Roger Hawkins has died. The legendary session drummer was 75. A member of The Swampers, a supergroup of session stalwarts, the backbone of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, Hawkins was one of most tasteful, dependable players – no ego in dominance, all empathy for the tune.
Even if you don’t recognise the name you have heard the playing. He’s one of those guys. He’s on some of the biggest songs of all time – When A Man Loves A Woman, Respect, Land of 1000 Dances, Chain of Fools, Mustang Sally…those sorts of songs.
He’s there on a half-dozen of Aretha Franklin’s best albums from that incredible run through the late sixties and into the early 1970s. He played on Paul Simon’s first significant run of post Simon & Garfunkel megahits, worked with Bob Seger and not that you need more names to be impressed but add: J.J. Cale, Peabo Bryson, Ry Cooder, Jimmy Cliff, Eric Clapton, Jose Feliciano, Cher, Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart, Mavis Staples, Candi Staton, Tony Joe White, Solomon Burke, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Joan Baez, Paul Anka, Patti Austin…and still there are more.
Below I’ve made a playlist of the biggest of the Top 40 hits that Hawkins played on. It’s a great set of songs – you’ll know almost all of them straight away. But listen through to them now, or when you next do, with your ear focussed on the drumming. It was often song-making drumming, without ever being show-off drumming. There’s not many that could do that. And now there’s one less than used to be the case.
R.I.P. Roger Hawkins