Renowned session drummer Aaron Spears has died, aged 47

Session drummer, clinician and author, Aaron Spears
(Image credit: Future)

World-renowned session drummer, clinician and educator, Aaron Spears has passed away, aged 47. The news was broken via a social media post to Spears’ accounts by his wife, Jessica earlier today (30 October), just four days after he celebrated his birthday.

“It is with a heavy heart and overwhelming sadness that I share the news of the passing of my beloved husband, Aaron Spears”, Jessica writes.

“Aaron was not only an incredibly accomplished drummer admired by many for his unparalleled talent and passion for music, but he was also a devoted father to our precious son, August. 

“His love, guidance, and warmth were the pillars of our family, and his absence leaves a void that words cannot describe. We were blessed to have him in our lives, and his legacy will live on through the beautiful rhythms he created and the love that he shared with us.

"We appreciate all the thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Please remember Aaron for the incredible person he was and the amazing music he brought into our world. At this time we ask for privacy as we work our way through this.”

Aaron Spears grew up in Washington DC, where he gained a real-world education in drumming from a young age via his church attendance. After joining DC-based Gideon Band, Spears’ talent caught the attention of Valdez Brantley, musical director for R'n'B star Usher.

 It was a connection that would prove to be pivotal in Spears’ career, giving him the opportunity to produce two tracks on Usher’s Grammy-winning album, Confessions. 

Perhaps just as important, though, was Spears’ chop-filled performance of Usher’s hit, Caught Up, which, along with his hugely popular DVD, Behind the Chops, brought his jaw-dropping playing to the attention of millions of fans worldwide as one of the standout drummers in gospel.

He went on to secure many high profile gigs, working on stage and in the studio with the likes of Lil Wayne, Carrie Underwood, Chaka Khan, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and more.

In 2017, Spears was the drummer for Ariana Grande on her Dangerous Woman tour, which included the tragic show on 22 May when the Manchester Bombing occurred. The terrorist attack claimed the lives of 22 audience members, and injured over 1000 of the people in attendance.

Reflecting on the events via Instagram the following day, Spears wrote of the horror, which began immediately after Grande’s set hat finished. “We finished the show and were walking back to our dressing rooms and BOOM!!!! We could hear people panicking…

“Security came in and informed us that we had to evacuate the building immediately...It was then that we realized that this was serious...Initially we thought that the sound was all kinds of things but it didn't hit that this was a bomb until we were evacuated and they told us exactly what was going on…

“It's so heartbreaking because so many little ones attend our shows...I just keep thinking about them...I'm extremely thankful that no one on the touring crew was physically hurt but this painful memory and the weight associated with the lives lost will live with us all forever...I'm still just in disbelief....It's so surreal…”

In recent years, Aaron Spears turned his focus towards television work, taking the role of the house drummer on NBC’s Songland and serving as Musical Director for season 3 of the US version of The Masked Singer.

He went on to release the Aaron Spears Drum Notation book, containing transcriptions of six of his most popular performances in 2020

At the time of writing, no information has been publicly released relating to the cause of Aaron Spears’ death. He is survived by his wife Jessica and son, August. 

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.