Taylor Hawkins, Foo Fighters drummer, has died at age 50 [UPDATED: A cache of drugs found. And it could have been a heart problem.]

Of all the rock stars I’ve ever met, no one smiled as much or as broadly as Taylor Hawkins. A “joyous presence,” in fact. That’s a perfect description.

Back when the Foo Fighters launched the Sonic Highways album, I was invited to Studio 606, their HQ in Van Nuys, California. As I waited for things to get set up and for the other bandmembers to arrive, Taylor pulled up in his vintage van. He greeted me warmly and when I remarked on a Roger Taylor poster on the wall (he being the drummer for Queen; it was for his 1981 solo album Fun in Space) we fell into a deep conversation about Queen, drummers, and how people from certain bands didn’t get the attention they deserved.

I was struck by how normal he was. Hospitable. Kind. No rock star pretensions whatsoever. Instead, he was consumed by the good fortune the universe had bestowed on him.

When everyone was assembled in the big room of the studio, one of my first questions went something like this: “Every time I see you guys play, you look like you’re having the time of your life.” Taylor was the one who responded. “We are! They’re paying us millions of dollars to fly around the world and play rock’n’roll! Of course we are!”

Taylor loved being a Foo Fighter. He loved playing rock’n’roll. And now he’s gone at the age of 50, right in the middle of a Foo Fighters tour of South America.

The announcement came minutes before the band was to perform on Friday night (March 25) around 11 pm at the Estereo Picnic in Bogotá, Colombia.

A BBC reporter who was backstage at the festival noticed that the Foos crew was packing up all the gear. Then an announcement was made to the crowd. The silence was deafening. Bands on a couple of other stages started playing “My Hero.”

Candles started appearing on the stage where the Foos were to have played their set. “Taylor Hawkins Por Siempre” (“Taylor Hawkins Forever”) was posted on all the video screens.

The last show Taylor played was a week ago (March 20) at Lollapalooza Argentina. He stepped out from behind the kit to sing (as was his custom). He sang Queen’s “Somebody to Love.”

No cause of death has been given.

It appears he died in a Bogotá hotel room. The hotel was the Casa Medina, a Four Seasons property, in an area called Chapinero. Apparently hotel staff called for an ambulance when Taylor started suffering chest pains. But by the time EMS arrived, he was already dead. That report comes from Bogotá’s District Department of Health.

Local cops have their suspicions. I quote: “According to those close to him, the death could be related to the consumption of drugs.” That, of course, has NOT been confirmed. When chest pains are involved, it sounds like some kind of cardiac event.

UPDATE at 7:15 pm EDT March 27: Reports from Colombia say that police found a cache of drugs and 10 different substances in his system. I quote from local journalist Luis Carlos Velez who works at a radio station called “FM.”

https://twitter.com/lcvelez/status/1507817578948878348

Those are just allegations and claims at this point, even though Velez says that he got his information from Fiscalia Colombia, the national attorney general’s office, which has the results of a preliminary toxicology report.

 “The National Institute of Forensic Medicine continues to conduct the necessary medical studies to ascertain the cause of death. The attorney general’s office will continue to investigate and will duly inform the findings of forensic examinations in due time.” We need to await the full report to be sure.

UPDATE at 8:15 am EDT March 27 : Forensic reports say that Hawkins’ heart weighed double that of a man his size and age. Normally, an adult weighs around 300 grams. Taylor’s heart weighed 600 grams. He suffered “cardiovascular collapse,” which led to his death. That may have been caused by a drug binge involving heroin, antidepressants, and benzodiazepines.

Again, we’ll have to wait for the full report.

Fans quickly gathered outside the hotel, waiting for the coroner to remove the body.

There will be plenty of speculation as Taylor was known to have his demons. In 2001, he ODed on heroin while at a party in London and spent two weeks in a coma. Dave sat with him that entire time.

That whole experience, he later said, was “a real changing point” for him. He told Kerrang “I believed the bull***t myth of live hard and fast, die young. I’m not here to preach about not doing drugs, because I loved doing drugs, but I just got out of control for a while and it almost got me.

“I was heading down a road that was going to lead to even worse paths. Whether someone’s sober, or they like a glass of wine with dinner, or they want a bottle of Jägermeister before they go on stage, or they like to smoke doobies all day long, everyone has their own path, and I took it too far.

“I’m glad it got knocked on the head at that point. I wouldn’t take anything away that I’ve done or been through either, because it’s all part of the trip and the journey. I’m trying to be as candid as I can be.”

Then there was this from an interview with Apple’s Beats 1: “There’s no happy ending with hard drugs, I don’t really discuss how I live my life in that regard. I have my system that works for me.”

Back then, Dave wrote a song for Taylor. (Via Raven Guitar)

Taylor says that outdoor activities helped him cope. Mountain biking was a big, big thing for him.

And remember when the Foos had to cancel a gig at the final F1 race of the year in Abu Dhabi last November? When the group’s private jet landed in Chicago to connect to a flight to the Middle East, a band member had to be transported to the hospital. We never did learn anything more about that incident. (I wrote about that here.)

I can’t imagine how Dave Grohl must feel. In The Storyteller, Dave’s memoir, he refers to Taylor as his “best friend and partner in crime.” They went everywhere together. Inseparable. “Taylor and I are like brothers,” Dave once said. “The two of us are best friends. You only find so many best friends in a lifetime. Taylor and I wound up being separated at birth.”

Then there’s this quote by Dave to Anderson Cooper on CNN: “When you have a drummer like Taylor Hawkins in your band, I don’t necessarily miss being the drummer — because I have the greatest drummer in the world. Taylor is a much more technically minded drummer than I am.”

Taylor was a big part of the Foos’ live experience, too. He’d come out from behind the kit to sing. Sometimes he and Dave would engage in drums-and-guitar battles. They were always trading quips. And it was Taylor that often stole the show.

Dave must be going “Not again…”

What can the Foos do? Sure, they could find another drummer, but they’ll never find anyone with the same chemistry or personality, those things that turn a band into a family. The Foos are a super tight-knit organization. Dave was the front guy and leader, but Taylor provided so much of the group’s heart. Next to Dave, he was the most popular member with fans. And Taylor was with this band for 25 years, ever since There is Nothing Left to Lose back in 1999.

His death comes a day after it was confirmed the band would perform at the Grammy Awards.

Taylor leaves behind his wife Alison and three children. And the tributes just keep on coming.

Here’s a Foos show in Toronto in 2008.

And here’s Taylor when he was playing for Alanis Morissette.

Here are some other examples of Taylor’s drumming chops.

This story is being updated on a regular basis as new information comes in.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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