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How Did Taylor Hawkins Die?

Taylor Hawkins was a musical legend. I was so sad to hear of his passing in March 2022 but even more shocked. This was a man who was still relatively young, still in the prime of his life. He lived it so full of energy and passion that it was almost inconceivable that he could have died.

But he did, and the circumstances around Taylor Hawkins’ death are also not altogether clear. How did Taylor Hawkins die? The official cause of Taylor Hawkins’ death, as reported by the coroner who investigated it, was cardiac arrest. That much is accepted. 

But, what led up to this incident and why his cardiac arrest was fatal is still unclear. Perhaps, we can shed some light on this sad death while at the same time paying our respects to a Rock and Roll legend.

Who Was Taylor Hawkins?

How Did Taylor Hawkins Die?

Just to get things straight, Taylor Hawkins was an American musician from California. He is best known for being the drummer for Alanis Morissette’s backing band Sexual Chocolate. And, of course, for the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl, who, let’s remember, was the drummer for one of the biggest bands of the 90s, called him the “greatest drummer in the world.”

He also drummed and sang in his own project, Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders. On top of all that, he was a loving husband and father to three children. 

Where and How Did Taylor Hawkins Die?

The details of Taylor Hawkins’ death are, on the one hand, very clear. On 25 March 2022, the Foo Fighters were in Bogota, Colombia, to play a scheduled concert that night. But, before they were able to head to the venue, paramedics were called to their hotel after a report that a guest was suffering from chest pains. 

This guest turned out to be Hawkins…

The paramedics arrived shortly before 8 pm and found Hawkins unconscious and unresponsive. Although they tried to resuscitate him, their efforts were in vain, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy was performed by Colombian officials, and the initial results were surprising. 

His death was attributed to heart failure… 

But, they also reported finding as many as ten substances in his body. And it’s not clear whether any of these could have caused or contributed to his heart attack. They found caffeine, anti-depressants, THC, alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines (usually prescribed to treat anxiety and even seizures). 

Other unconfirmed sources claimed to have seen hallucinogenic drugs and possibly cocaine in his room. However, a drug overdose was not suspected.

Even more unusual, however, was his heart itself…

Taylor’s heart weighed in at a pound and a half (600g). This is double what a normal man’s heart weighs at about ¾ of a pound (300-350g). Doctors suspected that his incredibly enlarged heart was the reason for his ultimate heart failure and death. Whether or not drugs contributed to that was never publicly reported.

What Was Going On Before Taylor Hawkins Died?

To understand how things ended up as they did, we have to take a step back and look at two things. These are the state of his health heading into the incident, and the activities that he was involved in that may have been contributing factors.

First, Hawkins himself mentioned having an enlarged heart in a 2021 interview with Rolling Stone magazine. In it, he claimed to be in excellent health and that his doctor told him his heart was big because he was so fit. 

This condition, called cardiomegaly, can be caused by many things and isn’t necessarily dangerous. It is often seen in pregnant women and also in ultra-fit athletes. 

But, it can also be a sign that something is wrong… 

Those include damage to the heart muscle, stress, high blood pressure, fat around the heart, and many other causes. So, while Hawkins appeared fine, his enlarged heart may have been a symptom of an underlying health problem. 

In the same interview, he claimed that his wife told him he had sleep apnea. That is another condition that can increase the risk of heart failure by 140%.

But he still pushed himself to perform and go on tour with the Foo Fighters…

The Foos had essentially been grounded for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, the band’s schedule slowed down considerably. While they still met to record and rehearse occasionally, most of the members spent a lot of downtime at home with their families. Hawkins was reportedly very grateful for this hiatus.

So, when they were able to start touring again, it’s possible that he experienced anxiety. There are reports in the press that he told numerous friends that he wasn’t able to go on with touring. He just couldn’t handle it anymore. 

Also, he had experienced pretty extreme stage fright/performance anxiety in the past with other artists and when first starting with Foo Fighters. There’s even a report that he collapsed on a plane in Chicago in December 2021.

Did Anyone Know Taylor Was in Trouble?

in Trouble

This may just be the million-dollar question. We already learned that his doctor had informed him he had an enlarged heart. However, Hawkins wasn’t concerned since he was told that this was due to his excellent level of fitness. Or at least, that’s what he reported in an interview. 

It’s possible that his doctor did give him warnings about this symptom. But, if so, Hawkins either kept this secret or didn’t take it seriously. 

Did his family know or worry about his enlarged heart? 

Once again, it’s possible, but it seems unlikely. Taylor Hawkins’ family released a statement that they were shocked by his untimely passing, and it seemed sincere. After having been at home for more or less two solid years, it must have been very hard for his family to say goodbye to him and watch him go out on the road again. 

However, Taylor Hawkins’ wife, Alison Hawkins, had always known him as a touring musician and must have understood that this was his career. 

Did the Foo Fighters know?

Here’s where there is a ton of rumor and speculation regarding the death of Taylor Hawkins. It has always been clear that Dave Grohl was the man in charge of this band. That’s because he started it as a 1-man solo project back in 1995. Largely to get back into music after the tragic demise of his bandmate, Kurt Cobain. 

Grohl is also the only person who has been a consistent member throughout the band’s history. He recruited Hawkins to play drums in 1997, stealing him away from Alanis Morissette, and they became fast friends. Grohl has stated that they were “like brothers from another mother” and that they were “meant to be together.”

