RIP Taylor Hawkins. What do you do when a member of your band dies? It’s complicated

Fans and supporters leave flowers and messages with candles after the death of Taylor Hawkins, drummer of the Foo Fighters death during the night of March 25 at the Four Seasons (Casa Medina) Hotel in Bogota, Colombia. March 26, 2022. Sebastian Barros/Long Visual Press/ABACAPRESS.COM

One of the knocks against the Foo Fighters has been that they’re not dangerous or consumed with drama.

But that’s been very much by design. Dave Grohl had no intention of reliving the trauma that followed the death of Kurt Cobain. Foos guitarist Pat Smear was not only a touring guitarist with Nirvana back in 1994, but in 1980, he’d been a member of an LA punk band called The Germs. The night before John Lennon was shot, singer Darby Crash died of a heroin overdose.

There was some danger/drama in 2001 when drummer Taylor Hawkins ended up in a two-week coma after a heroin overdose in London — an incident that he said scared him straight — but outside of that, the Foos appeared to have been squeaky clean. With everyone united in the goal of becoming the biggest rock band in the world, bad behaviour that risked sabotaging everything was not tolerated.

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But then Taylor Hawkins, the most beloved member of the band next to Dave Grohl (and Dave’s best friend in the whole world), suffered some kind of cardiovascular event in Bogotá, Colombia, back on March 25 and died.

A preliminary autopsy determined that his heart was enlarged to 600 grams, twice the size of a man his size and age. An enlarged heart isn’t a disease unto itself but a symptom of something else: acute high blood pressure, thyroid issues, congenital problems, and more.

With such a key member of the group gone forever, the Foo Fighters will have to figure out a new path for the future. What might that be? There will definitely be a series of difficult band meetings in the coming weeks that will also involve family, friends, and management.

Click to play video: 'Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins dead at age 50, band says'
Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins dead at age 50, band says

I see three choices. First, the band is brought to a close, reorganizes, rebrands, and comes back in a different form. Second, find someone else to play drums and resume work after everyone has had a chance to grieve and heal. And third, the Foos already have a drummer in their midst. I think he knows most of the songs, too.

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I’d completely discount a Dave Grohl solo career. He’s always said that he loves the idea of being in a band. Retirement? Not a chance. He’s too driven and restless.

Everyone must be thinking about precedent, too.

Let’s begin with bands (not named Spinal Tap) who have lost drummers. When John Bonham died of acute alcohol poisoning on Sept. 25, 1980, there was no question that Led Zeppelin was done. No Bonzo, no Zep. The surviving members were unanimous on that point.

Toto kept going after Jeff Porcaro died on Aug. 5, 1992, due to coronary heart disease exacerbated by cocaine use.

Rush had officially come to an end before Neil Peart died of brain cancer, but his death on Jan. 7, 2020, forever ended any hopes of a future reunion. No one can replace Neil.

On the other hand, The Who decided to continue on after Keith Moon passed away on Sept. 7, 1978, because of a tragic mix of alcohol and prescription drugs. Like Taylor, he was a huge part of the band’s sound, personality, and image, yet Pete Townshend was determined to carry on. There are those who say that The Who was never the same after Keith (I’m one of them) but the group continues today, even after losing bass player John Entwistle on June 27, 2002.

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More recently, we can point to The Rolling Stones. The stoic, super-dependable Charlie Watts was a founding member back in 1962. When he died of cancer on Aug. 24, 2021, it took only a few weeks before The Stones were back onstage with another drummer. Hey, there were touring commitments that had to be met. The show must go on and all that.

Then we can look at groups that have kept going even after their lead singer dies: AC/DC, Queen, Stone Temple Pilots, Sublime, INXS, Thin Lizzy, Grateful Dead, Alice in Chains, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joy Division (who reorganized as New Order). Even The Doors tried to resurrect things without Jim Morrison two decades ago under the name The Doors of the 21st Century.

Things were never the same as they were and ghosts must continue to linger, but all these bands decided that they needed to continue. It can be done.

But at the same time, there cannot be a Soundgarden without Chris Cornell, a Van Halen without Eddie, a Motorhead without Lemmy, or a T. Rex without Mark Bolan.

Back to the Foo Fighters. Sure Dave can find someone to keep time for the Foo Fighters, but he’ll never, ever find someone with the special Lennon-McCartney/Keith-Mick/Laurel-and-Hardy bond he had with Taylor. His personality and chemistry with the other members of the band helped make the Foos what they’ve become over the last 25 years. That presence in the studio, on stage, and in real life is gone forever. Taylor also had a special relationship with the fans. And imagine being the person selected to be the next Foo Fighters drummer. The pressure would be insane.

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But there is a cold business way of looking at things. The Foo Fighters are a multi-million-dollar corporation, a machine that employs dozens of people, from managers to roadies. There are endless commitments for tours, appearances, and albums. Yes, everything has been cancelled for the foreseeable future, but what about further down the road?

Does the band continue in Taylor’s memory? Or do they honour him by saying that the Foo Fighters don’t exist without him?

There are some tough decisions ahead.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

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