The rock world lost a profoundly talented drummer this week. The New York Times reports Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward, 64, passed away in Vancouver, British Columbia. He succumbed to liver cancer while awaiting a transplant. One could talk about Hayward’s playing, but two excellent samples can be found on YouTube: here is a drum solo performed at the House of Blues in 1999, and here you can check out Little Feat performing “Fat Man in the Bathtub” at the BBC in 1975. Because Hayward had no health insurance, benefits had been taking place to cover his medical expenses.
Little Feat initially drew inspiration to ties with early experimenters Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, but shifted more towards a fusion approach to Dixie Rock, with clear ties to the New Orleans sound, but also country, jazz, and blues undertones. Singer Lowell George’s overdose in 1979 caused the band to split, but they reunited in 1987 and continue to tour. They performed with Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, and Eric Clapton, among other chart-topping artists.
We’ve lost some amazing musicians this year, and like Hayward they weren’t as well known as they should be. Big Star guitarist and lead singer Alex Chilton and founding bassist Andy Hummel both died this year. Though the band never achieved commercial success, they were tremendous influences on many acts, including REM, Wilco, Beck, Garbage, and Cheap Trick. According to Rolling Stone, Chilton died of a heart attack in New Orleans, only a few days before the band were to perform at the Austin SXSW festival. Hummel died after a two-year long cancer struggle. Both artists passed away at age 59. Musically, Big Star’s only surviving founding member is drummer Jody Stephens; guitarist Chris Bell was killed in a 1978 car accident.
You can hear Big Star’s “Thirteen” here and “September Gurls” here on YouTube.
Young artists can still have a lot to learn from musicians who’ve come before, and it’s well worth an aspiring performer’s time to research successful artist’s influences. You aren’t likely to hear Little Feat or Big Star on the radio much, nor other little known but equally influential acts such as Hüsker Dü, Television, Green River, Mother Love Bone, the Melvins, Wire, Jeff Buckley, and the Velvet Underground. Each band had a significant impact on numerous rock acts, though they themselves never achieved great fame. It’s a loss for friends and loved ones when great artists die early, but it’s a huge cultural loss when musicians pass without comment. Hayward deserves to be remembered for his achievements, by the rock community and by anyone who enjoys fun and enthusiastic drum work.
Richie Hayward, “Richie Hayward Drum Solo” YouTube
BBC Four, “Little Feat Fat Man In The Bathtub” YouTube
Big Star, “Big Star – Thirteen 1972” YouTube
Big Star, “Big Star – September Gurls” YouTube
Associated Press, “Richie Hayward, Drummer, Dies at 64” New York Times
Daniel Kreps, “Big Star Singer and Cult Icon Alex Chilton Dead at 59” Rolling Stone
Daniel Kreps, “Big Star Bassist Andy Hummel Dies at 59” Rolling Stone