This was how Dave Grohl would suitably address the drummer of his band, Taylor Hawkins, on stage. As if having to crank it up to eleven just to speak to the man behind the kit was part of the fabric of their relationship. It was. When you think of Foo Fighters, you think of an eclectic sound derived from the combined influences of teenage fandom. It’s the sound of a bunch of guys whose Kiss and Ramones posters weren’t just decorations growing up. They were the equivalent of stained glass windows in a church denoting the iconography of their musical gods.
When Taylor Hawkins joined Foo Fighters in 1997, it felt like the missing piece of the puzzle had been filled. Granted, the Foo’s first two releases Foo Fighters and The Color and The Shape, released in 1995 and 1997, respectively, garnered success. These albums gave birth to iconic tunes such as Big Me, Everlong, and Monkey Wrench before Hawkins joined the band.
Yet when he joined, you would be forgiven for thinking Dave Grohl had created this guy in a lab from his own DNA. Anyone who had the chops to take on being the drummer of the band fronted by the former drummer of Nirvana was always going to have to be something special.
Right off the bat, Hawkins’ passion for his craft was evident in a band where passion is so much more important than perfection. His idolization of Stuart Copeland of The Police was evident in his fills. His love of rock n roll was evident through every live performance that exuded all the excitement of a kid whose dreams of Christmas day being every day had come true. This was present from day one and was present a quarter of a century later. Phoning it in was just never part of his nature. Instead, he was effectively the right-hand man to Dave Grohl, often switching roles with him on stage and showcasing remarkably impressive Freddy Mercury-like vocals during sets.
My First Foo Fighters Show
I saw Foo Fighters for the first time in 2015 at the Milton Keynes Bowl, UK. This was the first time I got a first-hand understanding of Taylor Hawkins’ superb talent. It came during the fallout of Dave Grohl’s infamous leg break and the subsequent ‘guitar throne’ he had brought on tour with him in order to be seated during performances. Yet during the show, just two songs in during Monkey Wrench he was up dancing like he didn’t have a cast around his leg. It was a party atmosphere with a Wildman behind the drums keeping everything ticking over accordingly.
Midway through the set, we were treated to a couple of special guests. Roger Taylor of Queen and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin came on stage as Hawkins took over co-lead vocals for a rendition of the iconic Queen and David Bowie collaboration Under Pressure. It’s a memory that I hope will never leave my mind any time soon as, to this day, it leaves me with the question… did that really happen?
To say that his vocals were impressive would be an understatement. In his own right, Taylor Hawkins’ career as a singer could have gone further than being at the helm of his solo work as Taylor Hawkins and The Coattail Riders. But drumming was always his number one passion, and if you ever saw his work, that was always plenty evident. It just so happened that, by all accounts, he was an extraordinary human being too. His infectious love of music transcended not only eras of music but across genres.
The world feels like it’s one rock-god less today. Fifty years old is much too young for anyone to pass away. It follows the unfortunate vein of loss of iconic drummers that we’ve experienced with Neil Peart (Rush), Charlie Watts (Rolling Stones), and Joey Jordison (Slipknot) all passing on in recent years. Taylor Hawkins died while on tour, and whilst that doesn’t do much to take away the solemn feeling of losing a much-loved father and husband, it brings some degree of comfort knowing he went out doing what he felt he was born to do – travel the world playing rock n roll for millions of people.
It doesn’t seem plausible to witness a Foo Fighters show minus Taylor Hawkins, and what happens with the band going forward remains to be seen. He leaves behind an amazing legacy and has a hand in the creation and performance of some of the greatest rock songs in history. His contribution to music cannot be understated, and he will forever live on as one of the very best drummers the world has ever seen. To which I say, thanks for the memories. Thank you, Taylor Hawkins.