Chris Byers, MA, LMHC
Somebody To Love
Words Always Seem To Fall Short
My heart is especially heavy today. In times of loss, words always seem to fall short—always. To say I am sad is a gross understatement, and just doesn't do any justice to adequately describe all of what I'm feeling. On Saturday, my heart sank into the pit of my stomach as I read the following words on social media,"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 upmost respect in the unimaginably difficult time." Oliver Taylor Hawkins was more than just a rock-and-roll drummer, he was a real human, with real feelings, with real pain, and a real story. Like you and like me, he was Somebody To Love.
As a long-time music lover, former musician, and huge fan of the Foo Fighters, there are many parts of myself that get tugged on with tragic news like this. I first saw"The FOO" perform at The Ritz in Raleigh, NC. Seeing a massive band in such a small club is an unforgettable experience. Being less than 30-feet away from an electrifying drummer like Taylor, was a memory I will treasure forever. Over twenty years later, my ears are still ringing (literally) from the last time I saw the band live in 2018 when they performed at Safeco Field (Now T-Mobile Park) here in Seattle, WA. While it has been many years since I played a set of drums or an electric guitar, musicians like Taylor always seem to inspire that part of me that still loves playing music. However, putting my FOO fandom aside, the therapist part of me grieves in a much different way.
It is no secret that Taylor had a longstanding battle with substance use. In 2001, he overdosed on heroin and was in a coma for two weeks. Some might say this is par for the course for those navigating the Rock-and-Roll lifestyle, and for many, this is certainly a common story. Although the glitz and glam of stardom often creates many opportunities to celebrate, the bright lights of being a world renowned superstar is often just another "drug" that helps medicate deep-seated pain and suffering. While preliminary reports reveal a lethal toxicology, I refuse to belittle the tragedy of his death as a simple story of another rock star overdose. Everyday, I sit with the Taylor Hawkins' of this world, and so many of us are hurting.
Taylor Hawkins had a story, and one not always shared in Grammy acceptance speeches. The Guardian published his obituary and I was struck by an all too familiar line. Referencing an older interview from the Sydney Morning Herald, writer Adam Sweeting recounts some of Taylor's formidable years. Hawkins states, “I was a fat, chubby, stupid kid who failed at everything and whom nobody liked,” he later recalled. “Then I started playing drums.” His mother was always supportive of his efforts at singing and playing drums. “She was a big supporter and told me I’d make it,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “She counteracted Dad’s stony coldness, typical of a 1970s man.” If you strip away his amazing musical talent, charisma, and surfer-dude good looks, Taylor's vulnerability reveals much more than many of us are willing to acknowledge, even rock stars have the shame pain. Of course, it's the therapist in me that tends to read below the surface, but like many who die untimely substance informed deaths, autopsy reports almost never tell the whole story.
Because I don't personally know Taylor, I acknowledge so much of what I believe about him is based on pure speculation. However, I will never, ever, be convinced that the real cause of his death was simply drug related. And no, I am not attempting to stir any conspiracy theory either. Stories like this do not develop overnight and are not merely the result of a one-night bender. Regardless of class, race, religion, gender, or any other category we use to "other ourselves", stories like this are shaped and informed early on in our lives. In my work, I am privileged to have a backstage pass to the untold stories of human suffering, and I believe Taylor Hawkins is no different than you or I. Some of us unfortunately have more resources to pseudo-hide how the pain of our past tends to live on in the present.
For those left grieving the loss of the Taylors' of this world, I hope the pain of these "tragic and untimely" deaths will lead to our transformation. When we lose a friend, a neighbor, a sibling, a child, a spouse, a partner, a colleague, a teammate, or a bandmate, we lose a part of ourselves. We must fight to create a world where we normalize the truth-telling of our pain and suffering and seek both healthier ways of coping and support that leads to healing, growth, and change for us all. Taylor Hawkins, I sincerely hope your body and musical spirit are finally at peace and hope you died knowing that you are 1000%, Somebody To Love. (Taylor's final frontman performance with the Foo Fighters singing a cover of the Queen hit, Somebody To Love. Performed at Lollapalooza Argentina/ F-bomb warning.)