Taylor Hawkins of Chevy Metal performing in Napa, CA

In Your Honor: On the Passing of Taylor Hawkins

Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins passed away on Friday, March 25th, just hours before the band was scheduled to play at a festival in Bogota, Colombia. While the official cause of death has not yet been revealed, what really matters is that one of the most beloved musicians of his (or arguably any) generation is gone, and in his wake, a huge hole has been left in the music world.

The Foo Fighters are one of the biggest bands in the world, continuing consistently for ten albums spread out across 27 years since their self-titled debut album released in 1995. They famously started out as a solo project for former-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, written and recorded by him in the aftermath of the end of Nirvana, following Kurt Cobain’s death. However, what most people think of as the Foo Fighters came together with the addition of Hawkins just after the release of their seminal second album, The Colour and the Shape. He joined the band for the ensuing tour, permanently replacing departing drummer William Goldsmith. He quickly became an integral part of the group and Dave Grohl’s best friend. 

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His journey to that point, though, was one of a man seizing each opportunity presented to him. In a 2020 interview, Hawkins was asked what his plan B would have been if he hadn’t made it in rock ‘n’ roll. Laughing, he responded, “Weed dealer? Pizza delivery guy? Manager of the drum department at Guitar Center? I don’t know.” It was the third one – manager of the drum department at Guitar Center – that could have been the fate of the man who became not only a legendary drummer and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but so beloved by seemingly everyone he encountered, from fans to fellow musicians. Guitar Center was exactly where Hawkins was at when he got the chance to join the touring band for Canadian rocker Sass Jordan. 

This led to a two-year gig drumming for another Canadian musician (and legend): Alanis Morissette. He joined right as Morisette was becoming one of the biggest artists in the world, hot on the heels of her Jagged Little Pill album. It was while touring with Morissette that he first crossed paths with Grohl, when Foo Fighters and Morissette played the same festival. The two became fast friends, and when Grohl called Hawkins for a suggestion for a replacement for Goldsmith, Hawkins volunteered and the rest is history. Even within a band with such clear camaraderie as Foo Fighters, Grohl and Hawkins seemed like long-lost twins. Their friendship was endearing and affection for each other was clear. 

By his own admission, though, Hawkins admits that early on he battled self-doubt. He felt that if he became a rock star, everything would be better in his life, and in some ways it was but in some it was not. This led to a period of self-examination. Though he had everything he could want, he still struggled with life. Money and fame, for him, didn’t translate to confidence and self-esteem. He seemed to battle these moments with a blue-collar approach to his job: he drummed every chance he got. 

While being the Foo Fighters drummer was his main job, he also drummed on albums by Coheed and Cambria, on their  Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow album, Eric Avery’s (formerly of Jane’s Addiction) first solo album Help Wanted, and on a Foo Fighter bandmate Chris Shiflett’s side project, Jackson United, splitting drumming duties with Grohl on the band’s third album. All of this was in addition to his own side project, Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders, and his heavy metal cover band Chevy Metal

Taylor Hawkins of Chevy Metal performing in Napa, CA
Taylor Hawkins (Vocalist), Chevy Metal
May 25, 2019: Chevy Metal in concert at BottleRock Napa Valley in Napa, CA

With his passing, the tributes have poured in from all over the music community from acts as diverse as Stevie Nicks, Ringo Starr, Wofgang Van Halen, Questlove, Miley Cyrus, Lenny Kravitz, Tom Morello, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and Peter Criss of Kiss; Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Susanna Hoffs, Conan O’Brien, and even First Lady Jill Biden. This list could go on and on and double the length of this tribute, but what is clear is that Taylor Hawkins was loved instantly by all he met and worked with. From the fan community, there are hundreds of stories of a guy who took time for every fan he met and always made people feel special. 

Taylor Hawkins (Dummer), Foo Fighters
June 16, 2018: Foo Fighters concert at the Pinkpop Festival, The Netherlands

Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth once said people pay money to go to concerts because they like seeing people believe in themselves. Even though he admitted to his own struggles with self-esteem, to see Taylor Hawkins drum was to watch someone who truly believed in himself the moment he sat down behind the kit or took over vocal duties, such as his Foo live highlight singing Queen’s “Somebody to Love” – performed in the US for the last time at Innings Festival in Tempe, AZ on February 26th. He clearly relished every moment, never taking a second of joy for granted.  Maybe what we loved so much about him was getting to watch someone markedly love what they do. 

Regardless of the cause of death, one of rock’s true good guys is gone now. He leaves behind an undeniable legacy. He might’ve been, as music critic and senior editor for AllMusic Stephen Thomas Erlewin tweeted, “…the only drummer alive who could support  Dave Grohl and not make you wish Grohl was sitting behind the kit.” He played with an unabashed passion, like a guy who had won the golden ticket of life, and was never going to let the opportunity slip from his fingers. 

Honor his memory by revisiting his greatest moments: “Breakout” from There’s Nothing Left to Lose, “Times Like These” from One by One, “Best of You” from In Your Honor, or look up any Foo Fighters live performances on YouTube – especially the band’s performance of “My Hero” from the final episode of Late Show with David Letterman. As you do, let his legacy be more than just a great drummer, but a guy who took on every opportunity and gave it everything he had. Relish life, just as Taylor Hawkins did, and rock out every chance you get along the way. 

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Ryan Novak
Music Journalist at Burning Hot Events
High School Teacher at Hamilton High School and Adjunct English Instructor at CGC. Record collector, comic book nerd, one-time textbook author, and retired record store clerk. Loves hiking. Lindsey’s husband.

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