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Music

How Alanis Morissette changed Taylor Hawkins' life

Taylor Hawkins was a man of many talents. He was a rocker, a raconteur, a drummer, a boisterous singer and the greatest lieutenant Dave Grohl could ever have asked for. Hawkins was a beacon of rock and truth, and now he’s gone, it remains to be seen how the Foo Fighters will continue without him.

The Foo’s drummer Taylor Hawkins tended to sing a song or two in their concerts, and one that was nominally a cover. At his final concert, Hawkins sang ‘Somebody to Love’, the seminal Queen ballad that was later covered by Anne Hathaway in Elle Enchanted.

Known for its technical vocal delivery, the song is known for vocal interpolations and difficult use of passages. Hawkins’s performance was stellar, which made his death all the more tragic. “Like losing a younger favourite brother,” Queen drummer Roger Taylor said about Hawkins. “He was a kind brilliant man and an inspirational mentor to my son Rufus and the best friend one could ever have. Devastated.”

Everyone has their opening references and Hawkins once remembered the kindness Alanis Morissette showed him in the early stage of his career. Hawkins always humbly said that if it wasn’t for him getting his big break with Alanis Morrisette, he’d “be delivering pizza”. However, if truth be told, the drummer’s talent was always going to take him to the top, and his big break on Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill tour was life-changing.

The song Dave Grohl wrote about Taylor Hawkins

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In some ways, the singer provided him with the keys to the rock and roll furnace, giving him a chance to explore the many aspects of his trajectory. She showed him the ropes, she gave him the foresight to become his own thing. It was all about courage, and the ferocity of the moment.

Hawkins spent the rest of his life dedicated to this quest. He only had himself to credit for the powerful drum and swing, but Morissette is responsible for handing him the tools to create such a long-lasting influence as a singer. Her immediacy and angular style of singing clearly had an effect on the vocalist, especially when he put himself up with the giants that made up Queen in his solo career.

“I was lucky enough to get the job working with Alanis when I was 23,” Hawkins once recalled in an interview. Clearly, he learned a lot from recording with the singer, whether it was the casual demeanour (“maybe you could play drums”), or the power of the primal rage. Hawkins recognised her talent from the get-go and admired the space she gave her bandmates during the recording process.

“It was so much fun. I joined Alanis’ band and the single (‘You Oughta Know’) came out and it just went f*cking nuclear. Next thing you know, I’m in a video that’s on MTV every hour. That tour was very special, and I owe her a lot of gratitude,” he once said during an appearance on Alice Cooper’s radio show Nights with Alice Cooper.

“She gave me a lot of space to do what I wanted. It was probably the biggest album of the year, and there was a lot of pressure on her,” Hawkins said. “She was having to learn to be this leader on the job, which isn’t easy. But it was really one of the most fun times of my life.”

The world is a sadder place without Hawkins, and it’s a sadder arena to contemplate. Who knows how Morissette feels, but hopefully one day she will recognise the man she helped nurture, as well as the body of music they put together, his barrelling drums played next to her shrill, singular, soulful vocals. They were quite the team, but the same could be said for Hawkins’s partnership with Grohl, and his partnership with Queen. He was one in a million.

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