Taylor Hawkins: a Musician’s Musician
I MET TAYLOR HAWKINS a few times in the early 1990's when he was working at Music House in Lake Forest, CA. Music House was the main music store in town, and it had become a hangout for local musicians.
I wasn’t fortunate enough to grow up in the 1960’s. There were no trips to the record store to buy a new copy of Sgt. Pepper’s hot off the press. There were no hitchhiking adventures to Woodstock. One could say that the 1990’s was an existential musical no man’s land of sorts. But the community of musicians was still going strong.
I had been frequenting Music House for years. I bought my first bass there in 1988 and took lessons from an instructor named “Wild Bill.” I stepped into Music House one day in the early 1990’s to grab a set of strings for my bass and to check out whatever shiny new merchandise had made its way through the front door. I spotted a new guy working behind the counter. He was tall and slender and tan, with a shaggy mop of unruly blonde hair that obviously refused to take orders. Taylor introduced himself and eventually told me he was a drummer. Whether Taylor was giving drum lessons at Music House or just working behind the counter, I can’t recall. He immediately struck me as an all-around nice guy, with a welcoming smile and an easy going demeanor. I liked him right away.
Our conversation quickly turned to the one thing that truly matters in life: music. We seemed to be in agreement that Rush was the one band to which all other bands should aspire, and that the breakup of The Police was nothing short of a moral tragedy. Taylor told me how much he dug King Crimson, too. I shared with Taylor stories about my local metal band that was consuming my youth, and he filled me in on some gigs he had been playing at the Roxy and other venues in L.A. I’m sure we talked about much more, but 30 years is a long time and memories fade fast.
A few years after chatting with Taylor at Music House, I received a phone call from a friend of mine who also knew him. She informed me with unrestrainable glee that Taylor had landed a gig playing in Alanis Morissette’s band. As this was the pre-Internet age, I had to just take her word for it. A few months later, I made my way down to San Diego with some friends for an Alanis Morissette concert. There was festival seating and we were close to the stage. As I stared in slack jawed disbelief and watched That Dude From Music House’s skinny arms flail in every direction behind a minimalist drum kit, I wondered whether he had ever imagined he would end up Living on the Lighted Stage. Taylor Hawkins would eventually move on to cement his legacy as one of Rock’s premier drummers with the Foo Fighters.
The passing of Taylor Hawkins last week was a serious blow to the community of musicians. Taylor was a musician’s musician — a guy who studied Neil Peart and emulated Stewart Copeland. In a never ending era of lip-synching phonies, soulless vocal contests and lame electronic music, the odds of a true musician making it to The Big Time in the 1990’s was a million to one, if that. By the time young musicians were making their bones in the 1990’s, the magical era of Rock was long gone and forgotten. The time when a truly gifted musician like Taylor could make a considerable dent in the world of music was coming to a rapid and unceremonious end. But Taylor possessed the flair and enthusiasm of Keith Moon coupled with the power and technical prowess of John Bonham, and he earned his success through a combination of persistence, talent, personality, and of course, good timing.
With Taylor Hawkins, it was inspiring to see that every once in a while the good guys finish first.