Muscle Shoals Session drummer Roger Hawkins has died aged 75

Session drummer, songwriter and producer, Roger Hawkins has died aged 75 after suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among other conditions. Hawkins’ death was reported by his friend and musical collaborator, David Hood, who confirmed that he died at home in Sheffield, Alabama.

As a core member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (aka The Swampers), Hawkins played drums on dozens of hits during the 60s and 70s, as well as helping to form the revered ‘Muscle Shoals’ sound at producer Rick Hall’s FAME Studios. Some of Hawkins’ highlights from this time include Wilson Pickett’s Land of 1000 Dances, Aretha Franklin’s version of Respect (although not recorded at FAME), and Percy Sledge’s When a Man Loves a Woman and many others.

By the end of the 1960S, Hawkins and The Swampers moved out of FAME, starting their own studio at Muscle Shoals Sound, which would go on to host artists such as Eric Clapton - who also enlisted Hawkins on tour - The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Dylan and more.

Despite racking up a CV featuring a long list of legends, Hawkins and the rest of The Swampers played entirely from feel, rather than charts. Hawkins told Modern Drummer in 2017, “The way we’d put together those tracks, we would just start playing what we thought would work. If it didn’t, we’d change it to something else we thought would work. If the producer was having fun, we knew we were on the right groove. What we played was all ours. We couldn’t read music. A lot of people didn’t know that—couldn’t read a note.”

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.