Roger Hawkins, a Rhythm & Blues Master Drummer

Roger Hawkins may be the greatest drummer in the world, as Jerry Wexler, the producer who came up with the term “Rhythm & Blues” claimed. He always knew how to hit his drums in the right manner. He has benn a drummer that shaped American popular music as being part of the Alabama’s famed Muscle Shoals music scene.

He died on Thursday afternoon (May 20, 2021), as announced by the The Muscle Shoals Music Foundation.

Roger Hawkins
Roger Hawkins

Roger Hawkins approach was different from the normal hard-hitting rock style of his age. Instead, he worked around a drum with a soft approach that always brought out the best music sounds. He was always inventing new ideas to play his drums.

He belonged to a group known as the Swampers with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Here, the drummer was open to learning new techniques, to which he quickly adapted to. But that only encourages him to come up with unique styles that suited his needs and d sessions. He was not just an encouragement to his needs but to those who worked with him too.

His first greatest track was “Land of 1000 Dances” by Wilson Pickett. It was the stepping stone Hawkins needed to step out into the light. Every he played, he made everyone around him ask for more.

It was only on his unique styles of hitting the drums that gave him such recognition. Whenever he sat held the sticks in his hands, it was always clear something incredible was about to go down. He rarely repeated the same style.

Roger Hawkins On Drum
Roger Hawkins On Drum

When Paul Simon came looking for a specific lope for “Kodachrome,” Hawkins took it very seriously and managed to tap on the tape box. Everyone who listened to his work would agree it was the action of a master craftsman.

It was simply impressive how he worked around this piece, making it every sound that came outsweeten the air around. When it came to drumming blues songs, the drummer made every sound count.

When Aretha approached him to work on the “Chain of Fools,” the drummer created some intricate cymbal patterns that build up the piece. It is a wonderfully sounding song that has inspired so many people. And it is this piece, among many others that put him on top as one of the greatest drummers of all time.

Later, Hawkins also worked on the wry funk patterns behind “I’ll Take You There,” by Aretha. Every sound that comes out has been carefully weighed, offering an incredibly sweet final peace. 

This shows how the drummer understood his drums. He made the sounds come out with feelings and emotions.

When he worked on Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” the subtle drama that he lays on the backgrounds gives out all the important signals. You can feel the message in the drums and instrumentals, even before the lyrics come into play. It comes with the subtleness strength of a master craftsman.

Roger Hawkins Drumming
Roger Hawkins Drumming

When you consider these pieces, it is hard to argue with Wexler that Hawkins is the greatest drummer in the world. It is like the techniques are written on his fingers, and they flow into the sticks when he begins to use them.

It is his unique ideas that have encouraged many others to follow his footsteps.

What do you think?

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Written by Andrea

Andrea is a music lover and an experienced drummer with more than 15 years of drumming with different bands and music projects, such as Seditius and Hermano & the Marines.

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