Drummer Taylor Hawkins of Jazz Fest headliner Foo Fighters dies at 50

Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, seen here in 2018, died Friday at age 50 while on tour...
Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, seen here in 2018, died Friday at age 50 while on tour with the band in South America. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)(Amy Harris | Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Published: Mar. 26, 2022 at 6:37 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Taylor Hawkins, for 25 years the joyful, hard-pounding drummer for Foo Fighters and best friend of frontman Dave Grohl, has died during a South American tour with the rock band. He was 50.

There were no immediate details disclosed on how Hawkins died. The band said in a statement late Friday (March 25) that his death was a “tragic and untimely loss.”

Foo Fighters had been scheduled to play at a festival in Bogota, Colombia, on Friday night. The band also was scheduled to headline the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in about a month, on Sunday, May 1.

Hawkins’ final concert was Sunday at another festival in San Isidro, Argentina.

“His musical spirit and infectious laughter will live on with all of us forever,” said a message on the band’s official Twitter account that was also emailed to reporters. “Our hearts go out to his wife, children and family.”

Police vehicles, an ambulance and fans were gathered outside the Four Seasons Casa Medina hotel in northern Bogota where the band was staying.

“It was a band I grew up with. This leaves me empty,” Juan Sebastian Anchique, 23, told The Associated Press as he mourned Hawkins outside the hotel.

Bogota’s municipal government issued a statement saying the city’s emergency services received a call about a patient complaining of “chest pain.” It said an ambulance was sent to the hotel, where responders attempted “resuscitation maneuvers” on Hawkins, but “the patient was declared dead.”

No official cause of death has been disclosed. The U.S. Embassy in Bogota expressed its condolences in a tweet.

After Grohl, the frequently beaming and charismatic Hawkins was the most recognizable member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame group, appearing alongside the lead singer in interviews and playing prominent, usually comic, roles in the band’s memorable videos and their recent horror-comedy film, “Studio 666.”

Hawkins was Alanis Morrissette’s touring drummer when he joined Foo Fighters in 1997. He played on the band’s biggest albums including “One by One” and “On Your Honor,” and on hit singles including “My Hero” and “Best of You.”

In Grohl’s 2021 book “The Storyteller,” he called Hawkins his “brother from another mother, my best friend, a man for whom I would take a bullet.”

“Upon first meeting, our bond was immediate, and we grew closer with every day, every song, every note that we ever played together,” Grohl wrote. “We are absolutely meant to be, and I am grateful that we found each other in this lifetime.”

It’s the second time Grohl has experienced the death of a close bandmate. Grohl was the drummer for Nirvana when Kurt Cobain died in 1994.

Officials with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival did not immediately respond Saturday to a request for comment on Hawkins’ death or plans for the May 1 date the band was expected to fill on the Acura Stage as headliner of the festival’s first weekend. The festival’s scheduling “cubes” were due to be released Tuesday (March 29).

Foo Fighters, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year, had been announced as Jazz Fest headliners for both 2020 and 2021, before those festivals were canceled over COVID-19 concerns.

The band also was scheduled to perform in eight days at the 64th Grammy Awards ceremony, April 3 in Las Vegas.

Tributes to Hawkins poured out on social media, as fans and musicians alike remembered the powerhouse performer known for his exuberant personality, flailing limbs, whirling blonde hair and percussive mastery. Hawkins was widely regarded as one of the best rock drummers of his generation. Though, in deference to Grohl’s earlier work behind the kit with Nirvana, he was known to crack that he wasn’t even the best drummer in Foo Fighters.

“God bless you Taylor Hawkins,” Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello said on Twitter along with a photo of himself, Hawkins and Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Ferrell. “I loved your spirit and your unstoppable rock power.”

“What an incredible talent, who didn’t also need to be so kind and generous and cool but was all those things too anyway,” tweeted Finneas, Billie Eilish’s brother, co-writer and producer. “The world was so lucky to have his gifts for the time that it did.”

Born Oliver Taylor Hawkins in Fort Worth Texas in 1972, Hawkins was raised in Laguna Beach, Calif. He played in the small Southern California band Sylvia before landing his first major gig as a drummer for Canadian singer Sass Jordan.

Hawkins told The Associated Press in 2019 that his early drumming influences included Stewart Copeland of The Police, Roger Taylor from Queen, and Phil Collins, who he said was “one of my favorite drummers ever. You know, people forget that he was a great drummer as well as a sweater-wearing nice guy from the ‘80s, poor fella.”

When he spent two years in the mid-1990s drumming for Morrissette, he was inspired primarily by the playing of Jane’s Addiction’s Stephen Perkins.

“My drums were set up like him, the whole thing,” Hawkins told the AP. “I was still sort of a copycat at that point. It takes a while and takes a little while to sort of establish your own sort of style. I didn’t sound exactly like him, I sound like me, but he was a big, huge influence.”

He and Grohl met backstage at a show when Hawkins was still with Morrissette. Grohl’s band would have an opening soon after when then-drummer William Goldsmith left. Grohl called Hawkins, who was a huge Foo Fighters fan and immediately accepted.

“I am not afraid to say that our chance meeting was a kind of love at first sight, igniting a musical ‘twin flame’ that still burns to this day,” Grohl wrote in his book. “Together, we have become an unstoppable duo, onstage and off, in pursuit of any and all adventure we can find.”

Hawkins first appeared with the band in the 1997 video for Foo Fighters’ most popular song, “Everlong,” although he had yet to join the group when the song was recorded. He would, however, go on to pound out epic versions of it hundreds of times as the climax of Foo Fighters’ concerts.

In another highlight of the group’s live shows, Grohl would get behind the drums and Hawkins would grab the mic to sing a cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love.”

“The best part of getting to be the lead singer of the Foo Fighters for just for one song is I really do have the greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummer on the planet earth,” Hawkins said before the song in a March 18 concert in Chile.

Grohl can be heard telling him to shut up.

Hawkins also co-starred in Foo Fighters’ recently released horror-comedy film, “Studio 666,” in which a demonic force in a house where the band is staying seizes Grohl and makes him murderous. Hawkins and the other members of the band are killed off one by one. The premise came out of their work on their 10th studio album at a home in Los Angeles.

He also drummed and sang for the side-project trio Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders. They released an album, “Get the Money,” in 2006.

Hawkins is survived by his wife Alison, whom he married in 2005, and their three children Oliver, Annabelle and Everleigh.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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