The recent Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concerts in London and Los Angeles marked the first time that the Foo Fighters performed without their beloved drummer, Taylor Hawkins, since his tragic passing. The emotionally charged sets were so great that it got some fans wondering what the band’s future will hold, if they have any future at all.
It’s always difficult to move on after a band member has passed. How do you replace them? Will the new member fit in musically? Will they get along with the band and the crew? Here, we look at how a couple of legendary groups dealt with losing a member while they were still active.
When Freddie Mercury died in 1991, fans reasonably presumed that it meant that the band was over. And for a time, it was. Surviving members Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor performed with a parade of guest vocalists at a massive Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992. In the late ‘90s, May and Taylor began performing at special events with different singers (Deacon had retired from music by then). In 2004, May and Taylor hooked up with former Bad Company and Free singer Paul Rodgers, dubbing themselves “Queen + Paul Rodgers.” They recorded a new studio album and toured, parting ways amicably in 2009. A few years later, they hooked up with former American Idol contestant Adam Lambert, doing their first tour with him in 2012. Queen + Adam Lambert still headlines arenas and stadiums today, although it seems doubtful that they’ll ever release any new music. May and Taylor, sans Lambert, performed at the Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts.
They performed at the London Taylor Hawkins tribute concert; the lineup included founding singer/guitarist Chrissie Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers (with Dave Grohl sitting in on bass). But the band’s founding guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott, and their founding bassist, Pete Fardon, both died drug-related deaths in 1982. The pair played on the band’s 1980 self-titled debut and 1981’s Pretenders II. Hynde and Chambers soldiered on after that (and even Chambers left the band for a few years). At their 2005 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Hynde quipped “I know the Pretenders have looked like a tribute band for the last twenty years, and actually, they are a tribute band.” She may feel that way, but even in their “tribute band” mode, they have released some classic songs, including “Back On The Chain Gang,” “My City Was Gone,” “2000 Miles,” “Middle of the Road,” “Show Me” and “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” to name a few.
Few bands have rebounded from a death in the family as successfully as AC/DC. Frontman Bon Scott died in 1980. Brian Johnson joined the band shortly after, and by the end of the year, they released their best-selling album ever, 'Back In Black.' Interestingly, Johnson was one of the performers at the London Taylor Hawkins tribute concert, playing “Back In Black” (which, itself, is a tribute to Bon Scott), followed by a song from Bon’s era, “Let There Be Rock.”
Drummer Lars Ulrich performed with Brian Johnson and the Foo Fighters at the London Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert, and he surely could have given the Foos some advice. Of course, Metallica was just a few years into its career when they lost bass player Cliff Burton in a bus accident. They soon hired Jason Newstead, formerly of Flotsam & Jetsam, to replace him. Members of the band later admitted that they didn’t take enough time to grieve over the loss of their friend, and James Hetfield regretted the “hazing” that Newstead got when he joined.
Guitarist Brian Jones parted ways with the Rolling Stones in June of 1969, and they quickly replaced him with Mick Taylor. Jones died just weeks later, but the band had already moved on by then. In 1985, keyboardist Ian Stewart died of a heart attack. Stewart wasn’t an official member of the band. He was, however, a founding member; their manager Andrew Loog Oldham forced the Stones to fire him because he didn’t fit their image. However, he would play piano on most of their early albums and was their road manager and often played piano at their live shows. His death actually seemed to help the band to reunite: they hadn’t performed in four years when they got together to play a show in tribute to him. Not long after, they started working on their 'Steel Wheels' album. More recently, drummer Charlie Watts died. They had already hired Steve Jordan to fill in for the ailing Watts on an already-postponed tour when Watts passed. They’ve been playing with him ever since. Had Watts died during a period of inactivity, Mick and Keith may have called it a day. But since there were shows on the books, they soldiered forward and now seem pretty comfortable working with Jordan, even hinting that he may record with them.
In 1978, their legendary drummer Keith Moon died. Soon after, Pete Townshend released a statement: "We are more determined than ever to carry on, and we want the spirit of the group to which Keith contributed so much to go on, although no human being can ever take his place." They soon welcomed former Faces drummer Kenney Jones and released two albums with him. The band effectively split up in 1983, reunited in 1985 for Live Aid, and that was the last time they ever performed with Jones. Zakk Starkey, son of Ringo Starr, has been their touring drummer since 1996.
In contrast to the Who, when Zep’s drummer John Bonham died in 1980, the band pretty quickly announced that they were breaking up. Surviving members Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones have only performed together a handful of times since. They played mini-sets at Live Aid, at Atlantic Records’ 40th anniversary celebration in 1988, at Jason Bonham’s wedding in 1990, and at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. On December 10, 2007, Plant, Page and Jones played their only full concert since Zeppelin’s breakup, with Jason Bonham on drums. And it seems likely that it won’t happen again.
