Photo: Scott Legato/Getty Images
Foo Fighters Are An Indestructible Music Juggernaut. But Taylor Hawkins' Death Shows That They're Human Beings, Too.
In the recent Foo Fighters deluge — a memoir, a horror flick, memeable stunts, a GRAMMY-nominated album — it became easy to take them for granted. But drummer Taylor Hawkins' untimely death reminds us that they're people, not cartoon characters.
Editor's Note: Foo Fighters will no longer perform at the 2022 GRAMMYs, although a tribute to Taylor Hawkins will take place.
It is no slight to Foo Fighters to say they saturated music fans over the past year.
Primarily, they put out their GRAMMY-nominated album, Medicine at Midnight, and Dave Grohl's bestselling memoir, The Storyteller. But then there was everything around those press cycles, which could prove overwhelming to any music lover — the horror movie, Studio 666; the children they invited to shred onstage; the reignited beef with the Westboro Baptist Church. When you factor in the world tour, the Rock Hall induction, the talk-show appearances, and the golden throne, it's hard to imagine even the most hardcore fan needing more Foo Fighters in 2022.
But in a Rolling Stone cover story from last year, Grohl underlined how all this prolificity wasn't just for its own sake — it came from broken hearts and a need to pick up the pieces. "We were people coming from bands that ended prematurely, that were not finished making music," he said, nodding to the deaths of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Grohl's former band, and Darby Crash of the Germs, the pioneering punk band co-founded by Foos guitarist Pat Smear. "So we imagined this to be some sort of continuation, and that our band was about life. So why not celebrate it every way that we can?"
So the Foos raged against the dying of the light for a quarter century as ambassadors of rock innocence and goodwill. And then a stunning loss — of Taylor Hawkins, the smiley, good-natured drum godhead in the back — gobsmacked the music community.
Hours before the 12-time GRAMMY winners were set to take the stage at Festival Estéreo Picnic in Bogotá, Colombia — and a little more than a week before they were to perform at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards — the band tweeted an announcement that left rock fans reeling. "The Foo Fighters family is devastated by the tragic and untimely loss of our beloved Taylor Hawkins," it read. "His musical spirit and infectious laughter will live on with all of us forever." The drummer was 50.
While no cause or location was immediately given, the Bogotá municipal government revealed he passed away in his hotel room. And according to the Metropolitan Police of Bogotá, "The cause of death has yet to be established," but "According to those close to him, the death could be related to the consumption of drugs."
Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. shared his condolences to Hawkins' family and fans in a statement. (At the 2022 GRAMMY Awards, Foo Fighters are nominated for Best Rock Performance for "Making a Fire," Best Rock Song for "Waiting on a War" and Best Rock Album for Medicine at Midnight.)
With Hawkins' death, the Foo Fighters' unstoppable train ground to a halt. Just days ago, one could reliably pick up their phone and see Hawkins' goofy grin, his surfer-boy looks, his acrobatics behind the kit. Being a Foo Fighters fan meant always guessing — what would they get up to this week? Rip into a Bee Gees cover, turning Madison Square Garden into a massive dance party? Release an album of speed-metal songs under an alias? Now, no matter what Foo Fighters do next, they'll never be the same.
Hawkins was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1972, and raised in Laguna Beach, California. In the early 1990s, he worked with Canadian singer Sass Jordan, before rising to the global stage as Alanis Morrissette's touring drummer during her Jagged Little Pill era. After Foo Fighters' then-drummer William Goldsmith left the band during the sessions for 1997's The Colour and the Shape, Grohl offered the drum throne to Hawkins.
In his memoir, The Storyteller, Grohl expressed how dearly he loved Hawkins. "Part Beavis and Butthead, part Dumb and Dumber, we were a hyperactive blur of Parliament Lights and air drumming wherever we went," he wrote, saying they had become "practically inseparable."
On classic Foos records, from 1999's There is Nothing Left to Lose to 2011's Wasting Light and right up to Medicine at Midnight, Hawkins pulled off a nearly impossible balance — not copying or upstaging the other famous drummer in the band, but remaining totally distinctive and recognizable. At first, though, Hawkins felt like he couldn't possibly measure up to Grohl, who is widely considered one of the greatest drummers of all time.
"And at one point, I just said to Dave, 'Listen, dude, I just don't think I can do this,'" Hawkins recalled to Rolling Stone. "And what he said chokes me up a little. He's like, 'You're gonna play some drums on this.' I did half the drums on it, because he f***in' held my hand through it, like an older brother, best friend does. That's why we're here today."
