When Taylor Hawkins tragically passed away at the end of March, the world was left stunned. It felt as if the rug had been pulled from under the fans of rock music, and the sense of tragedy was so palpable that it was too much to bear for Foo Fighters lovers everywhere.
Hawkins was an invariable force for good in music and broader society, and given just how bleak the future looks, for one of our brightest lights to go out in such a way was beyond comprehension, ‘life can be cruel’, as the old saying goes, but this was beyond the pale.
However, it would be reductive to dwell on the circumstances of his death, as he left us with many stellar moments that he lives on through. Whether it be his performance on albums, his powerful singing or other anecdotes that clearly outline his gregarious demeanour, it’s a testament to Hawkins that his spirit endures because of the indelible mark he left on the world.
Whilst there are many things to remember Hawkins for, primarily, we recognise him as one of the best drummers of his generation. For Dave Grohl, who is ostensibly the successor to John Bonham, to give up his role as the drummer of Foo Fighters and welcome Hawkins into the fold, it says everything. Hawkins was technically on par with Grohl, and ever since he joined the band in 1997, he provided them with the power that allowed them to go from strength to strength, filling stadiums across the world with thousands of adoring fans.
Notably, Hawkins’ drumming style was heavily indebted to classic rock, taking many of his cues from the drumming greats. Over his career, he invariably named five figures who inspired his work. These were Stewart Copeland, Neil Peart, Roger Taylor, Phil Collins and Stephen Perkins. Taken together, these drummers account for the key facets of Hawkins’ style, with his power, dexterity and focus on songwriting.
However, it was one song that Roger Taylor played that inspired Hawkins to pick up the drumsticks. It is well-known that English rockers Queen were Hawkins’ favourite band of all time, and fittingly, it was a live version of one of their fan favourites, ‘Keep Yourself Alive’, where Taylor really shines, that made him want to be a drummer.
Speaking to the NME in 2016 for the ‘Soundtrack of my Life’ segment, Hawkins explained: “There’s a live version from 1979, which the band apparently hated, but I love it. It’s one of my favourite Queen records and some of Roger Taylor’s finest drumming. The Police’s ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’ is another record that made me go, ‘Wow, I want to play drums like that.’ My dream was to sing and look like Roger Taylor and play drums like Stewart Copeland.”
I think it’s safe to say that Hawkins achieved his goal. He’ll always be remembered in the same light as his heroes.
Listen to a live version of ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ below.