Taylor Hawkins, Dave Grohl & the visual power of friendship in rock & roll

When I think of Taylor Hawkins I immediately think of friendship. Sometimes the profound power of a band is beyond just the sounds they make. Indeed, that’s hardly surprising given the importance of image in entertainment. But what always stood apart for me with Taylor is that he was in a rock band – the Foo Fighters – who first found fame in that most self-conscious of decades, the 90s. And despite that, what connected more than their stadium-filling music was that visually, this was a band with such a shameless and unabashed embodiment of friendship.

Like a modern day, two-man E-Street Band, Taylor Hawkins was the Clarence Clemons to Dave Grohl’s Bruce Springsteen. Sure, the Foo Fighters were always a multi-person outfit, but for the casual fan, there was the pale, long-dark-haired guy with the big smile at the front, and the tanned, long-blonde-haired guy with the big smile at the back. They weren’t just the vocals, guitars and drums, they were the uber-charismatic, hip-joined yin to the other one’s yang.

They also visually looked like they weren’t merely best friends, but that they had to be best friends. Like Bruce and Clarence, like Paul McCartney and John Lennon, like Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, there are musicians whose chemistry and indeed, their public appeal, extends so much further what they can lay down together in the studio.

In the couple of days since Taylor’s death at the age of 50 while on tour in Colombia, we’ve since learned he had 10 different substances in his system and had an inflamed heart around twice the size of a normal male’s. He’d been known to have battled addiction in the past and it’s devastating that may have led to his life being cut short. He leaves behind a loving wife and three children.

We’ve also learned – if we didn’t already know it – that Taylor Hawkins was held in the highest regard in the industry. Yes, he was a great drummer who could hold his own in a band with another great drummer in the form of Dave Grohl. But whether it’s Stevie Nicks, Flea, Ozzie Osbourne or Richard Marx, Taylor’s peers are uniform in their praise of him as a man who owned the cliche of lighting up every room he was in.

Personally, I especially appreciated how much Taylor Hawkins dug the Bee Gees and Andy Gibb. With me a child of the 80s and a teen of the 90s, I remember all too well how white males were only meant to like alternative or rock music, and if you didn’t, the implication was there was something wrong with you. But Taylor Hawkins couldn’t care less about what was cool or not. This was a guy whose favourite band was Queen and who knew every lyric and lick of Andy Gibb’s biggest hit, the criminally forgotten Shadow Dancing from 1978.

“Criminally forgotten”, because despite the fact that Shadow Dancing topped the US charts for no less than seven weeks in 1978 (and is one of the few songs written by all four Gibb brothers), it’s oddly absent from radio playlists in the 21st century.

But Taylor didn’t care because again, his identity as surfer-looking drummer in a hard-rocking band was never threatened by a personal love of pop music.

Inspired by having watched the recent 6x Emmy nominated Bee Gees doco How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, Dave and Taylor decided to make an EP of Gibb covers with the spectacular title, Hail Satin. And while there’s a kind of giddy exuberance to the way Dave leapt to his newfound falsetto on four of the mini-album’s five tracks, it was Taylor’s natural voice take on Shadow Dancing that stood out for me.

Everyone knows Night Fever, More Than A Woman, You Should Be Dancing and Tragedy, but you only cover Shadow Dancing if you’re a diehard.

In a society attempting to grapple with concepts of masculinity, it shouldn’t be underestimated the significance not just of the music of the Foo Fighters, but the camaraderie they always presented front and centre. For the dearly missed Taylor Hawkins, the best friend of Dave Grohl, and one half of one of the most visible crystallisations of mate-ship of the past 25-years , here are the Foo Fighters in their glorious 2021 alter-ego, the Dee Gees:

One Comment Add yours

  1. Kat Angeron says:

    Just awesome

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