Few drummers can make a song pump and slam like Grohl. But Hawkins — influenced commensurately by Queen's Roger Taylor and the Police's Stewart Copeland — had a bouncy, dynamic style all his own. And with Grohl's support, he became not only a worthy member of Foo Fighters, but the heart of its propulsion system.
Despite Grohl initially singing all the vocals and playing all the instruments on Foo Fighters records, his accompanists have never been anonymous action figures on stage. Hawkins, guitarists Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett, bassist Nate Mendel, and keyboardist Rami Jaffee — all of them bound by a manic sense of brotherhood — are just as crucial to the band's sound and appeal. Both live and in the studio, the Foos brought heavy artillery — an album could be an HBO special, a concert an overwhelming spectacle that leaves you laughing, dancing and crying.
That reliability and ubiquity can be a double-edged sword. It engenders the notion that the Foos will always be here: You can potentially check out for a few years and come back — they'll be waiting for you. But as we learned with beloved artists (and human cartoon characters) Prince and Tom Petty, the musician who's seemingly always on screen can be gone in an instant. Touring around the world with a permanent smile doesn't mean one doesn't have their own inner demons and can't be yanked off the planet — from all of us.
It's unknown what the future of Foo Fighters may entail. For now, the band has sent their love to Hawkins' wife, children and family, adding: "We ask that their privacy be treated with the utmost respect in this unimaginably difficult time."
There are reams of songs, albums, skits, and YouTube videos by which to remember Hawkins, but by all rights, we should have decades more of them. This cruel fact casts the recent ubiquity of Foo Fighters in a different light. This yearslong music and media cycle — which would work almost any other band to the point of exhaustion — wasn't just for attention; it was to have as much fun and make as much music as humanly possible. Because as Grohl and company know from experience, tomorrow isn't guaranteed.
"I don't want to f***ing die! I know it's inevitable, but I don't want to," Grohl told Rolling Stone. "That's gonna be such a drag. I'll fight it as long as I can." In the same interview, Smear characterized Foo Fighters as "life-lovers" — contrasting their philosophy with Cobain's "I hate myself and I want to die" theatrics. For Foo Fighters, life sprung out of grief and pain. And that's audible at the very heartbeat of the band — the one Hawkins provided.
"I think Taylor really underestimates his importance in this band," Grohl added. "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."
For the jubilant, outrageous, tortured Hawkins, rock was the juice of life. Tragically, we'll never see Hawkins' bared teeth and shock of blonde hair behind Foo Fighters again. But his life, legacy and passing prove once and for all: Strip away the memes and the noise, and you've got human beings just trying to work through agony and find their way to joy.
Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins
Photo: Newspix/Getty Images
Dave Grohl Calls Early Foo's Recordings "Total F****** Chaos"
The rocker reveals lesser-known details about his early records and reflects on fallen friends
Dave Grohl founded the GRAMMY-winning rock band Foo Fighters just a year after Kurt Cobain passed away and Nirvana subsequently disbanded. Given the Foo's current place as one of the biggest rock bands in the entire world, it can be hard to imagine they had humble beginnings, and likewise it's easy to forget that Grohl had to essentially start over from scratch following Nirvana's breakup.
In a recent interview with Hot Press, Grohl reflected on losing his bandmate Cobain, then experiencing similar loss with close friend Chris Cornell much later in life. "I just want everyone to survive," he says. "You cross your fingers and say your prayers and hope everyone makes it home safe at night."
Of starting anew with the Foo Fighters in 1995, he refers to the decision as a type of therapy. "[Our] hearts were broken when Kurt died. … I felt I had to do it — to exorcise something in my soul," Grohl says. "We still feel like that every time we make a record — every time we step on stage."
Grohl also admits that he was more than surprised when the Foo's second album, The Colour And The Shape, broke through and launched him and his band back into the spotlight, especially in light of the working conditions under which the record was made.
"I remember making that record while not having a place to live. I was sleeping in my friend’s back room in a sleeping bag. His dog would come in and p*** on the sleeping bag every f****** night," Grohl says wryly. "It was total f****** chaos. The fact we survived that means we could survive anything."
The Week In Music: Who Is The Fairest Of Them All?
