Friends mourn the Laguna Beach legend after his untimely death.
By Tanya A. Yacina
Taylor Hawkins, renowned drummer for the Foo Fighters rock band, passed away suddenly last month at just 50 years old while on tour in Bogota, Colombia. The news of the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s death on March 25 has shaken the music world, but Laguna Beach suffered an even more personal blow as the community lost one of its own.
Born Oliver Taylor Hawkins in Texas, as a child, he and his family moved to Laguna Beach, where he went on to graduate from Laguna Beach High School. Well before his time in the spotlight, Hawkins left lasting impressions on his adolescent friendships, many of which carried into adulthood. Friends remember him constantly drumming on things—tables, walls, the floor—even when he wasn’t in front of a drum kit. Moreso, those friends remember him as a father, a husband and a friend, as well as someone who always had a smile on his face and a positive outlook on life.
“We met when we were about 6 years old and have been friends ever since,” says friend Hans Hagen. “Taylor was a kinetic, loving and inclusive person. Not only to just me, but in the community; he was very giving. He did so much for my foundation, Mauli Ola, and played benefits in the middle of his hectic schedule. He created opportunities and wanted his friends to enjoy life with him. He stayed in touch with a lot of people in Laguna and kept the relationships going, which is also reflected in what he did in music.”
Hagen says Hawkins was a huge source of inspiration, and someone who never lost sight of why he got into music in the first place, which was simply to play the drums.
Eventually a Grammy Award winner, Hawkins initially played in Orange County-based band Sylvia, and then became the drummer for Canadian singer Sass Jordan. From 1995 to 1997, Hawkins joined Alanis Morissette on her “Can’t Not” tour in support of her “Jagged Little Pill” album, after which he joined the Foo Fighters, where he remained behind the kit until his death. Outside of his work with Foo Fighters, Hawkins teamed up with numerous notable musicians and groups, and embarked on several of his own side projects.
He also gave back to the community. Hawkins helped to support Laguna schools, even donating an autographed drumhead and a set of drumsticks that were signed by him and bandmate Dave Grohl to nonprofit SchoolPower’s gala auction in 2019. In the past, his band Chevy Metal also performed at fundraisers for Wheels 4 Life, the nonprofit started by champion mountain biker Hans Rey and his wife, Carmen. Through these contributions and many friendships, Hawkins remained connected to the town.
“Our families have been friends forever,” says Darren “Dagwood” Madrigal. “My brother, Tim, was Taylor’s closest friend since elementary school and that’s how we all became so close. Taylor is family and this is a monumental loss. He was never affected by fame, never let it get in the way, and he never had an ego despite who he’d become in the music world.”
Hawkins gave Madrigal’s son, Dante, his first drum lesson and his first drum kit. He says Hawkins always took time to talk to people he knew and even those he didn’t, like the many fans who approached him.
“Taylor is an incredible human who achieved things beyond his wildest dreams, and somehow lived a balanced life of having a family and being a rock star,” Madrigal says. “He represents the essence of the town in the sense that we are a tribal community—he never lost sight of the tribe. No matter how big he got, he never forgot his roots.”
Remembering a Friend
On the evening of Hawkins’ death, the Foo Fighters posted on the band’s social media channels: “The Foo Fighters family is devastated by the tragic and untimely loss of our beloved Taylor Hawkins. His musical spirit and infectious laughter will live on with all of us forever. Our hearts go out to his wife, children and family, and we ask that their privacy be treated with the utmost respect in this unimaginably difficult time.”
The official cause of Hawkins’ death has not yet been announced, and the Foo Fighters have canceled the remainder of its tour dates. A local paddle out will be held in Hawkins’ honor at a later time.
When in Laguna Beach, Hawkins would often be seen with friends at the beach, grabbing a taco or helping neighborhood kids with their music. His smile, high energy and pure talent drew people to him, as his friends and fellow rock stars remember in the many tributes and sentiments posted on social media and shared elsewhere. Several Laguna Beach tributes have already happened in Hawkins’ honor, including a drum circle hosted by KX FM and the Sound Spectrum’s colorful window display changing to proclaim “We love you Taylor.”
“Even if you didn’t know him, he brought a smile to your face,” says longtime friend Damian Carter. “He was all about positivity. He was a rockstar, yes, but that was only one side of him. He was a family guy with normal stuff going on—we became even closer once we both had children and could relate back and forth about general life stuff. He was a phenomenal and famous drummer, but he was also a rad person and friend.”
Damian and his brother, Alexander “Curly” Carter, collaborated to create a mural near Damian’s home in Laguna Beach. The hawk mural, a rendition of Hawkins’ notable tattoo, was the collaborative idea of the brothers; Curly painted the tribute.
“The mural is a little gift from my brother to Laguna … to remember our friend,” Damian says. “Taylor touched a lot of people with his music worldwide, but he touched his family and friends in Laguna even more. He was always just one of the bros.”