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Robert Fripp (born May 16, 1946) is a British musician best known for being the founder and guitarist of the long-running and influential Progressive Rock band King Crimson. While not officially the frontman, he is the only permanent member of the group and viewed as its mastermind, to the point where he is consistently the sole authority on whether or not the band stays together, dissolves, or reunites.

Outside of King Crimson, he also has a prolific career of solo music and collaborations with musicians such as David Bowie, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, and Talking Heads, both as a session musician and as a co-star. His music is known for being very experimental, ranging from genres such as Progressive Rock, Ambient, and art rock. This vibrant discography contains over 700 releases.

Fripp has also created sound effects for the Windows Vista operating system and has created many innovations to the world of music, including the tape delay system known as Frippertronics and new standard tuning. The latter would become a staple of his educational program Guitar Craft, which teaches prospective guitarists the various playing techniques he pioneered. Several alums from these courses would go on to collaborate with Fripp on studio projects, with one of them, Trey Gunn, even being inducted into King Crimson.

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He is known for being difficult to work with, although he has mellowed out over time. He similarly shifted from his aversion to music streaming by putting his music on streaming services.


Solo studio discography:

  • Exposure (1979)
  • God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners (1980)
  • Let the Power Fall: An Album of Frippertronics (1981)
  • The Gates of Paradise (1983)

Collaborative studio albums:

  • (No Pussyfooting) with Brian Eno (1973)
  • Evening Star with Brian Eno (1975)
  • I Advance Masked with Andy Summers (1982)
  • Bewitched with Andy Summers (1984)
  • The First Day with David Sylvian (1993)
  • A Temple in the Clouds with Jeffrey Fayman (2000)
  • The Equatorial Stars with Brian Eno (2005)
  • Thread with Theo Travis (2008)
  • Live at Coventry Cathedral with Theo Travis (2010)
  • Follow with Theo Travis (2012)
  • Starless Starlight with David Cross (2013)
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  • Discretion with Theo Travis (2014)

Tropes:

  • Ambient: Many of his solo songs are ambient instrumental tracks, including his series of singles "Music For Quiet Moments". His collaborations with Brian Eno are also usually ambient.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Robert Fripp hates (unsolicited) flash photography during concerts (and doesn't feel too hot about bootlegs, either), to the point of actually stopping concerts when it happens and having the roadies take away the camera. Don't ask him for an autograph either. Specifically, Fripp believes that such things screw with a musician's ability to perform music in a honorable fashion. If you're "the right person," (who isn't out to sell autographed material, disrupt performances, or ask anything of him so you can brag about it to your buds later), at "the right place," (namely, not at concerts or out of the blue on the street), at "the right time" (when he's prepared to do such things), you may just get lucky.
      • According to Tony Levin, Fripp was asked by a couple of fans if he was fine with them taking a photograph, and his reply was "Yes, provided I'm not in it."
    • For the longest time, Fripp was not a huge fan of digital distribution of King Crimson music—aside from the usual concerns with "Digital Piracy Is Evil", the fallout from the EG Records bankruptcy and subsequent sale of KC's pre-1990s catalog left control of distribution and publishing rights out of his hands (or any other band members) for over two decades. A very public row with now-defunct peer-to-peer sharing site Grooveshark did not help matters much. Starting in 2019, however, Fripp has apparently been satisfied enough with the state of the market to allow King Crimson music to be hosted on Spotify and YouTube, at least.
  • Control Freak: Robert Fripp in the early days of King Crimson. It ended up driving multiple musicians, including vocalist Gordon Haskell, out of the band. He's mellowed out significantly since then, however.
  • Cool Teacher: For several years in the 80s and 90s he taught guitar players an approach to the guitar which he called "Guitar Craft": in order to take a course in it, you had to pay for a rather expensive residential course. Various testimonials talk about Fripp's skill and authority as a teacher: he has an acute eye and ear for what he regards as weaknesses in technique. Guitar Craft wound up in 2010 and turned into Guitar Circle, and Fripp published a hefty book of his writings on the subject in 2022.
  • Cover Version:
    • The Title Track of Exposure is Fripp's own rendition of the Peter Gabriel track with Terre Roche on vocals. Fripp previously produced the Gabriel version's parent album, Scratch.
    • He and his wife Toyah Willcox perform covers on their YouTube channel.
  • Gentleman Snarker: With his habitual attire of a three-piece suit, soft-spoken delivery and lethal comic timing, Fripp is this trope in his interactions with the press and, on occasion, the public.
  • I Am the Band: Zigzagged. Fripp has been the only consistent member of King Crimson over its long life, generally drives the recruitment and high-concept of the band's iterations, and is the most proactive in managing the group's catalog and archives. However, he's the first to acknowledge that he alone does not make King Crimson, and describes its way of doing things musically as more anarchic, with each member pulling the band in various directions to see where it will end up. He doesn't consider himself the "bandleader" of Crimson.
  • Improv: As a prog rock musician, he performs a lot of improvised music.
  • Instrumentals: He isn't a singer, so many of his solo songs are instrumentals. Many of his collaborations and songs with King Crimson are also instrumentals.
  • Progressive Rock: Fripp is one of the most influential prog rock musicians who helped to define the genre.
  • Rearrange the Song: Exposure features a re-recording of the Peter Gabriel song "Here Comes the Flood" with Gabriel himself on vocals. The recording here consists solely of Frippertronics, a bit of discreet synth and Gabriel at a piano, reflecting Gabriel's discontent with the bombastic production of the original version.
  • Signature Instrument: In the 1969-1974 lineup, Fripp's black 1959 Gibson Les Paul Custom, seemingly the only guitar he ever used at the time. In the 1981-84 lineup, his Roland guitar synthesizer. Since the mid-90s, his Fernandes Goldtop Custom.
  • Thematic Series: Fripp had two of these in the late '70s and early '80s:
    • Firstly, Fripp produced a trio of albums intended to deconstruct the idea of pop songs as an artistic medium: Scratch by Peter Gabriel, Sacred Songs by Daryl Hall, and Exposure by Fripp himself with contributions from Gabriel & Hall. The three share a distinctly experimental approach rooted in Post-Punk and Progressive Rock, with emphasis on Fripp's tape-delay method of Frippertronics.
    • Second was the Drive to 1981, which encompassed the aforementioned Exposure plus Fripp's later solo projects God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners, The League of Gentlemen, and Let the Power Fall. These albums share a common focus on Frippertronics and "Discotronics," Fripp's experimental take on disco.

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