To Taylor, from a Fan
photograph courtesy of Andi K. Taylor
I was with friends watching UCLA lose to North Carolina when my buddy Nathan texted, “Have you heard?” I waited while three dots flashed, indicating another incoming text. Those dots tragically turned into an article announcing: Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins dies at age 50. I was frozen, unable to click on the article. I just stared at the headline like it was written in a foreign language.
Not long after high school, I was driving to Long Beach, and the radio announced that Kurt Cobain had died. I immediately pulled over and began to bawl. He was the voice of our generation singing about society’s double standards, mental illness, and Gen X’s talent for social nonconformity. I spent the next two days alone, getting blackout drunk and stoned listening to Nirvana on repeat. I took the loss personally, as if being a fan of an artist meant as much to them as it did to me.
For 25 years, I soothed every loss, betrayal, struggle, judgment, or manipulation with booze. My taste transformed from beer to tequila to vodka to Jack Daniels to gin back to Jack, then finally top-shelf rum before I realized I had a problem. In 2011 I got sober and haven’t drank or taken a drug since. I hope I never do again, but my sobriety is one day at a time.
Taylor last night, having a drink in your honor sounded like a good idea. An excuse to act out with the one malady Rock and Roll never rejects, getting blind stinking drunk. Thank god, the two guys I was watching the game with were sober because if I’d ordered a cocktail, they would’ve slapped the shit out of me.
Instead, I drove home with Foo Fighters cranked full blast signaling every car I passed, every West Hollywood bar patron, everyone within earshot that a great thunder god of our generation had left us. Deafening music wasn’t softening my sadness, so I pulled over at Pink’s for a chili-cheese bacon dog and a slice of cake. Stuffing my face to satiate the emptiness in my heart, I noticed I wasn’t thinking about myself. When Kurt, Eddie Van Halen, or Neil Peart died, selfishly, I thought about how my life would change without them bringing me joy. Not with you T. Instead, my thoughts were with those who knew you best. How breathtakingly awful it is for your family, bandmates and crew. I kept thinking about your friendship with Dave and his similar loss. The way you two interacted on stage and off seemed to heal a cosmic rift we all felt when Kurt died.
Nearly eleven o’clock at night, I searched YouTube for your last Foo show, played five days ago in Argentina. I watched every second, looking for clues as to what could have caused your death. Was your voice cracking, tempo wavering, Energizer Bunny enthusiasm running low? Fuck no, you crushed it like always. You, Dave, Nate, Pat, Chris, Rami, and the Fooetts: Laura, Sam, and Barbara burned full throttle through your set, exhausting the Argentina crowd.
I woke up at least five times last night thinking about you. How when I played drums for twenty years, I copied your beats and used your albums as a masterclass for splitting drum heads. I once had a recording session the day after you and the engineer said you were the hardest-hitting drummer he’d ever met—a perfect mix of prog-precision and four-on-the-floor rock and roll rumble. Still in the fog of sleep, my mind turned to your people, I thought “Let Taylor be at peace. Let his family and bandmates be safe. I hope they all have time to mourn without intrusion. Gods, please let them heal.” I’d doze off, only to repeat the process an hour later.
The next morning I awoke and instinctively doom scrolled social media for updates. The outpouring of love for you was incredible. I remembered when Peart died, how the entire world knew The Professor for a day, and why he was so important to those of us who keep time with sticks and skin. Now it’s you, the best rock drummer of Generation X. People may debate that honor, but when Nirvana’s drummer picks you to back his band, it’s significant. I know this because you and Dave would often bicker about it on stage like an old married couple. It was cute, and I’m gonna miss that.
The last time I saw you play was with Foo Fighters at The Forum. For the closer, Everlong, Dave called out a special guest. A little ten-year-old girl named Nandi who had stolen the world's heart when she challenged Dave to a drum-off during the pandemic. While she played along with your bandmates on her little drum kit, I watched you sitting at yours, arm around your son, looking on with the same fascination as the rest of us. That snapshot in my mind forever captures: Taylor, the rock star, music fan, and family man. During the bow, you encouraged Nandi to toss her drumsticks into the crowd, but she couldn’t let them go. She had to keep one. I wish we could do the same with all things we cherish, hold them tight forever, but we can’t.
I’ve seen you back the Foo 19 times since 2002, plus Chevy Metal and Coattail Riders a couple of times. I’ve been front row, in the nose bleeds, and have left every show overjoyed. If ever I saw you around town, you were always smiling, always happy. I know you’ve had struggles and that life's pain never leaves us; it just visits less often. But the ability to utilize every minute, good or bad, and still have gratitude is a trait that made you more special than your talent, music, or success.
I don’t know if it’s my sobriety, maturity, or what, but I’ve been well composed listening to your music non-stop since Nathan’s text last night. Then, a few minutes ago, it began; the calls and messages rolled in. First a couple, then every five minutes, “You ok man?” “I know how much you loved that band.” “Not Taylor! So sad.” That’s when I cracked. The tears wouldn’t stop because I realized my people had me. They knew how much I loved your music because it resonated beyond me and into them. I’ve no doubt all of your fans are feeling this.
Anyway, I’m gonna miss you playing music with your friends and idols. Your big-ass toothy grin smiling and gritting every time you cracked the snare. The jokes you’d fire across Dave’s bow, the EVH shorts, Freddy Mercury vocal runs, and spacy drum-centric 70’s vibes in your solo tunes were all beyond entertaining. I wish your spirit the very best as it reunites with the rhythmic greats of the universe. We fans have your music, but every so often, could you send some of that sunshine to your wife, kids, family, and friends? It’s up to them to keep sharing your story so it ripples out to the rest of us. I don’t think you’d have left this soon if you didn’t know they were capable of it.
Thanks for sharing the best of you with the world.
Cory - 3/26/22
Foo Photos/ Videos by Cory Reeder
professional photography courtesy of Andi K. Taylor