Most of the rock-loving world is in agreement that Dave Grohl is a skilled drummer. Having cut his teeth with one of the most iconic grunge bands of the 1990s, Nirvana, it would be hard to argue otherwise. But what about his Foo Fighters bandmate Taylor Hawkins? Today, the world is reeling at the news of Hawkins’ shocking death at the age of 50.
While no cause of death has yet been revealed, the band confirmed the news in a short statement. “The Foo Fighters family is devastated by the tragic and untimely loss of Taylor Hawkins,” it read. “His musical spirit and infectious laughter will live on with all of us forever. Our hearts go out to his wife, children and family, and we ask that their privacy be treated with the utmost respect in this unimaginably difficult time.”
Any other drummer might have shrunk at the prospect of joining a group fronted by one of the best-known drummers is alternative rock. Still, Hawkins rose to the challenge, bringing an unrestrained ferocity to Foo Fighters’ sound.
Hawkins joined Grohl and the rest of Foo Fighters following the departure of the group’s original drummer, William Goldsmith. Before joining the band, Hawkins was drumming for Alanis Morissette on her Jagged Little Pill and Can’t Not Tour, while also offering up his services to the progressive experimental band Sylvia.
In 1996, Foo Fighters found themselves in a bit of a pickle. Following a successful tour, the band returned to Seattle where, with the help of Gil Norton, they set about recording their second album. However, the conflict between Grohl and Goldsmith eventually forced the drummer to leave the group mid-production.
Looking to find a new drummer, Grohl called up Hawkins – who he’d been introduced to on a camping holiday in the Ozarks – for some recommendations. Hawkins, bold as brass, volunteered himself, joining the band just in time for the release The Colour and the Shape. During his time with Foo Fighters, Hawkins has helped craft some of the group’s most iconic tracks.
Here, we revisit Hawkins’ work with his five greatest kit contributions.
Taylor Hawkins 5 greatest drum tracks:
‘Low’ – One By One (2002)
In many ways, ‘Low’ is just an extended drum solo with some guitars attached. Taken from One by One, this is Hawkins at his most animalistic With a double bass pedal at his disposal, the drummer thrashes out four-and-a-half solid minutes of intense metal drumming. It is one of Foo Fighters’ heaviest numbers – designed to unleash the inner headbanger in all of us.
The track began as an instrumental demo written by Grohl and Hawkins in their home studio, eventually becoming one of the group’s most beloved and fiercest tracks. As Dave Grohl pointed out, it’s the kind of song that “everybody likes, but there’s just no way ’cause it’s too weird”.
‘Aurora’ – There is Nothing Left To Lose (1999)
The emo meanderings of ‘Aurora’ from Foo Fighters’ 1999 record There Is Nothing Left To Lose see Hawkins pare back the fury and amp up the tenderness. Underpinning delay-driven guitar lines and churning bass, Hawkins moves between math-rock precision and all-out cymbal smashing, suffusing ‘Aurora’ with a real sense of catharsis.
‘Aurora’ was apparently one of Hawkins’ favourite tracks from Nothing Left To Lose. Speaking to Apple music, the drummer explained why: “I love that side of Dave [Grohl],” he said. ”I love it when Dave gets in his almost yacht rock softness in his voice and he double tracks his voice really nice. That was the first drum track that I ever did for the Foo Fighters that I was really, really proud of, because I only played half the drums on the Nothing Left To Lose record, because it was my first time in the studio and I was just… I didn’t know how to record.”
‘Bridge Burning’ – Wasting Light (2011)
Taken from Foo Fighters’ 2011 album Wasting Light. ‘Bridge Burning’ is perhaps one of the most compelling opening tracks of the band’s discography. As a-tonal scratches of guitar build layers of tension, Hawkins stands fast, holding off until the beautiful moment when he brings in a snare role and shoots the track into the god-damn stratosphere.
‘Bridge Burning’ is another of Foo Fighters’ most chest-thumping hits, a perfect festival face-melter. As Hawkins told noted in a 2019 interview ahead of Foo Fighters’ Reading and Leeds performance: “Foo Fighters shows are like being in a fistfight for three fucking hours. It’s like getting in the ring every night.”
‘Rope’ – Wasting Light (2011)
Rope served as the lead single for Foo Fighters’ seventh studio album, 2001’s Wasting Light. It’s a testament to just how much Hawkins can handle, given that he’s not only drumming around Grohl’s off-beat guitar riffs but also singing harmonies from behind the kit.
In a 2019 interview with Radio X, Hawkins revealed that the fills in ‘Rope’ were actually inspired by a classic Queen track. “If you listen to a Foo Fighters song called ‘Rope’,” Hawkins began, “There is these three little drum breaks in the middle, and one of them is directly ripped off of the Live Killers ‘Keep Yourself Alive.’ So I would say go listen to Queen Live Killers and listen to the ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ drum solo. It’s interesting that they would have a drum solo on their very first single.”
‘Pretender’ – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007)
How could we end this list without mentioning a song with so much momentum that it rocketed Foo Fighters right to the top of the charts? It’s by far one of the most simple drum tracks on this list, with Hawkins arriving a minute in with a series of single snare hits that send the song into overdrive, but it remains one of Hawkins’ most intelligent and subtle contributions.
The story goes that Foo Fighters put this song together in just a single day. With Hawkins hammering away in the background, Grohl makes subtle allusions to political unrest and disillusionment, all of which add up to a song with the power to transform even the most straight-laced young sissy into a hell-bound rock fanatic.