For the first time ever in my life, words have truly failed me. I have been trying to write this article since March 25 – the fateful day we lost Taylor Hawkins. What I wanted to express just simply would not come. But now – months later, I feel compelled to complete this – for Taylor, for his wife Alison, for his kids, and for Dave Grohl and the rest of the Foos. And always, for the fans!
Oliver Taylor Hawkins was born in Ft Worth, Texas, and moved to Laguna Beach, CA when he was only 4. Tay, as he was nicknamed, was your typical “California” boy, loving the sun, sand, and Pacific Ocean. Growing up in Orange County (the “O.C.”) gave Tay plenty of opportunity to discover who and what he wanted to be. “I was a fat, chubby, stupid kid who failed at everything and that nobody liked,” he said in 2000. “Then I started playing drums.” He also said little about his early family background except that his parents bought him a drum set when he was 10.
He went to and graduated from Laguna Beach High School before embarking on his dream of being a professional drummer. He started out in local bands before earning a gig with Sass Jordan. In 1995, he was tapped to play for then-newcomer Alanis Morrisette, and the stars were aligned. From June 1995 until March 1997, Hawkins was Alanis Morissette’s drummer on the tour supporting “Jagged Little Pill” and her “Can’t Not” tour. He also appeared in the videos for “You Oughta Know,” “All I Really Want,” and “You Learn,” and appeared on Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill, Live” in 1997.
Meanwhile, after touring through the spring of 1996, the Foo Fighters entered a Seattle studio to record their second album. Conflict during recording reportedly erupted between Dave Grohl and then-drummer William Goldsmith, causing Goldsmith to leave the band. The band regrouped in Los Angeles and almost completely re-recorded the album with Grohl on drums. The album, “The Colour and the Shape,” was released on May 20, 1997. Grohl then called Hawkins, an acquaintance at the time, seeking his recommendations for a new drummer to join the band. Grohl was under the impression that Hawkins would not leave Morissette’s touring band, given she was a bigger act than Foo Fighters at the time, but to Grohl’s surprise, Hawkins volunteered to join the band himself, explaining that he wanted to be a drummer in a rock band rather than for a solo act. The band introduced Taylor as their new drummer on March 18, 1997, and a brotherhood was formed.
“Upon first meeting, our bond was immediate, and we grew closer with every day, every song, every note that we ever played together,” Grohl wrote in a 2021 autobiography, “The Storyteller.” He described Mr. Hawkins as his “best friend” and “a man for whom I would take a bullet.” After Grohl, he was perhaps the group’s most recognizable member, known for his innate humor, his absolutely contagious smile, his flying mane of blond hair and his inventive, dynamic style of playing the drums. He was truly a force of nature behind the drums.
Taylor had long been a fan of Queen and its bombastic concerts and had come of age with a slashing California style, sometimes called glam or alternative metal. He brought a strength and complexity to the drums, influenced by Queen’s Roger Taylor, Genesis’ Phil Collins, and Stewart Copeland of the Police. He sheepishly admitted that “technically I think Grohl is better than me” on drums, but he anchored seven Foo Fighters albums, all of which were certified platinum. He wrote several songs for the band with Grohl or on his own and was the lead singer on some, including “Cold Day in the Sun” and “Sunday Rain.” He and Grohl often had extended duo jams during the Foos’ concerts, each driven on by the other. They were brothers, in every sense of the word.
“I think Taylor really underestimates his importance in this band,” Grohl told Rolling Stone in 2021. “Maybe because he’s not the original drummer, but, my God, what would we be without Taylor Hawkins? Could you imagine? It would be a completely different thing. … Taylor’s insecurity pushes him to overachieve.” High praise, indeed.
In his personal life, Taylor married his wife Alison in 2005, and they have 3 children together. Taylor was known for keeping his private life exactly that and little is known about Alison and her life. But, in 2019 she was referenced in a song from the album ‘Get the Money.‘ Taylor explains, “There’s a song on the album called ‘I Really Blew It’, which is for those men who think they can win an argument with their missus! I only speak for myself, but the man will always lose because the woman has the power.”
Taylor also had his demons, including a well-documented hard partying lifestyle early on. Hawkins overdosed on heroin in August 2001, which left him in a coma for two weeks. Hawkins’s bandmate and best friend, Dave Grohl, stayed at his hospital bed in London for two weeks until he woke up. Grohl said he was ready to quit music while Hawkins was in the hospital. He also revealed in the 2011 documentary Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, that he wrote the song “On the Mend” from the band’s 2005’s album “In Your Honor”, about Hawkins while he was in a coma. In 2018, Hawkins had said about that dark time: “I was partying a lot. I wasn’t a junkie, per se, but I was partying. There was a year where the partying just got a little too heavy. Thank God on some level this guy gave me the wrong line with the wrong thing one night and I woke up going, ‘What the fuck happened?’ That was a real changing point for me.” In the same interview, Hawkins also revealed he was now sober.
Hawkins suffered from severe, and almost debilitating stage fright. Speaking about his health in a June 2021 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Hawkins said: “I’m healthy. I’m good… I get sinus infections really bad. And I just found out from my doctor, got all my blood tests and my heart and everything checked, and he goes, ‘Dude, you’re in amazing shape. Your heart’s big because you exercise a lot. It’s like a runner’s heart.’ And that’s fine. The only thing is, he said, ‘I think you have sleep apnea.’ And my wife’s always saying you snore, and you fucking make weird noises while you’re sleeping and stuff.”
But on March 25, 2022, tragedy struck when emergency services were called to the Four Seasons Casa Medina hotel in Bogotá, Colombia, where Hawkins was suffering from chest pain in his hotel room. Health personnel arrived and found Hawkins unresponsive; they performed CPR, but he was declared dead at the scene, at the age of 50. The band canceled the rest of their tour and returned to Los Angeles to grieve.
I have such an affinity with drummers. I truly get them, and what drives them, and I’m very drawn to their energy. Taylor had that energy. That almost-manic drive, and motivation, and will to succeed. He will be so sorely missed in the music world. The earth got a little less bright that fateful day, with the passing of one brightest stars in the universe. Rest easy Tay.
Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected].