Taylor Hawkins, the hard-hitting and charismatic drummer of Foo Fighters, the enduring Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band that won 12 Grammys and released seven platinum albums, has died at 50.
A statement posted to the group’s social media on Friday evening and sent by its representative confirmed the death, but did not provide a cause or location. The band was scheduled to play a Friday night show in Bogotá, Colombia at the Estéreo Picnic Festival.
Recognizable for his restless limbs, surfer good looks and broad, boyish smile, Mr. Hawkins became a member of the band fronted by Dave Grohl for their third album, ‘There’s Nothing To Lose’, released in 1999, and played on the band’s next seven albums. He drew on two distinct styles: the fundamentals of Roger Taylor of Queen and the complexity of Stewart Copeland of Police. He added the muscle of punk and metal, the precision of drum machines and a gift for explosive momentum.
The Foo Fighters’ most recent album, ‘Medicine at Midnight’, arrived last year as the band celebrated its 25th anniversary, and in an interview with The New York Times, Mr Hawkins was blunt about his hopes. for his future. “I want to be the biggest band in the world,” he said.
Mr. Hawkins was born in Fort Worth on February 17, 1972 and grew up in Southern California. He started playing the drums at the age of 10 and said his mother gave him the confidence to dream big: “When I first got the drums, she was the one who was watching play. She was a big supporter and told me I would make it through,” he said in an interview last year.
Attending a Queen show in 1982 confirmed that music was her passion. “After that gig, I don’t think I slept for three days,” he said in a 2021 interview with metal magazine Kerrang. “It has changed all, and I’ve never been the same again because of it. That was the start of my rock ‘n’ roll obsession, and I knew I wanted to be part of a huge rock band.
After Mr. Hawkins played in a local California band called Sylvia and backed Canadian rock singer Sass Jordan, his first mainstream breakthrough came in 1995, when he joined Alanis Morissette’s band as she was touring behind his hit album “Jagged Little Pill”. (He appeared in the video for her hit “You Oughta Know,” flipping her blonde mane behind the drums.)
Mr. Grohl, then still primarily known for his role as drummer for Nirvana, recalls meeting Mr. Hawkins backstage at a radio gig in the 1990s and feeling an immediate kinship.
“I was like, ‘Wow, you’re either my twin, or my spirit animal, or my best friend,'” Mr. Grohl said in an interview last year. “When it was time to look for a drummer, I kinda wished he would, but I didn’t imagine he would leave Alanis Morissette, because at the time, she was the greatest artist in the world.”
But when Mr. Grohl called him later looking for a drummer, he recalled, Mr. Hawkins said, “I’m your guy.”
“I think it had more to do with our personal relationship than anything musical,” he added. “To be honest, it still is. Our musical relationship – the foundation of that is our friendship, and that’s why when we get on stage and play, we’re so connected, because we’re like best friends .
Mr. Grohl, the Foo Fighters’ lead singer and one of its songwriters and guitarists, had played drums on the band’s 1995 debut album, and he picked up the slack for their second, “The Color and the Shape”, when a substitute failed to stick. Upon joining the band, Mr. Hawkins was tasked with assuming the seat of one of the most distinct, powerful and beloved drummers in contemporary rock. His colorful flair and good humor helped him carve out a niche in the band, and he adapted to Mr. Grohl’s creative process: “He writes in beats, not just melodies but beats, so I must meet him there”. said Mr. Hawkins.
Recorded in a basement in Virginia, far from the prying eyes of a record company, “There Is Nothing Left to Lose” won the group’s first Grammy, for best rock album.
The Foo Fighters were scheduled to perform at this year’s Grammys, which would be held on April 3. “Medicine at Midnight” was nominated for three awards, including Best Rock Performance (for the song “Making a Fire”), Best Rock Song (“Waiting on a War”) and Best Rock Album.
The Foo Fighters were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year, recognized for their “rock authenticity with infectious hooks, full-face guitar riffs, monstrous drumming and boundless energy”. At the induction ceremony, Mr. Hawkins said to Mr. Grohl, “Thank you for letting me be part of your group.”
On songs like “Times Like These,” the 2003 hit that has become an anthem of perseverance and renewal, Mr. Hawkins is a driving force, punctuating the verses with rat-a-tat fills. On “Best of You,” another thrilling and touching signature song, his snare books provide the drama that gradually builds from the chorus. And on “Rope,” a single from the band’s 2011 album, “Wasting Light,” Mr. Hawkins’ precisely syncopated work on the verses gives way to eruptions of fillers.
In addition to his drums, Mr. Hawkins continued to contribute as a songwriter to Foo Fighters albums, even singing lead vocals on occasion. Beginning in 2006, he released three albums with a side project, the cheekily named Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders. He also played in a cover band called Chevy Metal and a progressive rock band called the Birds of Satan. Last year he teamed up with guitarist Dave Navarro and bassist Chris Chaney to form a band called NHC; the band’s debut EP, “Intakes & Outtakes,” was released in February.
On recent Foo Fighters tours, Mr. Hawkins would swap places with Mr. Grohl to sing a cover of Queen’s 1981 hit with David Bowie, “Under Pressure”, or Queen’s “Somebody to Love”, emerging from behind the kit in his signature shorts. to pay homage to the act that put him on his path. He also took center stage for drum solos that lasted several minutes, smiling as he became a whirlwind of members at the top of his riser, smashing his cymbals and hitting a timpani.
Despite being called a “sideman with a flair for leadership,” Mr. Hawkins has admitted over the years to having doubts about filling Mr. Grohl’s seat behind the drums. “A lot of my insecurities – which led to a lot of my drug use – had to do with the fact that I didn’t feel good enough to be in this band, to play drums with Dave,” he said. he told Spin in 2002.
In 2001 he overdosed in London and was briefly comatose. “Everyone has their own path, and I’ve gone too far,” Mr Hawkins told Kerrang, adding that he once believed in the “myth of living hard and fast, dying young”.
He added: “I’m not here to preach about not using drugs because I loved using drugs, but I just got out of control for a while and it almost got me.”
In a 2018 chat with online radio station Beats 1, Mr Hawkins said: “There is no happy ending with hard drugs. But he declined to explain how he stayed sober: “I don’t really discuss how I live my life in that regard. I have my system working for me.
Mr Hawkins is survived by his wife, Alison, whom he married in 2005, and their three children, Oliver, Annabelle and Everleigh.
Jon Pareles contributed reporting.