The Untold Truth Of The Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins

Fans of the Foo Fighters heard tragic news this week. Just prior to the band's appearance in Bogotá, Colombia, on March 25, the performance was canceled. Longtime drummer Taylor Hawkins had died earlier than day, age 50, reports CNN. No cause of death has yet been released, although Blabbermouth reports that he had complained of chest pains earlier in the day.  A statement from the band, posted on Twitter and quoted by Rolling Stone, said, "The Foo Fighters family is devastated by the tragic and untimely loss of our beloved Taylor Hawkins. His musical spirit and infectious laughter will live on with all of us forever."

Hawkins is survived by his wife, Alison. The couple, who married in 2005, had three children, says The New York Times: Oliver, Annabelle and Everleigh.

Hawkins was the Foo Fighters' drummer — a notoriously difficult role to be in, with founder Dave Grohl being an accomplished drummer himself, noted for his work with Nirvana.

Taylor Hawkins used to play for Alanis Morrissette

Taylor Hawkins, born in Fort Worth, Texas, and raised in Southern California (per The New York Times) was by no means green when he was picked up by Grohl's band. In fact, he'd played alongside Canadian-American singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette. The drummer met Morissette's manager in 1995 when he was only 23 years old — according to a 2019 interview Hawkins did with Billboard and was invited  to lay drum tracks for Morissette's upcoming album.

From then on, Hawkins would enjoy a long-lasting friendship with the renowned Canadian musician and songstress. Working with Morissette seems to be a fond memory for the Foo Fighters drummer; he apparently enjoyed her as a boss, a friend, and an artist. "As a musician, she gave all of us a lot of space. I mean, I said it before, I'll say it again. I destroyed her songs by putting all sorts of crazy drum stuff all over it," Hawkins said, "but she dug it."

Hawkins ended up leaving Morissette's band after a couple of years' worth of recording and touring because, as he said on the Triple M podcast, he felt like he wasn't going to mesh well with the style Morissette was moving towards. He wanted to play harder, and she wanted to mellow out. Either way, it turned out well for Hawkins.

He discovered his passion at an early age

Taylor Hawkins had played with the Foo Fighters since 1997, taking over for the band's first drummer, William Goldsmith, who "buckled under the pressure," as Hawkins told Beats 1 (via NME). Hawkins had been thriving with the world-renowned rock band. The New York Times described his style as an amalgamation of Stewart Copeland of The Police and Roger Taylor of Queen.

It would've been unlikely for the Foo Fighters to recruit an unknown musician off the street to play with a superstar like Dave Grohl. So they didn't; they hired Taylor Hawkins.

Hawkins had been playing the drums since the age of 10, his musical ambitions set ablaze after attending a concert by the British powerhouse Queen in 1982. "It changed everything, and I was never the same because of it. It was the beginning of my obsession with rock 'n' roll, and I knew that I wanted to be in a huge rock band," he told Kerrang! in an interview posted last year.

He was the king of Queen fans

That Queen concert in September 1982 at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre was an extremely pivotal moment in the life of young Taylor Hawkins, pushing him further into his just burgeoning interest in drumming. "After that concert, I don't think I slept for three days," he told Kerrang! "I was just starting to get into the drums and Roger Taylor became my hero," Hawkins added, referring to Queen's drummer, an influence and source of technique beyond even the likes of Phil Collins, Alex Van Halen, and Rush's Neil Peart. "I wanted to be Roger Taylor and I wanted to be in Queen," Hawkins told "60 Minutes" in 2014. Hawkins got to regularly play out that fantasy in a way, during Foo Fighters' 2021-2022 tour. According to E! News, Hawkins would routinely emerge from behind the drum kit and switch places with frontman Dave Grohl in order to belt out Queen's powerful ballad "Somebody to Love."

In 2019, Taylor played on "Get the Money," Hawkins' album with his band the Coattail Riders, a concept Hawkins called "ridiculous." The two monumental drummers struck up a friendship, and when Hawkins died in 2022, Taylor, on Instagram, likened the loss to that of "a younger favorite brother," adding that Hawkins had become a mentor to his son, Rufus.

