Dusty Hill was an integral part of ZZ Top for nearly five decades. Since he first joined his brothers in boogie-woogie blues in 1970, Hill had some essential roles to play within the band: bassist, co-lead singer, keyboard player, and foil to the antics of Billy Gibbons. In all cases, he was singular and impossible to replace.
Perhaps that makes it a bit sad that ZZ Top decided to keep on going after Hill’s passing in 2021, but it shouldn’t be terribly surprising. The band had replaced Hill before, and the ZZ Top machine is simply too big, too powerful, and too profitable to fail. Gibbons insists that Hill had wanted the band to continue, but to see a lankier, similarly bearded man standing in the spot usually occupied by Hill and playing his same guitars (no disrespect to new bassist Elwood Francis) is just strange and slightly disheartening.
Hill was looking a bit rough during his final days in ZZ Top. He was suffering from a hip injury that grounded the usually-mobile musician in one spot during an entire concert. He still gamely provided his signature vocal parts to the band’s songs, but his confinement to leaning against a bass cabinet is, unfortunately, the final image that most would have of the great bass player. For a man who brought great flair and showmanship to ZZ Top’s concerts, it’s a sad final note to end on.
But Hill wouldn’t let injuries or a lack of mobility hold ZZ back. He struggled through as long as he could, but when it became apparent that he could no longer continue, Hill moved aside and allowed Francis to step in for what all assumed would be a temporary period of time. Unfortunately, it was only five days after Hill took his leave of absence that he would pass away at the age of 72.
Hill’s legacy is forever cemented as the lead singer of classic tunes like ‘Tush’ and ‘Pan Am Highway Blues’, and his presence as an icon of rock and roll will be remembered as long as ZZ Top is. Perhaps it is because he is so closely tied to ZZ Top that he wished for the band to continue: he knew that they would continue to carry on the legacy that he helped build.
Watch Hill’s final performance of ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’ with ZZ Top down below.