As the tragic news of Taylor Hawkins’ untimely passing has slowly dawned, many of us have been left looking back at the wonderful work he left behind. That glowing back catalogue is a mark of the man himself, who, as the tributes have proven, was a true gentleman and great of rock ‘n’ roll.
While in his main role with the Foo Fighters his style was thunderous, his solo works like the 2016 EP Kota also proved that he had a softer songwriting style that mingled introspection with his usual blistering performances. This side of Hawkins also abides in his musical inspirations and influences. Far from just the likes of John Bonham and other great sticksmiths, Hawkins delved into music of all shades and genres.
That eclectic mix came to the fore when in a Rolling Stones interview during which he discussed some of his favourite tracks of all time. One track received gilded praise from Hawkins as he glowingly dubbed it one of the most beautiful songs of all time. The wondrous song in question was ‘The Air That I Breathe’ by The Hollies.
The classic anthem from 1974, tells the tale of a man who needs little else but love. As songwriter Albert Hammond explained: “I just fell in love with a girl. We had some kind of short affair. I just fell in love so bad, I guess I needed to be with my family. I was so lonely in Los Angeles.”
When Hammond was feeling low and lonely in Los Angeles, a lover provided him with cathartic comfort. As he told the BBC: “When you listen to the song, you’d think this is a show stopper, and lyrically, you’d think I wrote it probably for the most beautiful woman that ever existed in the world. And in fact, The air that I breathe was written for quite an ugly person actually, I mean ugly outside, physically outside. She wasn’t a great looking girl, but she was a terrific person inside. She was warm and kind.”
Continuing: “This person was the person who gave me shelter in Los Angeles when I didn’t have any place to stay. I had no money, I had no Green Card, I couldn’t work, I could have been a homeless. I sat down with Mike Hazlewood, and I said ‘Mike, this is what’s happened to me, and this is the person.’ And I think Mike came up with [the line] ‘the air that I breathe.’”
This stirring notion is one that always got Hawkins emotional. As the late drummer stated: “Albert Hammond Sr, the father of Albert Hammond Jr. of the Strokes, wrote this. I think this is one of the most f–king beautiful songs, ever. Radiohead got sued over it since it sounds a lot like ‘Creep’. I discovered them late in life. They’ve got a cool drummer. This is from after Graham Nash left. It was sort of their last hurrah.”
And what a last hurrah it was. The song is a pining classic that ventures towards the edges of being a kitsch pop power ballad but is saved from teetering over the edge because of the clear sincerity that it holds within. As a man who spent most of his life on the road, that sense of longing and the comfort that love can deliver is not something that was lost on the late great Hawkins.