Sadly, drugs became an issue

What's more stereotypically rock n' roll than a drug problem? Rockstars have long maintained reputations as party animals, and it's been that way since the early days of rock music. Johnny Cash, Ozzy Osbourne, everyone from Aerosmith, Anthony Kiedis, you name it; every era of rock had its users, and every era of rock had those who were taken early because of it. By his own admission, Taylor Hawkins almost became one of them. "I wasn't like a junkie per se, but I was partying," Hawkins told Beats 1 (via NME).

For about a year around the turn of the millennium, the drummer said, he fell pretty hard into narcotics. Hawkins recalled being given "the wrong line with the wrong thing" in it, and it definitely was the wrong thing since it led to a heroin overdose that put him in a two-week-long coma. But, drugs were nothing new to the musician; as he told Kerrang! "I used to do a lot of f****** drugs." He added, "I believed the b******* myth of live hard and fast, die young. I'm not here to preach about not doing drugs, because I loved doing drugs, but I just got out of control for a while and it almost got me."

The 2001 overdose served as a wakeup call. Even though Hawkins said he wouldn't take any of it back, he admitted that he began spending most of his spare time mountain biking instead of getting high — the activity served as "a chance to clear your head out."

He dabbled in film performance

It's sometimes odd when we see musicians step into the world of film. Some of them have done it successfully, while others, like Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins, have just their proverbial 15 minutes of on-screen glory. In 2013, Hawkins got the opportunity to portray The Stooges frontman and "Godfather of Punk" Iggy Pop in the film "CBGB."

The story doesn't revolve around Hawkins' character by any means, but it did constitute the drummer's first major role on screen. It doesn't seem like Hawkins planned to carve himself out a place in Hollywood, and the only other credits you can find on his IMDb page boil down to a long list of Foo Fighters video promos.

Film work aside, Hawkins' death leaves a gaping chasm in not only a great band, but in the very culture of rock music itself. "The void left by Hawkins' passing will be profound," wrote The Guardian. The Associated Press quoted Dave Grohl's words about his bandmate, written in Grohl's 2021 book "The Storyteller": "my best friend, a man for whom I would take a bullet," adding, "I am grateful that we found each other in this lifetime."

Fellow musicians have expressed their sense of loss

Other prominent members of the worldwide music community expressed their shock and grief over the untimely death of Taylor Hawkins. Liam Gallagher of Oasis posted on Twitter: "Absolutely devastated to hear the sad news about Taylor Hawkins my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends RIP brother." Mick Jagger himself also weighed in, tweeting, "So incredibly sad to hear of the passing of Taylor Hawkins. My thoughts are with his family and the band at this time."

Roger Taylor, the Queen drummer who first inspired Hawkins, said it felt as though he'd lost "a younger favorite brother" (per CNN), adding, "He was a kind brilliant man and an inspirational mentor to my son Rufus and the best friend one could ever have. Devastated."

Fellow drummer Ringo Starr tweeted, "God bless Taylor peace and love to all his family and the band peace and love" (via People). Finneas also tweeted his sense of loss, describing Hawkins as "an incredible talent, who didn't also need to be so kind and generous and cool but was all those things too anyway. The world was so lucky to have his gifts for the time that it did."

Taylor Hawkins kept Yes alive

While their spacey, keyboard-driven progressive sound differs greatly from Foo Fighters' brand of alternative-meets-arena-rock, Yes has a lot in common with Dave Grohl's post-Nirvana project. For example, both are inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and both continued on for years well after they could have feasibly ended thanks in large part to the efforts of Taylor Hawkins. The drummer joined Foo Fighters in 1997, according to the Los Angeles Times, as an urgent replacement for the band's previous rhythm-keeper, William Goldsmith, who abruptly and acrimoniously departed during the recording of "There is Nothing Left to Lose," per AllMusic.

According to the Chattanooga Pulse, Hawkins attended high school with Jon Davison, a musician who played bass for the '90s jam band Sky Cries Mary, sang with the prog-rock group Glass Hammer, and also played with Roundabout, a Yes tribute band named for one of its best-known songs. When Jon Anderson was fired from Yes in 2008 after decades with the band (per Rolling Stone), bassist Chris Squire started looking around for new singers and thought of Davidson, because of Hawkins' recommendation. "My friend, Taylor Hawkins, had been telling me for years: 'If you ever need a replacement, I know exactly the guy.'"

