© 2021
In touch with the world ... at home on the High Plains
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins dies at 50

Updated March 26, 2022 at 6:46 PM ET

Taylor Hawkins, the longtime drummer for the megaplatinum band Foo Fighters, has died. He was 50, and died in Bogota, Colombia, where the group was scheduled to perform.

Hawkins' death was confirmed by the band in an online post late Friday night. It did not release a cause but called his passing a "tragic and untimely loss."

On Saturday evening, Colombia's attorney general's office released a preliminary toxicology report, saying that medical examiners found evidence of 10 types of substances in Hawkins' body, including opioids, benzodiazepines, marijuana and antidepressants. It said that its forensics report on Hawkins continues.

"His musical spirit and infectious laughter will live on with all of us forever," the Foo Fighters' statement read. "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."

Hawkins had been in Foo Fighters since 1997, three years after the band began. Before that, he had been the touring drummer for Alanis Morissette. During Hawkins' time with Foo Fighters, the band won 12 Grammy Awards and scored four No. 1 hits on the Billboard charts.

Hawkins' laidback, surfer-boy appearance belied his frenzied, frenetic energy at the drumkit — he didn't play the drums so much as he pounded them. He was the perfect complement to singer, guitarist and Foo Fighters founder Dave Grohl, who had already become a drumming icon as part of Nirvana.

In a 2007 interview on Fresh Air, Grohl said of Hawkins: "He's a decathlete. He's amazing ... Taylor is not only my best friend in the world but an incredible drummer. And so the relationship that we have as two drummers is interesting. It's not like any other relationship I have in my life. We're close personally, but then we're also connected by this love and understanding of rhythm and drums. So when we're writing songs, you know, I might request something or I might try to steer in a direction, but for the most part, the guy — he doesn't need me to tell him what to do because he's an incredible drummer."

When Foo Fighters were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year, the band was hailed for its "infectious hooks, in-your-face guitar riffs, monster drums, and boundless energy."

"Part Beavis and Butthead, part Dumb and Dumber, we were a hyperactive blur of Parliament Lights and air drumming wherever we went," the frontman wrote in his 2021 autobiography, The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music. In the book, Grohl called Hawkins his "best friend and partner in crime."

Hawkins was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on Feb. 17, 1972, but grew up in Laguna Beach, Calif. He began playing drums at age 10 and knew that he wanted to try to make it as a big professional after seeing the band Queen play a show in 1982, telling his mother that he wanted to play stadium gigs like that.

He went on to play in a band called Sylvia and backed Canadian rock singer Sass Jordan before joining Morissette's group.

Grohl had recorded all the instruments himself for the first Foo Fighters album as a one-man project before recruiting another drummer, William Goldsmith, who left the band during the recording of its second album, The Colour and the Shape. Grohl, who had met Hawkins earlier, called him to ask for recommendations for a new drummer. Hawkins volunteered himself.

During his Foo Fighter years, Hawkins also formed a side project called Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders, for which he was singer and drummer with guitarist Gannin Arnold and bassist Chris Chaney of Jane's Addiction. After a 2006 self-titled debut, that band released two other albums that spoke to the high regard the rock community had for Hawkins: 2010's Red Light Fever — with guest turns by Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen, Elliot Easton of The Cars, and Dave Grohl — and Get the Money in 2019, which featured appearances by Roger Taylor, Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, Duff McKagan from Guns N' Roses, Nancy Wilson from Heart, Joe Walsh from The Eagles and singer LeAnn Rimes.

Hawkins had recently formed a supergroup called NHC with Chaney and guitarist Dave Navarro, also formerly of Jane's Addiction. Hawkins told Rolling Stone in an interview last November that the group's vibe was "yacht goth." An NHC EP, Intakes & Outtakes, was released last month, with a full album scheduled for release this year.

Tributes to Hawkins have poured in on social media from the likes of Mick Jagger, Liam Gallagher of Oasis, producer and singer-songwriter Finneas, among others.

Finneas wrote: "So heartbroken to hear about Taylor Hawkins' passing, what an incredible talent, who didn't also need to be so kind and generous and cool but was all those things too anyway. The world was so lucky to have his gifts for the time that it did, Rest In Peace."

Foo Fighters are scheduled to perform at the Grammy Awards on April 3, where the band has been nominated for Best Rock Performance ("Making A Fire"), Best Rock Song ("Waiting On A War"), and Best Rock Album (Medicine At Midnight).

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Saeed Ahmed
Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.