GRAMMY ladies go head-to-head in the battle of the pretty
What are the attributes that make the perfect woman? Is it a camera-ready glow? Fashion sense? Intelligence? Sense of humor? Talent? An uncanny argumentative ability? Chances are the ladies making AskMen.com's Top 99 Women of 2012 list have all of the above, and much more. With actress/television personality Sofia Vergara topping a list containing the usual abundance of actresses, models and paparazzi favorites, current Best New Artist GRAMMY nominee Nicki Minaj led all female musicians at No. 5. Other GRAMMY nominees putting the "s" in scintillating in the top 20 include Rihanna (No. 9), Zooey Deschanel (No. 12), Katy Perry (No. 16), and Lady Gaga (No. 18). Other notables making the grade include Selena Gomez (No. 14), Beyoncé (No. 39) and even hot newcomer Lana Del Rey (No. 95). Of course, lists of this nature are always subjective. But if you're a female looking to get in on the competition, we invite you to sample some tips from our GRAMMY Glam Squad.
While Music's Biggest Night is just a week away, Indianapolis will take center stage on Feb. 5 when the New England Patriots and New York Giants battle it out in Super Bowl XLVI. While the staff at ESPN is busy crunching statistics for their exhaustive game coverage, musicians are chiming in with their official predictions. Not surprisingly, JoJo, who grew up in Foxboro, Mass., will be pulling for Tom Brady and the Patriots. "I just feel like we [will] win by default, because we have heart," said the songstress. Putting on his analyst cap, Nelly thinks the Giants defense will be too hot for the Patriots. "I think the Giants play a little bit better defense, and I just think defense wins championships in the end," he said. Theory Of A Deadman's Tyler Connolly is leaning toward the Giants, but don't quote him on it. "I guess I'll go with the Giants," said Connolly, a San Francisco 49ers fan. When it comes to the halftime entertainment, Connolly did not mince words, however. "In reality you need to think about who's actually watching the Super Bowl — it's big dudes eating nachos and drinking beer," said Connolly. "And they want to watch the commercials with the Doritos girls. … Madonna? They're not going to watch Madonna." While there are few things better than Doritos girls, we here at TWIM we'd definitely rather watch Madonna, while enjoying a side of nachos.
Speaking of the Super Bowl, following Elton John and Madonna's Golden Globes feud last month, the Rocket Man is reportedly turning over a new leaf in offering the Material Girl some advice for her upcoming halftime performance on Feb. 5. "Make sure you lip-sync good," John advised Madonna on "Good Morning America." "I've never seen a decent one. Never ever." While Super Bowl halftime shows have arguably become more about the spectacle instead of the performance, it's hard to tell if John's advice is sincere. In 2004 the tiny dancer's response to Madonna winning the Best Live Act honor at England's Q Awards was: "Madonna, best f***ing live act? F*** off. Since when has lip-syncing been live?" While much of the Super Bowl action will happen on the field this Sunday, there's no doubt there will be lots more to see between Madonna's halftime spectacular featuring LMFAO and Nicki Minaj, and John's Pepsi commercial, set to air during the big game.
While Dave Grohl has long been known for his quirky sense of humor, evidenced by videos for Foo Fighters songs such as "Big Me" (Mentos, anyone?), "Everlong," "Learn To Fly," and, most recently, the GRAMMY-nominated "Walk," the Foos frontman is taking funny to a whole new, hopefully hysterical, level. According to a report, Grohl is teaming with comedian Dana Gould to executive produce a 30-minute sitcom for FX Networks. The show will reportedly center on a rock band that is in the midst of their big break, and a breakup. The band seeks help from a therapist, who ends up being broken herself. Did we say sitcom? This sounds like the makings of a perfectly good drama to us. But whatever the show turns out to be, we're sure it'll be a hit, given Grohl's vast voiceover experience in films such as The Muppets and television series including "Daria."
Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich lost the Florida primary Tuesday to Mitt Romney by a wide margin, but that may not be the worst news he got this week. Gingrich also joined the long list of politicians who have been sued for misappropriating a pop song for a campaign without the artist's permission. On Monday, Rude Music Inc., controlled by the song's co-writer Frank Sullivan, filed suit against Gingrich for his use of Survivor's GRAMMY-winning "Eye Of The Tiger" from Rocky III. Gingrich was clearly gunning for some Rocky Balboa magic now that he appears to be the underdog again, and the anthem's other co-writer, Jim Peterik, who hasn't joined the suit, says that's okay with him. "If it motivates people to get out to the polls and create some excitement, that's what it's for," he told the Washington Post. And while Chicago-native Peterik is loyal to his native son, President Barack Obama, he concedes, "I like [Gingrich's] taste in music." Still, as Rocky himself might ask, "Yo, don't I got some rights?"
Adele's "Set Fire To The Rain" is No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" is tops on the iTunes singles chart.
Any news we've missed? Comment below.