So, did Taylor Hawkins tell Dave Grohl he had health problems? 

Unfortunately, this point is unclear. The Foo Fighters management company has vehemently denied that they or the band knew anything about Taylor Hawkins’ health issues. The Foo Fighters also released a statement that they were shocked by the death. And, since Hawkins’ death in March 2022, the band has been on hiatus – in mourning, it would seem.

On the other hand… 

A Rolling Stone magazine article claims to have other information. The article anonymously quoted some of Hawkins’ friends but also quoted Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam as saying they were concerned. 

Various sources alleged that Hawkins had told them he couldn’t go on tour at the pace the Foo Fighters were setting. Some also claimed that he told Grohl he was struggling. However, other friends told the journalists that he was too afraid to let Grohl down, so he just tried to soldier on. 

This may seem damning…

But, Smith and Cameron both later denounced the article, saying they were misquoted or taken out of context. So, once again, it seems that the reason Taylor Hawkins died is inconclusive. Without an investigation, no clear answer will likely ever be given. 

And it doesn’t seem that the Hawkins family is seeking an investigation. That tells me that they believe the official statements and don’t blame anyone else for Taylor’s death.

How Did Taylor Hawkins Die? – History of Drug Use

The preliminary investigation into Taylor’s death reported drugs in his hotel room. And the autopsy report indicated up to 10 different substances in his body at the time of his death. These included THC (an active chemical in cannabis), alcohol, opioids, tricyclic antidepressants, and benzodiazepines. 

Aside from the opioids, most of these can be seen as recreational (THC, alcohol) or medications (antidepressants and benzodiazepines generally used to treat anxiety). But, the opioids are a bit of a red flag. That’s because Taylor Hawkins nearly died of a heroin overdose in 2001.

In the late 90s and early 2000s… 

Taylor claims that he was “partying.” Eventually, this led to abusing substances like cocaine and heroin. He apparently overdosed after being given too much heroin, which he claimed he thought was something else. This led him to nearly die, and he was in a coma for two weeks before he came to and recovered. Dave Grohl, by the way, stayed with him in the hospital for most of that time.

Hawkins called his overdose “a wake-up call.” And he claims that this got him back on the road to sobriety. He was not known to use any hard drugs, and his bandmates even suggested that he drank alcohol occasionally and only in small amounts. So, it seems no one in his life – bandmates, friends, or family – thought that he was going near drugs again.

So, why were opioids found in his autopsy results?

I can think of three reasons. First, he was using opioids to get high secretly. Unlikely, by all accounts, but still possible. Second, he was using them without knowing. 

Adhering to a fast-paced schedule that he was having trouble dealing with, Hawkins could have reached out for help and been given medication without knowing it contained opioids. This could have come from a friend who simply didn’t know or a medical professional who wasn’t aware of his history. As for the third reason, the autopsy results could have been wrong.

Without a follow-up report made public, we’ll never know if Hawkins was indeed using these medications, even unknowingly. Nor will we know if they could have contributed to his untimely death.

Taylor Hawkins’ Legacy

Legacy

Taylor Hawkins is, of course, best known as the drummer for the Foo Fighters, and this is the band he was playing with when he passed away. He joined the Foos after Grohl asked for a recommendation for a new drummer, leaving his spot in Alanis Morissette’s backing band even at the height of her success. It seemed he was looking for a place in a Hard Rock band with like-minded musicians.

With the Foo Fighters, Hawkins recorded eight albums, starting with 1999’s legendary There Is Nothing Left to Lose. He toured extensively, playing drums and also occasionally singing lead. He is credited as a songwriter on all the band’s songs since 1999. And, together with the band has won 11 Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.

But that’s not all…

Before the Foos, Hawkins played drums for Alanis Morissette’s backing band Sexual Chocolate from 1995-1997. Before that, he was the drummer for Sass Jordan. Hawkins also founded his own band, Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders, in 1996 and drummed and sang with that group until he died in 2022. 

Other projects of his include the Hard Rock cover band Chevy Metal and the Progressive band, Birds of Satan, as well as the Rock supergroup NHC with Dave Navarro and Chris Chaney. 

That’s not to mention his countless recordings and collaborations with artists as diverse as The Beach Boys, Queen, Elton John, Iggy Pop, Slash, and many more. Taylor Hawkins was a hugely energetic, highly-skilled drummer that brought passion to every piece of music he played.

Want to Learn About Famous Drummers?

Well, check out our thoughts on the Best Rock Drummers of All Time, the Best Metal Drummers of All TimeRolling Stones Drummer – Charlie WattsWho Was the Drummer for NirvanaWho is the Famous One Arm Drummer, and The Female Drummers You Should Know for more information on amazing drummers.

So, How Did Taylor Hawkins Die? – Conclusion

While on tour with the Foo Fighters, Taylor Hawkins was found in his hotel room on 25 March 2022. Despite efforts to resuscitate him, he died in the hotel. The autopsy reported that Taylor Hawkins died of heart failure. It was also reported that his heart was dangerously enlarged. About double the size of a normal heart.

Whether drug use or his intense touring schedule contributed to his death is likely something we’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that two tribute concerts for Taylor Hawkins were held in London and Inglewood, California. 

Dozens of musicians paid tribute to him, including his son playing drums with the Foo Fighters on “My Hero.” I can’t think of a more fitting goodbye to one of the most legendary Rock drummers of the past 50 years. You will be missed, Taylor.

Until next time, take care of yourselves, and let the music play.

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