Hard-hitting and charismatic, he was direct about his hopes for the group’s future, even after two decades. “I want to be the biggest band in the world,” he said.
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Taylor Hawkins, the hard-hitting, charismatic drummer for Foo Fighters, the enduring Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band that has won 12 Grammys and released seven platinum albums, has died at 50.
A statement posted to the band’s social media late Friday and sent by its representative confirmed the death. According to the attorney general’s office of Colombia, Mr. Hawkins had been staying in a hotel in northern Bogotá, where the band had been scheduled to play a show Friday night. The office said that preliminary tests showed Mr. Hawkins had several substances in his system, including opioids, marijuana and benzodiazepines; the cause of death was still under investigation.
Recognizable for his flailing limbs, surfer’s good looks and wide, childlike grin, Mr. Hawkins became a member of the band led by Dave Grohl for its third album, “There Is Nothing Left to Lose,” released in 1999, and played on the group’s subsequent seven albums. He drew on two distinct styles: the fundamentals of Roger Taylor from Queen and the intricacy of Stewart Copeland from the Police. He added the muscle of punk and metal, the precision of drum machines and a gift for explosive momentum.
Foo Fighters’ most recent album, “Medicine at Midnight,” arrived last year as the group was celebrating its 25th anniversary, and in an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Hawkins was direct about his hopes for its future. “I want to be the biggest band in the world,” he said.
Mr. Hawkins was born in Fort Worth on Feb. 17, 1972, and raised in Southern California. He started to play drums at age 10, and said that his mother gave him the confidence to dream big: “When I first got drums, she was the one who would watch me play. She was a big supporter and told me I’d make it,” he said in an interview last year.
Attending a Queen show in 1982 confirmed that music was his passion. “After that concert, I don’t think I slept for three days,” he said in a 2021 interview with the metal magazine Kerrang. “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.”
After Mr. Hawkins played in a local California band called Sylvia and backing the Canadian rock vocalist Sass Jordan, his first mainstream break came in 1995, when he joined Alanis Morissette’s band as she toured behind her blockbuster album “Jagged Little Pill.” (He appeared in the video for her breakout hit “You Oughta Know,” flipping his blond mane behind the drum kit.)
Mr. Grohl, then still primarily known for his role as the drummer for Nirvana, recalled meeting Mr. Hawkins backstage at a radio station concert in the 1990s and feeling an immediate kinship.
“I was like, ‘Wow, you’re either my twin or my spirit animal or my best friend,’” Mr. Grohl said in an interview last year. “When it was time to look for a drummer, I kind of wished that he would do it, but I didn’t imagine he would leave Alanis Morissette, because at the time she was the biggest artist in the world.”
But when Mr. Grohl called him later looking for a drummer, he recalled, Mr. Hawkins said, “I’m your guy.”
“I think it had more to do with our personal relationship than anything musical,” he added. “To be honest, it still does. Our musical relationship — the foundation of that is our friendship, and that’s why when we jump up onstage and play, we’re so connected, because we’re like best friends.”
Mr. Grohl, Foo Fighters’ lead singer and one of its songwriters and guitarists, had played drums on the band’s first album in 1995, and he took over again for its second, “The Colour and the Shape,” when a replacement failed to stick. In joining the band, Mr. Hawkins was charged with assuming the seat of one of contemporary rock’s most distinct, powerful and beloved drummers. His colorful flair and good humor helped him carve out his own place in the band, and he adapted to Mr. Grohl’s creative process: “He writes in rhythms, not only in melodies but in rhythms, so I have to meet him there,” Mr. Hawkins said.
Recorded in a Virginia basement, far from the prying eyes of a record label, “There Is Nothing Left to Lose” went on to win the band’s first Grammy, for best rock album.
Foo Fighters were scheduled to perform at this year’s Grammys, to be held on April 3. “Medicine at Midnight” is nominated for three awards, including best rock performance (for the song “Making a Fire”), best rock song (“Waiting on a War”) and best rock album.
Foo Fighters were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year, recognized for their “rock authenticity with infectious hooks, in-your-face guitar riffs, monster drums and boundless energy.” At the induction ceremony, Mr. Hawkins told Mr. Grohl, “Thank you for letting me be in your band.”
On songs like “Times Like These,” the 2003 hit that has become an anthem of perseverance and renewal, Mr. Hawkins is a hard-driving force, punctuating the verses with rat-a-tat fills. On “Best of You,” another fist-pumping, heartstring-tugging signature song, his snare pounds provide the chorus’s steadily building drama. And on “Rope,” a single from the band’s 2011 album, “Wasting Light,” Mr. Hawkins’s precisely syncopated work on the verses gives way to eruptions of fills.
In addition to his drumming, Mr. Hawkins went on to contribute as a songwriter to Foo Fighters albums, even singing lead vocals on occasion. Beginning in 2006, he released three albums with a side project, the cheekily named Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders. He also played in a cover band called Chevy Metal and a prog-rock band called the Birds of Satan. Last year he teamed with the guitarist Dave Navarro and the bassist Chris Chaney to form a band called NHC; the group’s debut EP, “Intakes & Outtakes,” was released in February.
On recent Foo Fighters tours, Mr. Hawkins would swap places with Mr. Grohl to sing a cover of Queen’s 1981 hit with David Bowie, “Under Pressure,” or Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” emerging from behind the kit in his signature shorts to pay homage to the act that set him on his path. He’d also take the spotlight for drum solos that stretched several minutes, smiling as he became a whirl of limbs atop his riser, smashing his cymbals and bashing a timpani.
Although he has been referred to as “a sideman with a frontman’s flair,” Mr. Hawkins admitted over the years to feeling some self-doubt about filling Mr. Grohl’s seat behind the drum kit. “A lot of my insecurities — which led to a lot of my drug use — had to do with me not feeling like I was good enough to be in this band, to play drums with Dave,” he told Spin in 2002.
In 2001, he overdosed in London and was briefly comatose. “Everyone has their own path, and I took it too far,” Mr. Hawkins told Kerrang, adding that he once believed the “myth of live hard and fast, die young.”
He added, “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.”
In a 2018 conversation with the online radio station Beats 1, Mr. Hawkins said, “There’s no happy ending with hard drugs.” But he declined to explain how he stayed sober: “I don’t really discuss how I live my life in that regard. I have my system that works for me.”
Mr. Hawkins is survived by his wife, Alison, whom he married in 2005, and their three children, Oliver, Annabelle and Everleigh.
Jon Pareles and Isabella Grullón Paz contributed reporting.
Taylor Hawkins, Foo Fighters’ Drummer, Dies at 50 – The New York Times