Roger Hawkins, Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section Drummer, Dead at 75
Roger Hawkins, drummer for the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, has died at the age of 75.
Hawkins’ passing was confirmed by the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation. The rocker had reportedly been suffering from several health issues, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in recent years.
Hawkins was born in Mishawaka, Ind. and took an interest in drumming at an early age. After initially banging on anything he could get his hands on - pots, pans, coffee cans, etc - Hawkins received his first drum kit as a gift when he was 13. Thus began a lifelong love affair with rhythms, which took him to Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Initially, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section - nicknamed the Swampers - were the house band for FAME studios. In 1969, Hawkins, along with bassist David Hood, keyboardist Barry Beckett and guitarist Jimmy Johnson, split away and began their own business, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.
Between the two locations, Hawkins would play on some of the most iconic releases in rock and R&B history. The list of tracks to feature his playing includes (but is not limited to): “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” and “Think” by Aretha Franklin, “Old Time Rock and Roll” and “We’ve Got Tonight” by Bob Seger, “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett, “Kodachrome” and “Loves Me Like a Rock” by Paul Simon, “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge and “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers.
In addition to these timeless tracks, Hawkins worked alongside such notable artists as Glenn Frey, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Art Garfunkel, Levon Helm, Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Leon Russell and Mavis Staples.
In the early ‘70s, Hawkins and his Swampers cohorts were also briefly members of the Steve Winwood-fronted group Traffic, appearing on their 1973 LP Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory.
“I was a better listener than I was a player and I think the other guys were too,” Hawkins recalled of the Swampers in a 2019 conversation with AL.com. “Because they loved music and they had catalogs of music in their brains, just like I had a catalog of stuff where I could pull out certain things and make it work with newer stuff.”
Hawkins was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2008.
In a message to its Facebook page, the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation remembered the drummer as “a kind and generous man who loved family, friends and his fellow musicians.”