Love - Music - Tragedy: Why the Loss of a Musician Can Hurt
Photo: Charlie Meister
Loss of life is never an easy topic of discussion. It’s moments like the recent passing of Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Drummer Taylor Hawkins, that really put things into perspective. Why is that though? Why does it take the loss of an artist's life for us to realize how important that person truly is to the community of music? This and so many other questions are why I’ve decided to write this. In some small selfish way, I’m writing to help myself cope with the sudden passing of Taylor Hawkins, however I also have to step back and ask the questions some may not want to for fear of ridicule or judgment.
In the last short decade or so, the music industry has lost many beautiful voices and souls. These people are more to us than artists and paint a picture with their songs and performances that not many can for us who consume it. For me personally, music has always been there for me. Kind of like an unseen force or person, constantly comforting me or giving me the energy I need when I need it. Since this is a soul bearing piece of journalism, let me allow you some insight as to why music has the relevance it does with me.
2011 I lost someone extremely vital in my upbringing in a very tragic way. I became the one person who had to be strong for everyone else. Until I couldn’t anymore. I found myself at the river's edge on the Ohio river. Pleading to be shown a sign or for some type of intervention. That is the moment where I heard Alter Bridge’s "Blackbird" and an immense peace and wave of relief washed over me. I wanted to be a part of the industry in some way. Shortly after I discovered concert photography and later on photojournalism. It gave me something to focus on. Some way to show others how I view music and stay in and around it all the time.
I began to consume music in a very different way than before. Learning about musician’s lives, inspirations for writing and performing as well as what inspires them. It became very personal for me. Especially once you meet some of these people and for the first time they feel real, they’re people with feelings and families like us, they just have a unique job of moving us. The first artist to pass since my indoctrination into the industry was Chris Cornell. What a slow burn of emotions for me that was. As was for many fans. Then there was Chester Bennington. When I tell you that one hurt bad.. Growing up on lyrics I could really connect with in middle school and knowing I wasn’t alone in feeling how I felt was a great comfort. Chester’s passing still feels like an aftershock after an earthquake.
Taylor Hawkins performing at Sonic Temple 2019: Photo by Charlie Meister
Now, very recently, our community has lost another wonderful soul. Taylor Hawkins. Drummer of The Foo Fighters. This man was more to others than just some drummer. He was a husband, a father and bandmate. Taylor helped inspire a new generation of up and coming drummers to learn the art and pursue their passion. I know many drummers (and non drummers) who have been influenced by Hawkins and his tragic death is shaking the music industry and its fans to their core.
Hawkins joined the band in 1997, after a stint in Alanis Morisette’s live band. It wasn’t long after becoming a member of the already legendary band Foo Fighters that Hawkins fit right in. Becoming the legend we all would come to know and love. Not only a terrific drummer but an outstanding singer, performer and collaborator. Taylor Hawkins would truly go on to be a tour de force unlike anything we’ve ever seen. I was fortunate to see the Foo’s perform as headliners at 2019’s Bourbon & Beyond in Louisville, Kentucky. The band was on fire and Hawkins was blisteringly perfect.
I reached out to a few people and asked them this question: “Why is an artist you love’s passing so impactful to you?” These answers are what we feel, why music is so important and has a lasting impression on us all. It’s more than “just music”, “just songs” & “just people”.
“I believe the reason certain musicians' deaths are so impactful to some is because they feel like family. They sit on your bedroom floor with you for hours upon hours everyday, listening to their records and thumbing through the booklets. They’ve sung you out of a bad time. Played you to sleep. Conveyed your feelings about someone TO someone because you yourself couldn’t find the words to say. It’s not the death of a stranger, it’s the death of a huge part of yourself.”
-Clayton Crowder, Singer/Songwriter, Kentucky
“A lot of emotions occur when we lose a music icon. When you listen to a band or artist for a certain amount of time, that music becomes a part of who you are and what you’ve experienced in your life. When we discover new music or become attached to a song we typically connect that to a feeling, emotion, or memory of the time we first heard it. Their music helps us get through the hard times, lets us remember the good times, and allows us to escape reality for a few brief moments anytime that we need it to. When we lose a person whose music has been there for us through all of those memories, we’re reminded of all of those emotions (the good and the bad) that we attached to the songs that they wrote. Their music has been with you through so many things, It’s like losing a part of yourself.”
-Rob Diver, Singer, Kentucky
“For me personally, music is just such a huge part of my life. And on some level I feel really connected to the musicians, I tend to go over and over the lyrics and meanings of songs and it feels like someone understands things not even those close to me do. And music always helped me in the darkest times. So to see someone I look up to as an artist and who I feel this strange wonderful connection to passes away, it really hurts and cuts deeply.”
-Niwy Kováčova, Photojournalist ,Slovakia
“We hold certain musicians close because they’re an intimate part of our lives. Put aside the musicianship, the cool factor or idolatry; the music they made is intrinsic to our lives, songs become our armor to protect us emotionally while some pierce our memories and open up a longing for moments in our lives that keep us afloat. When they leave us, we feel that a part of our souls too have passed on; the door to youthful exuberance has closed. We become vulnerable again once the music fades away”
-Justin Press, Shiprocked, New Orleans
“Even though we might not know the artist personally, we form an unbreakable bond with them through their art. In some ways, that bond is stronger than the ones we have with people we personally know because they inspire us through their music.”
-Anna Gevorkian, Drummer/Singer/Songwriter of Los Angeles
“I’d day as musicians we tend to idolize people who influenced us because we see a bit of ourselves in them, their playing, lyrics, personality, what have you. These things, especially in music, shape how we view and respond to the world. So we see that part of ourselves that they influenced, and it’s almost like a piece of us is passing. To me, it reminds us of our own mortality.”
-Zac Shoopman, Drummer, Kentucky
The music industry has seen a lot of people come and give us things that will forever be ingrained in our minds and hearts for years to come, sadly it has also seen many go on into the great beyond, leaving behind a legacy and memories we attach to their music forever. We honor those people not by reflecting on the manner in which they passed on, but in the way they impacted the lives they touched while they were still with us. Because of that imprint the music has given, they will always be with us.
It was Dave Grohl who said it best; “That’s one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.” Music matters and when we lose someone who’s had something to do with that music in any way shape or form, we are moved, compelled to feel as though we knew that person because of the impact they have had in our lives. In short, if you have the chance to meet your person, your favorite artist, do it. Buy the meet and greets, wait patiently behind the barricade in the heat or cold nights after a show for them to come say ”Hi” and never forget that this all happened because they had a dream to inspire someone with their art one day.