UPDATED: Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins has died, according to a spokesperson for the band. No cause of death or further details were immediately announced, although local media reports that he was found in his hotel room before the band was to perform at a festival in Bogota, Colombia on Friday night. He was 50.
On Saturday, the Bogota municipal government issued a statement that the city’s emergency center had received a report of a patient with “chest pain” and sent an ambulance, though a private ambulance had already arrived at the hotel in northern Bogota, according to the Associated Press. Health workers were unable to revive him; the cause of death remains under investigation, the statement said.
Hawkins, who joined the band in 1997 after two years as Alanis Morissette’s drummer, was a vital element in the Foo Fighters’ sound and image. An imaginative and rock-solid drummer, he had the seemingly thankless task of playing drums behind Foos singer-guitarist Dave Grohl, who is one of the greatest drummers in rock history. Hawkins filled that role with aplomb, bringing his own muscular, time-juggling style to the band’s straight-ahead rock sound without trying to emulate Grohl, even though they shared countless influences, primarily from hard rock, punk and new wave. He was indisputably one of the best rock drummers of the past 25 years.
As the Police drummer Stewart Copeland commented ahead of the Foos’ 2021 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: “Taylor is in that John Bonham school of drummer.”
He was also a strong singer and frequently took the mic during the band’s concerts and on B-sides, often on cover versions such as a 2008 live team-up with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. He also cowrote many of the band’s songs.
Remembering Taylor Hawkins through some of his best photos
One of Hawkins’ own songs, “Cold Day in the Sun,” which appeared on the Foos’ 2005 album “In Your Honor,” was often played live on tour, with Grohl manning the drums while Hawkins handled lead vocals. The power-pop tune was a fan favorite and showcased Hawkins’ own chops as a frontman.
— Foo Fighters (@foofighters) March 26, 2022
Born Oliver Taylor Hawkins in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1972, his family moved to Laguna Beach, California, when he was four, and he grew up there. After playing with several bands as a teenager, he became the drummer for rock singer Sass Jordan, leaving to join Morissette on the tour supporting her blockbuster 1995 album “Jagged Little Pill.” He played with Morissette until March of 1997 and is featured in “Jagged,” the 2021 HBO documentary about the singer.
Foo Fighters, whose 1995 debut was recorded entirely solo by Grohl, had enlisted a full band to record their second album, “The Colour and the Shape,” but drummer William Goldsmith left the band during the sessions; the parts we re-recorded by Grohl. The frontman called Hawkins, whom he’d met in the past, asking for recommendations, thinking he would not want to leave Morissette. But Hawkins volunteered himself, joining in March of 1997. He had been a tireless and highly visible member of the band ever since, eagerly participating in in the band’s eight studio albums — the most recent of which is last year’s Grammy-nominated “Medicine at Midnight” — hundreds of concerts, and many Grohl-led side-projects like the Bee Gees parody/tribute act the DeeGees and the group’s recent mock horror film, “Studio 666.” An offshoot of that project, a heavy metal EP called “Dream Widow,” was released last night.
The bond between Hawkins and Grohl, who previously lost a close bandmate when Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994, was instantaneous and evident. Grohl called Hawkins his “brother from another mother, my best friend” in his 2021 memoir “The Storyteller.” “Upon first meeting, our bond was immediate, and we grew closer with every day, every song, every note that we ever played together. We are absolutely meant to be, and I am grateful that we found each other in this lifetime.”
Foo Fighters have canceled the remaining date on their South American tour — an appearance at the Lollapalooza Festival in Brazil on Sunday — but they are scheduled to perform at the Grammy Awards a week later, on April 3, with dozens of tour dates scheduled for the remainder of the year in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The band’s plans were unclear at the time of this article’s publication, however, it would not be out of character for Grohl to make a heartfelt tribute or a statement on the tragedy at the Grammys, whether or not the group performs.
As word of Hawkins’ death reached the Estero Picnic festival in Colombia, candles were placed on the stage in his honor. “This news takes us all by surprise,” read a caption accompanying a photo of the tribute.
En estos momentos se encienden velas en el escenario del @Festereopicnic_ en honor a Taylor Hawkins baterista de Foo Fighters, quién desafortunadamente falleció horas antes de la presentación de la banda.
Esta noticia nos toma a todos por sorpresa. pic.twitter.com/DJ85oNY9wA
— laura ❤️🔥 (@alterahuevos) March 26, 2022
Hawkins suffered a heroin overdose in 2001 and was in a coma for two weeks, although he characterized it as an accident and told Beats 1 he had been “partying a lot” but was not addicted.
The Foos are known for touring relentlessly, crisscrossing the globe several times over when they’re not in the studio. Hawkins was a road warrior if ever there was one, spending nearly all of his adult life performing in arenas, stadiums and festivals, in addition to the not-so-odd club show.
In 2006, Hawkins released a self-titled LP with his side project, Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, and a decade later, another band he fronted, Chevy Metal, released a six-song EP. He also has worked with Coheed and Cambria, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, former Jane’s Addiction bassist Eric Avery’s first solo album, Foo Fighters bandmate Chris Shiflett’s side project, Jackson United; and Queen guitarist Brian May’s 1998 solo album, “Another World.” Hawkins was a Queen obsessive and helped induct the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, alongside Grohl. In recent years, the Foos worked in a cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” into their set. Performing in Los Angeles last month, at a concert following the premiere of “Studio 666,” Hawkins delivered the lead vocal with his palpable reverence for Freddie Mercury.
The Foo Fighters were themselves inducted into the Rock Hall in 2021, with Hawkins, along with his family, in attendance (and wearing a T-shirt that read, “The tempo is whatever I say it is”). Paul McCartney handled the induction honors and several musicians appeared in a video package ahead of the band’s acceptance. In that video, Jack Black commented, “Taylor has the hardest job because he’s the drummer in a band that includes the greatest drummer alive. And he’s got technique that Dave only dreams about.”
Elsewhere in the package, Hawkins observed, “I’ve had people ask me in interviews, ‘What is it like to be a rock star?’ And I’m, like, ‘I’m not a rock star, I’m a musician.'”
In taking the stage, Hawkins used the moment to champion three other acts that he believes should be in the Rock Hall: George Michael, Soundgarden and Jane’s Addiction.
Hawkins is survived by his wife, Alison, and three children.
Variety will have more on Hawkins’ life and career in the coming days.