Kurt Cobain’s death was the end for the band. Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic have performed Nirvana songs together for special occasions with different singers.
Sometimes, you just can’t find the right person. INXS tried a bunch of singers, before turning to the reality show 'Rock Star' to find someone to replace the late Michael Hutchence, who died in 1997. In all, they had three different singers fill in for Hutchence over the years. In 2012, the band announced that they were retiring from the road.
After the 1977 plane crash that took the life of the band’s singer and leader Ronnie Van Zant, along with guitarist Steve Gaines, backing singer Cassie Gaines and members of the band’s crew, it appeared that Skynyrd’s days were done. A decade later, some of the surviving members reactivated the band for a tour. Ronnie’s younger brother, Johnny Van Zant, who already had started his solo career, was the new singer. Johnny has been leading the band (along with founding guitarist Gary Rossington) for 35 years.
Def Leppard are a famously tough band. They’d already endured drummer Rick Allen’s horrific 1984 accident which cost him his arm. But in 1991, guitarist Steve Clark died of an overdose. They eventually moved on by recruiting another guitar hero from the era: former Dio and Whitesnake guitarist Vivian Campbell, who is still with the band today.
The band has been known for its revolving door lineup, but the one constant has always been bass player Chris Squire, who co-founded Yes and was with them until his passing in 2015 (minus a few years off when they were broken up). Then, last year, drummer Alan White who joined in 1972 passed away as well. Guitarist Steve Howe is the only current member who was on their classic ‘70s albums. Yes is still touring but at this point, they play much smaller venues.
Adam Yauch’s passing marked the immediate end of the group. Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz collaborated on other projects, including 'The Beastie Boys Book,' a brief speaking tour to promote it and then a film based on that tour. They both cameoed on Public Enemy’s “Public Enemy Number Won” from their 2020 album, 'What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down?' But no one expects to see the Beastie Boys reunite.
Original guitarist Hillel Slovak’s death was devasting for the band. After he died, drummer Jack Irons quit, leaving Flea and Anthony Kiedis to figure out a path forward. Their rebirth was nothing short of stunning. After solidifying a new lineup with drummer Chad Smith and guitarist John Frusciante, they released ‘Mother’s Milk,’ a solid album. But the followup, 1991’s ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ made them superstars. Frusciante has since quit the band twice, but he rejoined a few years ago, and this summer, they headlined their first stadium tour.
Their lead guitarist and leader, Duane Allman, died in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971, just three albums into the band’s career. On November 11, 1972, bassist Berry Oakley died – also in a motorcycle accident, just three blocks from where Duane’s accident occurred. The band moved on with bassist Lamar Williams and keyboardist Chuck Leavell, but soon fizzled out. They reunited in ‘78, splitting up again in ‘82. But when they tried again in ‘89, it stuck and the Allmans were frequently on the road for more than two decades after that, before splitting up for good in 2014. The more recent deaths of drummer Butch Trucks and singer/keyboardist Gregg Allman, though, seem to signal that the band’s days are done.
When singer Layne Staley died in 2002, the music world assumed that that would be the end of the band, and for a long time Alice In Chains was inactive. William DuVall was playing guitar and singing in Jerry Cantrell’s touring band and when they played Alice In Chains songs, something really clicked. A few years later, the band reunited with DuVall as their new singer. They’ve since released three albums and built up a respectable discography with the current lineup. “Check My Brain,” “Your Decision,” “Black Gives Way To Blue,” “Voices,” “Hollow,” “The One You Know” and “Never Fade” — to name a few – are great songs.
Singer Andrew Wood died soon after they finished their debut album, 1990’s 'Apple.' Supposedly, the band’s label offered them the opportunity to find a new singer and keep moving on, but the band decided to split up. Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard eventually got back together though, forming Pearl Jam; they still occasionally perform MLB’s classic “Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns” in concert.
Frontman Bradley Nowell died right before the band’s breakthrough album, 'Sublime,' was released. Bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh worked together in different bands after that, but realized that Sublime tribute bands were pulling bigger crowds than they were. Eventually, they launched “Sublime with Rome” with singer/guitarist Rome Ramirez. Gaugh has since left the band, but Sublime’s legacy is so big that they still tour.
Scott Weiland had been replaced by Chester Bennington in 2013, after the band parted ways with the singer. After Bennington left, he was replaced by their current frontman, Jeff Gutt, who they’ve recorded two albums with.