The first time I met Taylor Hawkins, I was introduced to him by Gabe Sullivan, a photographer for Surfer magazine who was freelancing for the OC Weekly. Gabe and I were scouting locations for some shoots near Heisler Park in Laguna Beach for an upcoming issue. It was a weekday, around 7:30 in the morning and the streets were empty except for a tiny, beaten pick-up truck barreling towards us.
“I think that’s Taylor,” Gabe said as he flagged the driver down. The truck pulled over and a shaggy-haired fellow popped his head out of the driver’s side window and laughed as he said, “What are you guys doing out here so early?” Hawkins had a surfboard in the back of his truck and was returning from an early morning of riding waves.
After Gabe made the introductions, we told Hawkins about the issue we were in pre-production for and he told us about that morning’s surf conditions. “Not great,” he critiqued, “but good enough.” Very charismatic, very friendly, and he’d remember my name when I bumped into him again a few months later.
As he was driving off, Gabe told me in passing, “Yeah, he’s a drummer. He used to play for Alanis Morrissete and he’s gonna start playing for the Foo Fighters.”
Hawkins was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1972. His family moved to Laguna Beach, California four years later where he took up surfing and the drums at the age of 10. After short gigs with a local unknown Orange County band and later someone named Sass Jordan (a British-born Canadian rock singer from Montreal, Quebec), he became Alanis Morrissette’s drummer for Jagged Little Pill and its accompanying tour.
Already two albums deep into the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl phoned Hawkins sometime in March 1997 during a hiatus on the Morrissette tour. Grohl’s drummer left his band in a huff and, in need of a new hard-hitting drummer, Grohl contacted Hawkins for a recommendation. I can imagine Hawkins’ inner monologue during that phone conversation…
“Do I continue drumming for Alanis, who’s nice enough, but her music is horrible; or do I take the initiative and tell Dave, a proven punk rock pedigree, that I want to be in his far-more-credible band?”
Before that phone conversation ended, Hawkins convinced Grohl he wanted the gig, and on March 18, 1997, the Foo Fighters circulated a press release informing interested parties that Hawkins was to be the Foo Fighters’ new drummer.
Last year, after 25 years, 10 LPs (7 of them platinum) and countless world tours, the Foo Fighters were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility as part of the museum's Class of 2021. At the induction ceremony, Mr. Hawkins told Mr. Grohl, “Thank you for letting me be in your band.”
It wasn’t always easy for Hawkins though. In a 2002 interview with Spin, Hawkins admitted to feeling self-doubt about filling Grohl’s seat. “A lot of my insecurities, which led to a lot of my drug use, had to do with me not feeling like I was good enough to be in this band, to play drums with Dave.” In 2001, he had overdosed in London and was briefly comatose.
Hawkins died in his Bogotá, Colombia hotel suite at the Four Seasons’ Casa Medina several hours before the Foo Fighters were scheduled to take the stage in a headlining slot at the Festival Estéreo Picnic. Investigators report that a local hospital sent an ambulance to the hotel after receiving reports of "a patient with chest pains," but no cause of death has been confirmed.
Hawkins final performance with the Foo Fighters before his death was at the Lollapalooza Argentina festival last weekend on March 2. He is survived by his wife, Alison, whom he married in 2005, and their three children, Oliver, Annabelle and Everleigh.