Taylor Hawkins: Beloved Road Warrior Who ‘Brought Joy Everywhere He Went’

Mauricio Santana / Getty Images
Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins at Allianz Parque in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Feb. 27. Photo by Mauricio Santana / Getty Images

The tragic passing of Taylor Hawkins, Foo Fighters’ widely beloved drummer, at age 50 on March 25 left a gaping hole in the hearts of millions. The affable road warrior’s high-octane performances, a hallmark of his Hall of Fame career, touched the legions of fans and wide swath of the music industry who came into contact with him at countless venues, festivals and events across the globe.

Foo Fighters, according to Pollstar Boxoffice Reports, sold a remarkable six million tickets and grossed some $421.3 million. The band’s nearly 500 reports stretch back to Nov. 13, 1999, when it performed in Hamburg, Germany at the Docks Konzerte Disco before 1,700, to just six days ago, when the Foos performed before hundreds of thousands at Lollapalooza Argentina in Buenos Aires on March 20.

In the process, Foo Fighters picked up countless honors, including Grammy Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, American Music Awards, Brit Awards, Kerrang! Awards, NME Awards and, quite naturally, Pollstar Awards, where last month the well-traveled group won a well-deserved Best Rock Tour award.

After a warm-up underplay at The Canyon in Agoura Hills, Calif., Foo Fighters properly kicked off their 2021 touring on June 20 by literally bringing back rock and roll with an ebullient show at New York’s Madison Square Garden. It was the storied venue’s first full-capacity performance since the pandemic and an industry bellwether and proof of concept that showed arenas could safely return to full capacities.

The show included Hawkins leaving his drum stool to sing “Somebody To Love” by Queen, one of his favorite bands. He often cited that band’s drummer Roger Taylor as a major influence – but that he could really sing the great Freddie Mercury’s part showed his versatility as both musician and fan. That sold-out show grossed $1.4 million and previewed the Foo’s string of pandemic comeback shows.

The band continued reopening events with their August headlining slot at Lollapalooza in Chicago’s Grant Park, which despite dire predictions went off without a hitch.

Though the band’s slated show to reopen L.A.’s Forum in July 2021 was initially postponed, when the band returned in August they created one of live performances’ best-ever moments when sensational 11-year-old Nandi Bushell took over drumming duties from Hawkins, enabling the young talent to play a searing rendition of one of the group’s greatest songs, “Everlong,” before the heroes who helped change her life.

Foo Fighters continued their run of opening venues in September with a surprise show at Washington, D.C.’s iconic 9:30 Club, a venue the band’s frontman Dave Grohl knows well from growing up in the D.C. area. There, too, Hawkins went full frontman once again on “Somebody to Love.”

“He is a person that brought joy to everyone wherever he was – onstage, backstage, offstage – anywhere you were lucky enough to be part of his world, except he always made you feel like he was the lucky one,” says Seth Hurwitz, chairman and CEO of I.M.P., which owns 9:30 Club. “I say he is because I can’t bring myself to say he was.”

Taylor Hawkins clowning around with I.M.P.’s Seth Hurwitz and Dave Grohl at the opening of The Anthem in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 2017. (Photo: Courtesy I.M.P.)

The following month, the band helped open Seattle’s new Climate Pledge Arena, performing with Death Cab For Cutie on Oct. 19 for a pre-opening event for construction workers and fans of the band with a portion of proceeds going to three local charities.

“We had the great fortune of opening up Climate Pledge Arena with the Foo Fighters,” said Tim Leiweke, chairman and CEO of Oak View Group, which built and manages the arena (and is Pollstar’s parent company). “I also had the honor of picking up their Rock Tour of the Year award this year at Pollstar for Taylor and the band. Loved his spirit and his passion for music, for touring and for making some of the best music ever. Our thoughts and prayers are with Alison [Hawkins, Taylor’s wife] and his family as well as the Foo Fighters family.”

Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins and Dave Grohl perform at the pre-opening event at Climate Pledge Arena on Oct. 19, 2021. (Photo by David Conger / davidconger.com/Courtesy CPA)

Last year not only saw Foo Fighters back on the road, but also the release of their Grammy-nominated album Medicine At Midnight and their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

“They’re incredible live,” the band’s longtime agent, CAA’s Marlene Tsuchii, told Pollstar in October in celebration of the band’s induction. “No matter how big the stadium is – and I’ve seen a lot of big shows of theirs – you still feel like you’re not 10 miles away looking at a screen. … It’s a very personal feeling to go to their shows.”

That personal feeling is similar to the way Grohl built Foo Fighters, seeking out people he had a deep connections with rather than people who just had “great chops.” In his memoir, “The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music,” Grohl wrote about his bond with Hawkins, who he met in 1995 and knew as a member of Alanis Morissette’s band. When Grohl asked Hawkins if he knew of any drummers, the answer was right in front of him.

“Tearing through the room like an F5 tornado of hyperactive joy was Taylor Hawkins, my brother from another mother, my best friend, a man for whom I would take a bullet,” he wrote. “Upon first meeting, our bond was immediate, and we grew closer with every day, every song, every note that we played together. I am not afraid to say that our chance meeting was a kind of love at first sight, igniting a musical ‘twin flame’ that still burns to this day. Together, we have become an unstoppable duo, onstage and off, in pursuit of any and all adventure we can find. We are absolutely meant to be, and I am grateful that we found each other in this lifetime.”

Over the course of the pandemic, and indeed their storied career, Foo Fighters have shown a firm commitment to helping others, including a performance at “Vax Live: The Concert To Reunite The World” that raised $300 million to support global vaccination efforts; a livestreamed set from L.A.’s Roxy Theatre in November 2020 with proceeds benefiting Sweet Relief, a nonprofit that offers financial assistance to musicians and touring crews in need; and an appearance on THUNDERGONG!, a free livestream concert to benefit the Steps of Faith Foundation, which helps amputees in need of prosthetics.

The Foos were also the first band to sign onto a letter asking Congress to provide emergency relief to independent venues, played to an empty room at L.A.’s Troubadour during 2020’s Save Our Stages Festival and sold a special T-shirt and a limited-run drum to benefit the National Independent Venue Association.

Gideon Gottfried
Gus Brandt ( second from left) winning Pollstar’s 2019 Tour Manager of the Year Award with Foo Fighters’ Nate Mendel, Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins and Pat Smear.

In 2019, the band won the Best Rock Tour Pollstar Award for its “Concrete and Gold Tour,” which the band accepted in person. Their real motivation for showing up, however, was revealed later: the band’s longtime road manager Gus Brandt had won the Road Warrior Award.

Brandt had great insights into what makes touring with Foo Fighters so special. First, Brandt thanked his “family I never see” and then explained that while he’s been at “more soundchecks than swim meets, [he] wouldn’t trade it for anything.” A sentiment shared by anyone who’s spent time with Taylor Hawkins and his band.