He played with lots of other bands

When he wasn't fighting Foo with Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, and his other bandmates by playing hundreds of concert dates and recording over 10 studio albums, Taylor Hawkins found the time to make lots of music with a number of other, lower-profile, musically explorative side projects. In 2006, 2010, and 2019, Hawkins released solo albums under the moniker Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, with the last album involving a slew of guest collaborators of Hawkins' selection, including Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, Nancy Wilson of Heart, Joe Walsh of Eagles, Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses, and country singer LeAnn Rimes.

According to Rolling Stone, Hawkins also established Chevy Metal, which the musician called a "'70s dirt rock cover band" that played covers of semi-obscure songs by some of his favorite classic rock acts, such as Queen, the Rolling Stones, and Black Sabbath. Two members of Chevy Metal, bassist Wiley Hodgden and guitarist Mick Murphy, also teamed up with Hawkins for the power trio Birds of Satan, which put out its one and only album in 2014. In 2020, Hawkins put together another three-piece band, NHC, a supergroup named after the initials of its members, per Rolling Stone: Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hawkins, and Jane's Addiction bassist Chris Chaney.

Taylor Hawkins was a family man

Unlike his Foo Fighters bandmate and close friend Dave Grohl, who went through a difficult divorce from his first wife (via The Guardian), and brought his daughter, Violet, into his band as a backup singer (per NME), drummer Taylor Hawkins was very quiet about his offstage life as a patriarch, a long-married husband and father of multiple children. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Taylor married his wife, Alison Hawkins, in 2005. Hawkins rarely spoke about his spouse but did admit to writing a song about their relationship's power dynamic on the 2019 Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders album "Get the Money" called "I Really Blew It."

The marriage of Taylor and Alison Hawkins resulted in three children. Oldest son Oliver was born in 2008, daughter Annabelle came along the next year, and five years later, the couple welcomed another child named Everleigh. Equally reluctant to share much with the media about his children, Taylor's kids did serve as musical inspiration. According to Joe Daly, Taylor wrote a song in honor of Annabelle appropriately titled "Middle Child."

Taylor Hawkins made a fan's dream come true

For more than 20 years, Taylor Hawkins was one of the most famous musicians in the world. He almost always looked like he was having a great time on stage and in videos, bashing away at the drums. The man clearly liked being a drummer, and he enjoyed it so much that it was an interest he was happy to share with regular people far outside of his orbit of celebrity.

On March 22, 2022, per CNN, Foo Fighters were supposed to play at the Asuncionico Festival in Paraguay, only for the show to be canceled over severely inclement weather. Nine-year-old Paraguayan drummer Emma Sofia didn't get to see Hawkins' Foo Fighters, so instead, she acted on a tip from a family friend who let her know the hotel where the group was staying. Sofia brought her drum kit, set it up, and played a half an hour's worth of Nirvana and Foo Fighters songs to a crowd that cheered so loud it caught Hawkins' attention. He came outside, apologized to the fans for the canceled show, and sought out Sofia. Hawkins took a photo with her and they chatted for a while. "She said that day was about to be the worst day of her life and suddenly turned into the best day of her life," Sofia's father said.

He was linked to some controversial organizations

Beginning with a show at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, California, in June 2021, according to Variety, Foo Fighters played its first full-capacity concert since the coronavirus pandemic began more than a year earlier. The band required concertgoers to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in order to even buy a ticket, a way to limit the spread of the disease while still playing to a large, non-socially-distanced crowd. That staunchly pro-vaccine attitude was somewhat at odds with views tacitly approved by Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins years earlier. In 2013, according to Rolling Stone, Hawkins' side band, the classic rock cover band Chevy Metal, donated its services to a Los Angeles benefit concert in support of Generation Rescue, an autism research organization. "It is personal to me," Hawkins said, noting that his sister's son is on the autism spectrum. "My nephew's beautiful, he's wonderful and he's the sweetest kid in the world." According to Autism Advocate, Generation Rescue perpetuates the notion, disproven by the Centers for Disease Control and Autism Speaks, among other reputable organizations, that vaccines are a cause of autism in children. 

And according to The Monthly (via Medium), Foo Fighters, during the years in which Hawkins drummed for the band, supported Alive and Well, a controversial group that held that HIV didn't cause AIDS, and that it was ultimately harmless.