Speaking of parasites, I had the misfortune of “meeting” Robert at The Palace in Los Angeles!
    I have met many music pros that were cordial, polite, and kind-ie Jimmy Page, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, Jeff Beck, Ringo, and countless others! Robert made me feel ill & I almost spat on him! A personality as stiff as his guitar playing! GOOD RIDDENS!!!
    and I loved Crimson-for Lake, Bruford, Belew, Levin, Giles, McDonald!!!

  7. Dave says:

    And I didn’t think I could dislike Kanye West any more than I did. WRONG!

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