The drum community recently experienced a devastating loss with the unexpected passing of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. Already solidifying his presence on the next-generation Mount Rushmore of drummers, Taylor had a unique voice on the kit. Combining elements of Neil Peart, Roger Taylor, Phil Collins, Stewart Copeland, and Ringo Starr, he created a voice that was equally unique and versatile. From the Foo Fighters to Coheed and Cambria, to his own group Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, and even pop acts including Alanis Morissette and Miley Cyrus, Hawkins’ energy and versatility behind the drums made him more than the drummer in the Foo Fighters. He was a drumming icon. The following playlist is a prime example of his energy, versatility, and passion for the drum kit that will have you air drumming along as we remember this drumming giant.
Foo Fighters, Sonic Highways (2014)
Sonic Highways came to fruition as the Foo Fighters traveled to various cities throughout the U.S. After visiting Nashville and sitting down with various Nashville influences including Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Tony Joe White, and producer Tony Brown, the Foo Fighters headed to Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Studio to record “Congregation.” Starting out with a twangy guitar melody, Taylor jumps in shortly after, accenting the rhythm of the guitar to instantly hook the listener. He settles into a rock-solid groove that drives the verses, and gradually builds intensity as the song progresses through the verse, pre-chorus, and chorus.
“Times Like These”
Foo Fighters, One by One (2002)
Considered a throw-away record by some, One by One was the first Foo Fighters record on which Hawkins was permanently assigned to the drum throne. “Times Like These” starts out with an eighth-note driven hi-hat groove as the band alternates between measures of 4/4 and 3/4. The verses and choruses continue to have a groove based off the intro, with subtle alterations to give shape for each section. The bridge goes back to alternating between 4/4 and 3/4, with Taylor moving his dominant hand to the ride. Finally, Taylor drives the song home in the last chorus before crashing out for the outro.
“Long Road to Ruin”
Foo Fighters, Echos, Silence, Patience, and Grace (2007)
Going back to a similar sound as in There’s Nothing Left to Lose, the Foo Fighters sixth record, Echos, Silence, Patience, and Grace, had them focusing more on melodic elements than on in-your-face loud guitars. “Long Road to Ruin” is a perfect example of said sound. It starts out with a spacious guitar melody on upbeats, which can have listeners flip the downbeat. Taylor drops a quick snare fill before laying into a groove that shows the listener where the downbeat is. The verse has an iconic Taylor groove, and the pre-chorus has snare accents on 1, & of 2, and 4 before filling into the chorus, which is a crash-driven version of the verse groove. Taylor sits out for the majority of the bridge, only to come in with simple tom hits that eventually build into a snare fill that projects the band into the guitar solo.
“Making a Fire”
Foo Fighters, Medicine at Midnight (2021)
The intro track to the Foo Fighters tenth album not only became a radio single, it did so while being in 3/4. Taylor grooves so hard that average consumera can bob their heads to it! That is a feat not many drummers can accomplish, but Taylor did it in a way only he could.
Foo Fighters, Wasting Light (2011)
The first single off the seventh Foo Fighters studio album, “Rope” has all the Taylor-isms that rocked: driving eighth-note grooves throughout the verses, subtle fills accenting guitar rhythms, a chorus groove paying homage to Neil Peart, and even drum breaks (this was played on the radio, by the way). Oh, and Taylor is singing the verses, with Dave Grohl providing lower harmonies; more on that in a song later down the list.
“I’ve Got Some Not Being Around You to Do Today”
Taylor Hawkins, KOTA (2016)
From his debut album released under his own name, KOTA is a short EP on which Taylor plays every instrument and sings. The song starts off with ambient guitar swells before Hawkins jumps in on kit with a groove involving flams for the backbeat. The first verse is a standard eighth-note groove, while the choruses are driven by the bell of the ride and a mix of the toms that accent the guitar rhythms. Mid-chorus there are two measures of 3/4 time with a fill that creates a two-over-three rhythmic pattern. Transitioning out of the chorus, he doubles the length of the fill to get the listener back to standard 4/4 time during the turnaround. The second verse intensifies with a sixteenth-note tom-driven groove, which elevates the section compared to verse one. The bridge starts out with a Brian May-esque guitar solo (again, played by Taylor), then transitions into the two-over-three accent pattern introduced earlier in the song as Taylor does what he does best. He finally transitions out of the bridge with drum breaks to ease the listener into the last chorus. If this playlist needed to be one song that showcased how Taylor approached music, this would be it.
Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, Red Light Fever (2010)
For the sophomore release of the group fronted by Taylor (making the name even funnier), Taylor provided drums and vocals. This song screams Queen mixed with that heavy rock sound Taylor is known for. With anthemic guitar riffs, layered vocals for a rock choir effect, and big, grooving drums, this is a song you crank up with all the windows down as you cruise on a beautiful sunny day.
“Cold Day in The Sun”
Foo Fighters, In Your Honor Disc 2 (2005)
This might have been the first time Taylor was featured as lead vocalist on a Foo Fighters record, causing many to say, “Wait, Taylor sings?!” Looking back there are countless videos of Taylor singing Queen covers at Foo Fighters shows, and most are aware of his additional projects where he is the frontman. This song, however, introduced that side of him to the masses, as he provided vocals and rhythm guitar to the track (Dave Grohl is on drums). When performed live, there were times Taylor would sing and sometimes play guitar, or sing and play drums for this track. It’s a melodic, classic rock-esque vibe.
Miley Cyrus, Plastic Hearts (2020)
Why is there a Miley Cyrus track on a playlist showcasing Taylor Hawkins? To showcase how versatile he really was! Providing drums to this 1980s-sounding track, the drums are like a drum machine. It’s the polar opposite to how we usually saw him (arms flailing, hair billowing in the wind with a big smile); instead, this is straight drum machine meat and potatoes that hits hard.
Foo Fighters, In Your Honor Disc 1 (2005)
Another staple Taylor Hawkins track, “DOA” starts off with just hi-hat accenting the backbeat, with a hi-hat opening on the & of 4 every other measure. The verses and pre-choruses are a tom-driven groove that helps transition to the chorus, which is part sixteenth-note hi-hat and a straightforward crash groove. The bridge is also driven with crashes, which at times accent the guitar rhythms, a staple in Taylor’s playing.
Foo Fighters, Concrete and Gold (2017)
In typical Foo fashion, this song rips. Untypical of Taylor fashion, he adapts a soca beat to this fuzz driven, distorted vocal song during the majority of it. To break it up, he switches to a ride-driven groove in the pre-chorus and first half of the chorus. In the second half of the chorus, he moves to the crash before playing the soca rhythm on the toms, then transitions back to the verses. Who knew soca could be so heavy?
“Justice in Murder”
Coheed and Cambria, Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Volume II: No World for Tomorrow (2007)
Taylor played on two albums released in 2007: Foo Fighters’ Echos, Silence, Patience, and Grace, and Coheed and Cambria’s Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Volume II: No World for Tomorrow. At the time, Coheed’s new drummer couldn’t play on the record due to contractual obligations. Taylor agreed to step in and record using cues from their drummer, and the entire album rips. “Justice in Murder” showcases Taylor in a sound most are not familiar hearing him in, but when one listens to the macro they will instantly hear all the Taylor-isms. If him screaming “one-two-three-four” at the top of the track isn’t a dead giveaway it’s him, the drums scream louder to show that it is.
Foo Fighters, There Is Nothing Left to Lose (1999)
The first Foo Fighters record featuring Taylor is also the first (and only) record recorded as a power trio. Dave Grohl and Taylor share the drum throne on this record; “Aurora” is one of the tracks featuring Taylor on the kit. Taylor admitted in an interview this was the first track with the Foo Fighters he was proud of, and was one of his favorite Foo Fighters tracks. “Aurora” is mellow compared to the typical Foo Fighters sound, but it is beautifully layered with segments of driving grooves, solid fills, and even drum breaks that gave early Foo Fighters fans a taste of what Taylor was all about.
Nick Costa is an educator based in Philadelphia, a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) candidate, and a member of the PAS Drum Set Committee. He is also an independent drummer, clinician, and drum technician with national and international touring experience. Nick’s primary focus as an educator is in drum set, teaching over 150 students weekly throughout the greater Philadelphia region. He has provided ways to integrate drum set studies into the K–12 music classroom for the School District of Philadelphia, and was a consultant for the PA Department of Education as they created and implemented the current statewide Modern Band curriculum. Nick has written and recorded lessons for Modern Drummer magazine, PAS’s Rhythm! Scene, and is an active session musician, engineering and recording drum tracks remotely from his studio. For more information, visit nickcostamusic.com.