Hal Blaine has died. The session drumming legend was 90. What a life. What a legacy. If he wasn’t the most prolific sessioneer skinsman he was certainly the most successful of the busy-schedule players. A part of one of the greatest groups of all time – The Wrecking Crew (not a band as such, a collective of session stars that added the key parts and finishing touches to so many of the songs you and I love). Blaine is, most likely, the drummer you have heard the most in your life.
Don’t believe me?
Think about how often you’ve heard songs by The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, The 5th Dimension, Frank Sinatra and Simon & Garfunkel. Oh, and we’re just getting started. Add, instantly, John Denver, Emmylou Harris, the Rocky Horror Show’s original cast recording, Dean Martin, The Mamas and The Papas and The Carpenters.
On and on – we could keep on going. One hit wonders, and legendary names, from the late 1950s on through the 1960s and 70s and into the 80s. Blaine also released ‘drum’ albums – leading his own groups through covers of the day in the big showband style, but he was always all-class. He was a drummer that knew what to do. Every time. On time. In time. Forever-perfect.
Be My Baby, Then He Kissed Me, I Am A Rock, I Get Around, Good Vibrations, God Only Knows, Surf City, California Dreaming, These Boots Are Made For Walking, Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In, Can’t Help Falling In Love, A Little Less Conversation, Everybody Loves Somebody, Eve of Destruction, Johnny Angel…
I mean, come on! All day, every day. You’ve heard Hal Blaine. You will always hear Hal Blaine.
I listen in awe. His decisions. The choices. The precision. The tone. The colour. The craft.
He is the lesson.
He is the music.
So it’s not sad in the sense that he was 90. He lived a great life, did so much, was happy and funny and wise. Was good. Beyond good. Was legendary.
But is the passing of a great. A monumental great. A guy that just wanted to serve the music. And did so. As well as anyone, so much better than most.
Click here or see below for a playlist I made of as many of the great songs as he played on that I could think of while writing this up.
It is a history of music in and of itself. And yet it is just a scratching of the surface…
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