While I was having dinner tonight, I received a text from my friend Sean:
“Did you hear about the drummer?”
I didn’t need to ask him anymore because I already had a feeling about what was next, and unfortunately I was right. Taylor Hawkins, the longtime drummer of the Foo Fighters, had died. The band was supposed to perform a show in Columbia this evening, and about an hour before they were to hit the stage, Taylor was found dead in his room. He was only 50.
It’s difficult for me to explain how much music means to me. When family, friends, or just people in general have hurt me or let me down, music was always there to get me back on my feet. It has dried my tears, held my hand, inspired me, and brought me immeasurable hours of joy since I was about 13 years old. Taylor Hawkins had been there in some form or another for the past two decades.
I’m not exactly sure what turned me on to the Foo Fighters when I was about 17. I knew their radio songs, but once I went on a downloading spree of their music I never really looked back. My first Foo Fighters show was back in the summer of 04, at the now defunct Street Scene. I drug my late friend Brandi with me, and she stuck through to the very end. I sang every word to every song until my vocal chords were shredded. What a fucking night that was.
The second time I saw the band was when I won a radio contest through the station that more or less shaped my musical interests: 91X. DJ Chris Cantore, one of my biggest influences, was doing a giveaway on his morning show to help promote the Foo Fighters’ 5th album, the double-disc In Your Honor. I called in, and wouldn’t you know it, your boy won a prize package. I was beyond elated to be receiving a free copy of the album I already bought, as well as some other miscellaneous prizes. I was also entered into a drawing for the grand prize: A trip to a private Foo Fighters concert at an abandoned Air Force hangar in Roswell, New Mexico. Well, your boy won again. Thanks again, Cantore. Deep down, I know you had a hand in me winning that grand prize.
Roswell is where I met Taylor for the first time. I didn’t know it at the time, but that show was full of press. Press on the plane, press on the ground, press in the fucking concert pit. We didn’t get to meet Dave because, well, because he was pressed for time because of the goddamn press. The other band members mingled with us, though, and were all great people. Before Taylor headed to the back to prepare for the show, I asked him if I could snap a picture and he was more than happy to let me do it. The show was great, but the crowd was shit. As it turns out, the press and their shitty entourage can’t rock worth a god damn. I turned it up to 15. Jimmy tried, too. Good ol’ Jimmy, my ride or die.
Shortly after the release and touring of In Your Honor, Taylor released a solo record with his band, the Coattail Riders. The band went on tour with Dropping Daylight, a young band from Minneapolis. I saw that they had a date in San Diego at Soma and wasn’t about to miss the show. I probably paid less than $20, and was one of maybe 10 people there. Both bands interacted heavily with the sparse crowd and hung out with us afterward. Taylor gave me one of his drumsticks and bullshitted with me for a bit, then they all thanked us for coming out and supporting the bands. To this day, it’s the most intimate show I’ve attended. Here was this millionaire rock star, known the world over, playing at a shitty San Diego venue to a crowd of less than a dozen people. I like to think he remembered that day just as well as I did.
I saw the Coattail Riders again with my friend Nicole when they toured in support of their second album. This time, they played at the legendary Casbah to about 100 people. Taylor seemed to have endless energy, just beating the shit out of his drumkit while singing. This wasn’t some Don Henley, tap-a-tap-a-tap shit either. It was his signature, hard-hitting sound inspired by greats like Bonzo, Stewart Copeland, the Professor Niel Peart, and his future bandmate and best friend, Dave Grohl. The man could play.
The last time I saw the Foo Fighters was during their Wasting Light tour. It was the 7th and likely final time. I don’t expect the band to continue on without Taylor Hawkins, much like Led Zeppelin called it a day when Bonzo died. Taylor Hawkins was arguably the beating heart of the Foo Fighters, and much like with Dave Grohl, you never seemed to hear an unkind word about him. I have friends who still rip on me over the Foos, but even they liked Taylor Hawkins.
It’s kind of strange, isn’t it? There are these people that we’ll never really get to know on a personal level, yet they have such an impact on our lives. We get angry when somebody wrongs them, we applaud their accomplishments, and we cry when they pass. Now Taylor Hawkins is gone, just like so many others. After we’re done crying over his passing, I hope we can applaud his accomplishments and perhaps place him amongst the modern greats of his craft.