The rock world is mourning Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, who was found dead at the age of 50 on Friday in Colombia. Hawkins joined the band in 1997 after playing in Alanis Morissette’s band during the Jagged Little Pill tour. Coincidentally, the Foo Fighters opened a string of dates during that run. Dave Grohl, a legendary drummer in his own right, had played most of the instruments on the first two Foo Fighters albums. But after he joined Grohl, Nate Mendel and Pat Smear in the Foos, Hawkins quickly showed why Grohl’s decision to replace William Goldsmith would change the trajectory of the band. Grohl and Hawkins were inseparable on and off stage and his charismatic presence elevated everyone around him.
The blond, perpetually grinning Orange County-bred drummer played on the band’s next eight studio albums, along with countless world tours. Grohl even told us that Hawkins was the reason why the band recorded a Bee Gees covers album in 2021. In the band’s silly videos for hits like “Everlong” and “Learn To Fly,” Hawkins cross-dressed and flexed the comedy chops that would eventually come in handy in the band’s first feature film, 2022’s Studio 666.
Taylor Hawkins played with power and panache, taking influences from his classic rock heroes like Neil Peart, Stewart Copeland, and Roger Taylor and working them fluidly into Foo Fighters’ tuneful post-grunge sound. Here’s a look back at 10 of his finest moments behind the drums, whether in the studio or onstage:
10. Foo Fighters – “Stacked Actors”
Foo Fighters’ first drummer William Goldsmith left the band acrimoniously after Dave Grohl re-recorded his drum tracks on 1997’s The Colour and the Shape. Hawkins was recruited to tour in support of the album and fit right in. However, questions lingered over or not whether Grohl was simply a control freak who’d never let anyone else drum on his albums. But on 1999’s There Is Nothing Left to Lose, Grohl let Hawkins handle the drums on the whole album, and every subsequent record. On album opener “Stacked Actors,” which alternates between the lithe bossa nova groove over the verses and the heavy wallop of the chorus, it was clear that Hawkins was as good in the studio as he was on the road, a precise player with a mastery of many styles.
9. Dee Gees – “Night Fever”
Five months after Foo Fighters released their latest album, 2021’s Medicine At Midnight, they followed it up with a playful Record Store Day special: Hail Satin, a collection of Bee Gees covers and live tracks as ‘Dee Gees.’ It’s clearly a goof, but it’s also a chance for the band to flex their musicianship and get away from their signature hard rock sound, and Taylor Hawkins sounds like he’s having a blast getting back to his roots and showcasing a classic four-on-the-floor groove the 1978 hit “Night Fever.”
8. Foo Fighters – “Times Like These”
Taylor Hawkins idolized Neil Peart. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise he and Dave Grohl relished the opportunity to induct Rush into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Foo Fighters never quite went all-out prog, but 2002’s “Times Like These” took a page from the ‘80s Rush playbook. It turned a tricky 7/8 time signature into a big irresistible rock radio anthem in the tradition of “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight.” It remains a staple in their live show.
7. Alanis Morissette – “You Oughta Know (live on the Late Show with David Letterman)”
Taylor Hawkins got his first major touring gig as a member of Alanis Morissette’s backing band in 1995. When the Canadian singer made her American television debut on the Late Show with David Letterman, Hawkins was there, adding intricate hi-hat accents to the verses of “You Oughta Know” and bashing away on the explosive choruses. Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was released three weeks before the Foo Fighters’ self-titled album, and soon enough Hawkins land the job that launched his career.
6. Foo Fighters – “My Hero (live at Hyde Park)”
Though Taylor Hawkins didn’t play on the first two Foo Fighters albums, and he made many of those songs his own over 25 years of touring. In this great clip from the band’s 2006 show at London’s Hyde Park, Hawkins goes off on a killer extended drum solo, which then segues into a start-stop tease of the bombastic intro to the 1998 hit “My Hero.”
5. Foo Fighters – “Cold Day In The Sun”
Taylor Hawkins made his lead vocal debut for the Foos on “Cold Day in the Sun” a twangy country-rock tune from the acoustic half of the 2005 double album In Your Honor that was released as a single and became a mainstay of the band’s setlists. Hawkins would go on to sing several covers onstage with Foo Fighters, and released three albums with his own band the cleverly named Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders. On 2017’s Concrete and Gold, Hawkins sang lead on “Sunday Rain” with none other than Paul McCartney taking his place on drums.
4. Foo Fighters – “Congregation”
Foo Fighters traveled around America recording in different cities for 2014’s Sonic Highways and its HBO series. “Congregation” was a song from those sessions, recorded at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground studio in Nashville. But it’s one of the band’s most complete homages to ‘70s classic rock, with soaring guitar leads and brooding bridge. It’s hard not to hear the influence of The Police’s Stewart Copeland every time Taylor Hawkins hits the dome of his ride cymbals for a colorful accent.
3. Foo Fighters – “The Pretender”
Nirvana may have helped cement the quiet/loud alternative rock formula, but Foo Fighters put their own stamp on it with taut tracks like “The Pretender” and “All My Life” that build and build before exploding into arena rock catharsis. And “The Pretender” in particular is a killer showcase of all the ways Taylor Hawkins can keep shifting the beat under an insistent guitar riff and ramping up the energy.
2. Foo Fighters – “No Way Back”
“No Way Back” pushes 2005’s In Your Honor into high gear after the simmering title track, and it may be the band’s fastest hit, peaking at No. 2 on Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart. Taylor Hawkins thrashes his way through “No Way Back” with energy that’s impressive even by his standards. But the series of inspired fills that he puts together in the last 15 seconds of the song, jazzy triplets snuck into a punk rock anthem, add something special to the song’s big finish.
1. Foo Fighters – “Rope”
The lead single from 2011’s Wasting Light is one of the most sonically unique hits in the Foo Fighters catalog, with an instantly memorable delay pedal-assisted guitar riff and big tumbling grooves. On a track that utilizes more empty space than the average Foos rocker, Hawkins has room to lay down a fast shuffle punctuated with rat-a-tat snare fills. Then he gives the chorus some extra punch with an intricate ride pattern that offsets the big crash cymbals. And he tops it all off with a quick, flashy drum solo featuring a single unexpected cowbell hit that reminds you how playful Taylor Hawkins could be even in his most intense displays of technique.