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Photo: The Recording Academy
View From The (GRAMMY) Pit
By Chuck Crisafulli
There's got to be no finer feeling for an artist than being up on the GRAMMY stage as a presenter, performer or winner on Music's Biggest Night. But if you don't quite have the chops to be up on the stage, maybe the next best thing is to be inside the stage — that is, within the happy frenzy of the GRAMMY mosh pit. Tonight, about 200 or so lucky souls had arguably the best seat in the house (including me, though the trade-off is that moshers never sit) — it would be harder for an audience member to get any closer to the stars without security being notified.
Tonight, the pit crew was buzzing even before the show began as moshers also had an exceptional vantage point for watching VIPs take their seats. Adele, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry seemed to create the biggest stir, though the appearance of Coldplay also brought hoots and hollers (and the question, "Where's Gwyneth?").
After Bruce Springsteen got the evening started with a blistering new tune "We Take Care Of Our Own," and Bruno Mars kicked things up a very suave notch with "Runaway Baby," the pit quickly got to the appropriate GRAMMY level of excitement. Chris Brown’s "Turn Up The Music/Beautiful People" medley and Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s "Don't You Wanna Stay" had the pit crew contentedly waving hands in the air and dancing in place, but things really broke loose during the first GRAMMY one-of-a-kind performance teaming Rihanna and Coldplay in a mini-set that ended with a blazing "Paradise."
"That's unbelievable," one mosher commented loudly as the show went to break, and the pit quickly seconded her. More one-of-kind moments kept that pit energy high — the reunion of the Beach Boys, who performed with Maroon 5 and Foster The People; Carrie Underwood’s duet with Tony Bennett; and perhaps the most anticipated performance of the night, Adele's return to the GRAMMY stage. All performers and winners had their fans in the pit, but everyone seemed to be united in rooting for Adele. When she won her second GRAMMY of the night and told the crowd, "This is ridiculous," the pit responded by shouting, "No it isn't!"
Another bonus of the evening for the pit people was a series of even closer interactions with artists. Host LL Cool J fist-bumped moshers whenever he had the chance, Sir Paul McCartney high-fived a lucky few, members of the Band Perry wanted to know what after-party moshers were going to, and Drake made himself at home right down in the pit in preparation for his presentation of Nicki Minaj's incredibly theatrical performance. Moshers even helped a clearly distraught Jennifer Hudson down the stage stairs after her stops-out performance of "I Will Always Love You" in tribute to Whitney Houston.
While Houston's death was still fresh news, and was acknowledged by many of those on the GRAMMY stage tonight, LL Cool J had set the tone early on by saying that while the loss of Houston was "a death in the family" the best way to handle that loss was through a celebration of music. By the time Sir Paul closed out the show with the medley from side two (in vinyl speak) of Abbey Road, that celebration was truly epic. Joined onstage by Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh and Dave Grohl, McCartney and his band brought the show to an explosive close that really did demonstrate — to those in the pit and far beyond — the power of music.
As the time came for the moshers to leave the pit and return to real life, one said, "It was pretty amazing just to be here and be a part of things. But the music made it awesome."
Who's Paying Tribute To Tom Petty? Foo Fighters, Don Henley, Norah Jones And More
Dhani Harrison, Jakob Dylan and more also set to perform at MusiCares Person of the Year gala honoring Tom Petty on Feb. 10
Additional performers have been added to the 2017 MusiCares Person of the Year tribute concert honoring Tom Petty on Feb. 10 in Los Angeles. Multi-GRAMMY-winning artists Jakob Dylan and Taj Mahal, GRAMMY-nominated bands Cage The Elephant, the Lumineers, and artists Dhani Harrison, the Head And The Heart, and the Shelters join previously announced performers Jackson Browne, Gary Clark Jr., Foo Fighters, Don Henley, Chris Hillman And Herb Pedersen, Norah Jones, Elle King, Jeff Lynne, Randy Newman, Stevie Nicks, Regina Spektor, George Strait, the Bangles, and Lucinda Williams. Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers will close the evening. Multi-GRAMMY-winning artist and producer T Bone Burnett will serve as musical director.
Petty will be honored as the 2017 MusiCares Person of the Year in celebration of his extraordinary creative accomplishments and significant charitable work. Proceeds from the annual Person of the Year tribute provide essential support for MusiCares, which ensures music people have a place to turn in times of financial, medical, and personal need.
The MusiCares Person of the Year tribute ceremony is one of the most prestigious events held during GRAMMY Week, which culminates with the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Sunday, Feb. 12. The telecast will be broadcast live on the CBS Television Network at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.