Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins dies at 50
Taylor Hawkins, the hard-pounding drummer for multi-platinum rock band Foo Fighters, died Friday. He was 50.
Hawkins was in Bogota, Colombia, to perform with the Foo Fighters, two nights before the band’s headlining set at Lollapalooza Brazil on Sunday. Emergency services had responded to a call about a patient with chest pains in a hotel who was unresponsive when they tried to give aid, Bogota health officials said Saturday. Hawkins was declared dead at the scene, they said.
The news was announced on the Foo Fighters Instagram account. “The Foo Fighters family is devastated by the tragic and untimely loss of our beloved Taylor Hawkins,” the statement read. “His musical spirit and infectious laughter will live on with all of us forever. Our hearts go out to his wife, children and family, and we ask that their privacy be treated with the utmost respect in this unimaginably difficult time.”
An initial forensic medical examination and urine toxicology report of the musician’s body revealed 10 substances in his system, including THC (marijuana), tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines and opioids, according to a statement from the Colombian attorney general’s office Saturday via Twitter.
“The National Institute of Forensic Medicine continues to conduct the necessary medical studies to ascertain the cause of death,” the attorney general’s office statement added. “The Attorney General’s Office will continue to investigate and will duly inform the findings of forensic examinations in due time.”
Taylor Hawkins, who died Friday at age 50, gave the Foo Fighters’ earnest anthems a palpable sense of fun, swagger and sex appeal.
As news spread of Hawkins’ death on Friday night, many musicians paid tribute on social media.
“God bless you Taylor Hawkins. I loved your spirit and your unstoppable rock power. Rest In Peace my friend,” wrote Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello.
Ozzy Osbourne called Hawkins “a great person and an amazing musician,” while the Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson said simply, “coolest dude ever.”
A member of Foo Fighters since 1997, Hawkins joined the band after touring with Alanis Morissette for her hit album “Jagged Little Pill.” Unhappy with the Foo Fighters’ original touring drummer, leader Dave Grohl reached out to his friend Hawkins to get his opinion on a replacement. Grohl, who previously played drums with Nirvana, was surprised when Hawkins recommended himself. His first album with the Foo Fighters was 1999’s “There Is Nothing Left to Lose.”
“We knew we’d get along,” Hawkins told the OC Weekly not long after he joined, adding that “being in the Foo has changed my drumming style because I had to adapt.” He added, “I was a little nervous at first, but I got over that. … No one can play better than Dave Grohl. He just has this vision in his head.”
Said Grohl of Hawkins in an interview with KLOS-FM’s Matt Pinfield last year, “Our musical relationship — the foundation of that is our friendship, and that’s why when we jump up on stage and play, we’re so connected, because we’re like best friends.”
That chemistry was apparent. Though guitarist Pat Smear, bassist Nate Mendel, guitarist Chris Shiflett and keyboardist Rami Jaffee have been in the band for well over a decade, Hawkins was the best-known Foo Fighter besides Grohl. Those who saw him drum understood why.
“I think in a rock band it’s important to have a drummer who is fun to watch,” Hawkins told Drum magazine in 2007. When he was a teen, he said, he was “more of a showboat than a good drummer,” adding that his philosophy growing up was, “Play as fast and as busy as you can, all the time.”
All told, Hawkins played on eight Foo Fighters studio albums, five of which have gone platinum. The band, whose most recent album is 2021’s “Medicine at Midnight,” has won 12 Grammys with Hawkins. The Foo Fighters had been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last fall.
Hawkins’ final performance was during the Foo Fighters Lollapalooza Argentina headlining show on Sunday. The band was scheduled to perform at the upcoming Grammy Awards on April 3 in Las Vegas.
Born Feb. 17, 1972, in Fort Worth, Oliver Taylor Hawkins moved with his parents and two siblings to Laguna Beach when he was in grade school, and attended Laguna Beach High School.
Opting to pursue drumming instead of 9-to-5 employment, he joined Sylvia, a Huntington Beach progressive metal trio that eventually signed with the Roadrunner record label. By then, Hawkins had left the group to tour with British Canadian singer Sass Jordan. From there he got a job drumming for Morissette, where he remained until joining Foo Fighters.
Possessed with wrist-snap power that pushed snare drum heads to their limits, the drummer was known for his singular patterns, which flew off in odd directions after building enough repetitive energy to power the whole of whichever arena the band was playing. On the Foo Fighters 2005 hit “Best of You,” he beats his snare drum as if his whole intention is to splinter his sticks, break the drum head and shatter his hands.
As the band moved from the post-grunge alt-rock scene and into the mainstream, Hawkins embraced the success while pursuing musical projects of his own. Founded in 2006, Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders featured members of Morissette’s touring band Sexual Chocolate and released three albums. Its most recent, “Get the Money” (2019), featured Grohl, Yes singer Jon Davison and Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction.
Across his career, Hawkins embraced his versatility. As Foo Fighters’ success grew, he started an Orange County cover band called Chevy Metal, which morphed into another side project, the Birds of Satan, in 2014. Hawkins drummed on songs by Osbourne, Slash, Queen guitarist Brian May and prog-rock band Coheed and Cambria, and educated would-be pounders through his engaging YouTube drum tutorials. A vocal fan of 1970s progressive rock, Hawkins often raved about Rush, Genesis and Yes, but also drew inspiration from punk and new wave. One of his favorite drummers, the Police’s Stewart Copeland, inspired another occasional gig — drumming for a Police cover band called the Cops.
In addition to music, Hawkins portrayed rocker Iggy Pop in the 2013 movie “CBGB” and himself in the Foo Fighters’ recently released horror film, “Studio 666.” During shooting, Grohl playfully complained that his bandmate hadn’t even bothered to learn his lines.
“It’s not that I’m difficult, it’s that I’m lazy and I’m not much for book learning,” Hawkins replied.
Asked about his surfer-dude approach absorbed through his decades living on the Pacific Coast, Hawkins said that despite his long blond hair and chill affect, the beach wasn’t for him. Saying that he hadn’t surfed in a few years, he confessed, “I was never that great, anyway, because I was always in the garage, smoking cigarettes and playing drums.”
Hawkins is survived by his wife, Alison, and their three children: Oliver, Annabelle and Everleigh.
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