Obituary: Taylor Hawkins, drummer for the Foo Fighters whose energetic playing style shaped the band’s sound

Taylor Hawkins, who died of a suspected heart attack in Bogota at the age of 50, was the drummer for the Foo Fighters, the acknowledged kings of arena rock, for a quarter of a century.

Hawkins, former touring drummer for Alanis Morissette, joined the band, led by frontman Dave Grohl, in 1997 after their original drummer, William Goldsmith, left. “I didn’t know how long it would take,” Hawkins recalled. “Every year it’s just like, ‘Oh, I guess we’re going to move on.'”

In fact, he stayed with the band for 25 years, played on eight albums, won 12 Grammys and was voted “Best Rock Drummer” by Drum Magazine in 2005 rhythm. He co-wrote many of the band’s songs with Grohl and occasionally sang lead especially on Sunday rain and ran his own side project, Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders.

His drumming, sharp, precise and phenomenally energetic, was influenced by Roger Taylor, Phil Collins and Neil Peart and became an integral part of the Foo Fighters’ pounding yet melodic rock ‘n’ roll sound.

His obvious talent was complemented by the looks of a super-cool blond Californian surfer dude coupled with the strength and stamina of an athlete as, often naked to the waist or in sleeveless t-shirts and Bermuda shorts, he returned the mosh pit energy of the stadium fans with the sheer physicality of his performance. Hawkins, who was happily married with three children, was also widely considered the nicest member of the band.

But he also struggled with drugs. In 2001 he overdosed on heroin in London and was in a coma for two weeks. Grohl admitted that’s why he thought about breaking up Foo Fighters: “When he woke up I was like, ‘Dude, I just want you to know, we’re not talking about the band until you’re ready.’ And we haven’t in a while.”

In a 2018 interview, Hawkins denied being a “junkie per se,” explaining it was simply a matter of the party getting “a little too intense.” However, he claimed he turned the issue on its head.

The day after his death, in a hotel room in Bogota where he was scheduled to perform with the Foo Fighters, Colombian authorities announced that a preliminary toxicology test revealed he had 10 substances in his system at the time of his death, including marijuana and antidepressants and opioids.

The youngest of three children, Oliver Taylor Hawkins was born on February 17, 1972 in Fort Worth, Texas to businessman Terry Hawkins and his wife Elizabeth. When Taylor was four years old, the family moved to Laguna Beach, California.

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“I wasn’t really spectacular at my school,” he said the Independent 2019 “not the best in sports or anything. I was a bulky little kid and then I found drums and it became my defense mechanism against the world. It was like a badge of honor, my armor and what really defined me.”

Later in his teens, he worked as a hired drummer, played in Orange County’s experimental rock band Sylvia, and for Sass Jordan. From 1995 to 1997 he was Alanis Morissette’s drummer on the tour supporting her seminal album Jagged little pill.


Taylor Hawkins, left, and Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. Picture by Phil McCarten

Although Morissette was a bigger act than Foo Fighters at the time, Hawkins thought joining the band was a no-brainer: “I knew I liked the music and I wanted to be a part of it. I went from band to band and did whatever I could at that point just to keep working, and one of my favorite bands in the world was Foo Fighters.”

However, being a member of a headlining band at the stadium was extremely stressful. “I’m scared to death every time I go on stage,” he said in 2005.

In recent years, Foo Fighters appearances have often included a Hawkins spot featuring Grohl the former drummer with Nirvana would take his place behind the drums while Hawkins sang versions of his beloved Queen’s songs.

While remaining a full-time member of Foo Fighters, Hawkins has played as a guest drummer with other artists and has had a number of side projects, most notably from 2005’s Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders. The name was an inside joke dealing with the idea that Hawkins merely rode Grohl’s coattails. They released three studio albums, for which Hawkins, a gifted collaborator, enlisted guest artists such as Roger Taylor and Queen’s Brian May and grohl among other. In 2021, Hawkins and his fellow Foo Fighters were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Paul McCartney.

Taylor Hawkins married his longtime girlfriend Alison in 2005. She and her three children ssurvive him.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Obituary: Taylor Hawkins, drummer for the Foo Fighters whose energetic playing style shaped the band’s sound

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