Celebrity deaths don’t get to me often. Taylor Hawkins’ death did.
Hawkins, 50, died this last weekend shortly before playing a festival in Colombia.
I haven’t written about it much during my time at The Phoenix, but I’m a musician and music is a massive part of my life (hence my dedication to making monthly playlist articles).
I started on the drums when I was 12 and have since moved to a variety of other instruments. My guitars, kits and music taste have vastly changed since I started my path in music, but one thing has stayed the same — my love of grunge music.
While my heart belongs to Nirvana, Alice in Chains and the Deftones, my love for the Foo Fighters came first.
The first time I listened to them was through my early use of Spotify’s curated playlists. A 14-year-old me was letting autoplay do its thing when “Times Like These” came on. I was transfixed by the complexity of the drums on such a seemingly straightforward track and there was no turning back — the group had hooked me and Hawkins quickly became one of my drumming idols.
This summer I saw the Foo Fighters for the second time while covering Lollapalooza with arts and entertainment editor Alec Karam, and to say the least, the festival was great — no homophobia from DaBaby and lots of rock music. The group switched up their roles as usual, with Hawkins taking over vocals for a “Somebody to Love” cover and the group ending with their smash hit “Everlong.”
This is no different from every show the group has put on — their performances are simply a masterclass in rock and roll — and a huge part of that is owed to Hawkins driving the energy in power ballads and explosive tracks alike from his drum throne.
Everyone knows Dave Grohl, the band’s frontman and former drummer of Nirvana, for defining a genre of drums in the ‘90s and the eight platinum albums he’s put out since. It’s hard for a member of any band to shine past someone as talented and likable as Grohl, but Hawkins did it playing the very instrument Grohl gained his fame on.
Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine put it best, first on Twitter and later in an article for the L.A. Times — “Taylor Hawkins might’ve been the only drummer alive who could support Dave Grohl and not make you wish Grohl was sitting behind the kit.”
Erlewine is absolutely right — even if I secretly wished for a Hawkins-fronted, Grohl-drummed set since I heard Hawkins sing for the first time. It’s the only proper reaction to seeing the musical chemistry the two had even on the “worst” of tracks. Hawkins gave the rhythm section a palpable swagger, exploding his way through the group’s heaviest releases and paving a complex path through their softer songs.
Yes, I love “Something from Nothing” and “No Son of Mine” — and all of their discography for that matter, I’m not ashamed to admit it.
But now that the music’s died, where does that leave us fans?
Despite “Friend of a Friend” being about Kurt Cobain, it feels fitting to wallow in its sadness over the loss of another person so close to Grohl.
I won’t tell anyone how to grieve the loss of an idol — and the five times I’ve already listened to “Friend of a Friend” show that — but I feel it’s only fitting that I wear out my headphone speakers with “Low,” “Monkey Wrench” and “All My Life.”
I’ve always preferred a celebration of life, it just makes the loss easier to swallow sometimes. I didn’t know Taylor Hawkins personally, but in the capacity I did know him, these songs were him at his best.
And, of course, I’ll put on “Everlong” a few times.