2022 has been a rough year for pop culture, arguably the roughest since the dreaded plight of 2016. We’ve lost Yes mainstay Alan White, a percussive powerhouse who worked with John Lennon and Denny Laine in the 1970s; we’ve seen Cathal Coughlan, Munster poet and idiosyncratic favourite, leave this earthly coil; and then there’s Taylor Hawkins, who died within weeks of Stewart Copeland calling him a drummer he admired.
Hawkins is best known for his percussive duties with Foo Fighters, ably managing to impress audiences with his stylistic workouts, which was impressive when you realise that the band were already fronted by a drummer of high repute: Dave Grohl. The two men enjoyed a strong musical bond, which likely stemmed from a shared interest in Led Zeppelin and drumming.
Grohl was confident enough in Hawkins’ backbeat to pour his heart on the stage, keenly aware that every drum fill was done with tremendous precision and polished attack. They enjoyed a tremendous partnership, which resulted in a live set that was brimming with ideas, ambition and angular acidic impressionism.
But Hawkins had another side to him, an uglier emblem that made his terrains into the beautiful harder to realise. It was his addictions, no hollow metaphor, but a facet and character trait that nearly cost him his life in 2001. Hawkins overdosed in London, but concerned for his friend, Grohl – who had witnessed something shockingly similar to Kurt Cobain in the 1990s – stood by his bedside, in an effort to support the musician during this time of great discomfort in his personal life. Grohl sat vigil, praying that Hawkins would return to the earth, before committing his thoughts to the startling ‘On The Mend’.
The song remains one of high distinction and showed a palpable development in Grohl’s lyrical writing. Like Phil Collins before him, Grohl found it easier to transmit his emotions through the medium of heart and verse, which might explain the power of the tune, raw as it is to sit through. But Hawkins felt uncomfortable by the comparison, as it showcased a side of him he was unwilling to exhibit to the world at large.
“I don’t want to know that s–t. I really don’t,” the drummer sighed. “Unfortunately that is going to be a part of my story forever, something that happened in my late 20s through being an idiot. Some things are better left unsaid as far as I’m concerned. It’s sweet, I suppose, but I could have gone my whole life without knowing it.”
He may have felt embarrassed by the comparison, but the song is brimming with energy, emotion and elation, showing how important Hawkins was to Grohl, both as a drummer and a person. Because Hawkins was much more than a drummer who would knock out a Zeppelin cover in concert. Indeed, he was a true artist and worked closely with the Queen custodians Brian May and Roger Taylor in their efforts to preserve and conserve the legacy.
Hawkins’ death left a mark on the two surviving Queen members, particularly Taylor, who likened the Foo Fighter to a son.
Tributes poured in towards the drummer in 2022, when it was announced that he had died suddenly and tragically. The percussionist was one of the faces of a generation, leading several drummers – from The Police founder Stewart Copeland to the kind words from one time 10cc drummer Kevin Godley – to celebrate the percussionist after he died.
“Taylor was very close to [Queen], he’s been in my studio a few of times. In my life, I talk to him often. I talked to him just a week ago from when we lost him,” May said. “We talk about stuff, talking about Dave [Grohl], about what life is like, his joys, frustrations, being in Foo Fighters.”
Life is a flitting moment in time, and considering his untimely death in 2022, ‘On The Mend’ has a new pathos to it that Grohl and Foo Fighters would prefer it didn’t. But life marches on, we make our impression on this earth, and we travel on. It is not through the defiance of life that we march, but the celebration of it. The celebration of life, always on the mend.