Thoughts On Rolling Stone's New Piece About Taylor Hawkins' Last Days
Matt Cameron, Chad Smith, and numerous other friends go on the record about Hawkins' struggle with Foo Fighters' tour schedule
Note: I wrote the usual Tuesday New Music review when this article broke. I couldn’t stop thinking about it last night and this morning, so here’s a curveball for today. Friday will instead feature some new stuff from this past week.
Note II: Right before publishing this piece, Matt Cameron issued an apology saying that his quotes are out of context. Whether this is true or not, the authors interviewed twenty friends of Taylor Hawkins for the Rolling Stone piece. If the authors did indeed craft this narrative without everyone’s knowledge, it’s a journalism disaster. Articles like the one featured in Rolling Stone require endless confirmations, and I have a hard time believing they would mess up that bad. -Kiley
“He had a heart-to-heart with Dave and, yeah, he told me that he ‘couldn’t fucking do it anymore’ — those were his words.” - Matt Cameron, drummer for Soundgarden and Pearl Jam
Last night, I read “Inside Taylor Hawkins’ Final Days as a Foo Fighter,” an excellent piece by Andy Greene and Kory Grow for Rolling Stone. If you haven’t read it, it’s well worth your time and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it as the piece is genuinely heartbreaking.
When Hawkins died at a hotel in Bogatá, Colombia, on March 25, Foo Fighters were kicking off a South America tour that would be a part of 62 dates this year after playing more shows than any other band during the pandemic. There are still many unanswered questions, including a toxicology report that the Columbian government hastily released a few days later, and longtime friends and crewmembers deny any drug use from Hawkins in decades. Still, the piece fills in some gaps thanks to Matt Cameron and Chad Smith going on the record.
While Dave Grohl and everyone else in the Foo Fighters camp didn’t comment for this story, Cameron, the drummer for Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, and Smith, drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers, are longtime close friends of Hawkins and have nothing to lose at this point in their legendary careers. Besides the damning quote from Cameron about Hawkins trying to duck out of the band during their globetrotting jaunt during the pandemic, Smith offers some insight into Hawkins collapsing on a plane in Chicago last December. “He just said he was exhausted and collapsed, and they had to pump him full of IVs and stuff,” says Smith, followed by Hawkins telling him, “I just can’t do it like this anymore.”
I didn’t weigh in on Hawkins’ death at the time for a few reasons - people making tragedies about themselves is one of the worst things to be magnified by social media. Events like this also need to be given time for more information to come out, and these interviews with Cameron and Smith are crucial to setting up the picture of what was going on in Foo Fighters over the past few years.
I’ve used the band as a punching bag for the past decade-plus, and it felt inauthentic and half-hearted to change my tune because disaster suddenly struck the Foo Fighters. I’ve covered my early fandom and disagreement with them essentially being the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame house band, but this article confirms the bad habits and overexposure that turned me off through the years.
The steady stream of mediocre albums that cashed in on their legacy status was the beginning, but over the past few years, Dave and Company dominated press cycles to the point of annoyance if you are someone covering the industry. Between the Rock Hall stuff, Dave Grohl’s book, a gimmicky disco EP, their recent feature film debut in Studio 666, and the nonstop live shows, I was utterly burnt out on Foo Fighters. It’s notable because these bad practices seem to have contributed to Hawkins’ stress of being in a stadium band that played three-hour sets on every continent all year. In the Rolling Stone article, Sass Jordan (Hawkins got his touring start playing in her band) recalls asking when the band would be in Toronto to meet up, and Hawkins replied, “Oh, my fucking God. I can’t look at the goddamn tour schedule. It gives me anxiety.”
However, what keeps bringing my brain back to this article is the human element and worldwide mental health crisis we’re living in during covid and whatever “post covid” may look like. I agree that Taylor Hawkins was always the most charismatic part of Foo Fighters, and the inside baseball quotes of friends sharing their memories of him are absolutely gutwrenching.
But at its core, this is a story of someone sharing the same mental fragility that most of us are experiencing after the dread of the past few years. Sure, Hawkins was known to all of us as the fun-having drummer for one of the biggest bands in the world, but he was also a husband and father who may have been struggling with the expectations of getting back to “business as usual” with a planet in crisis.
I’m not going to blame Dave Grohl for anything at this time because, as I said, there’s still plenty more to come from this, but it reminds me of when Jerry Garcia was trying to get off the road in the 90s while battling addiction. The Grateful Dead was a money-printing machine with a colossal personnel payroll. A band like Foo Fighters is in the same boat, and while fighting age, exhaustion, and mental health, Taylor Hawkins didn’t have an easy out.
It’s all just so damn sad.
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