Without wishing to turn this into a morbid obituary blog, I nonetheless feel that it would be wrong of me not to mourn the passing of Richie Hayward at the age of 64. As I’m sure you won’t need to be reminded, Hayward was one of the finest rock drummers around and occupied the drum chair in one of the most memorable of 70’s bands, Little Feat, from their inception until last year when he was diagnosed with liver cancer.
A native of Iowa, Hayward had lived in British Columbia in recent years and the news of his illness plus his lack of any health insurance led to a rash of benefits by numerous bands to raise money for his treatments. Sadly, all to no avail.
Drummers tend not to get too much of the spotlight unless they are out and out eccentrics like Keith Moon, but it’s a measure of the regard in which Hayward was held that he featured on recordings by a virtual wh0’s who of 1970’s rock music…Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, The Doobie Brothers, John Cale, Warren Zevon, Joan Armatrading, Nils Lofgren, Taj Mahal, Robert Palmer, Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills, Tom Waits etc. Frankly, you don’t get to play with folks like that unless you’re pretty damn good – and he was.
Richie had run into medical problems long before the illness that claimed his life. The back cover of Little Feat’s 1975 release – ‘The Last Record Album’ – is festooned with sheet after sheet of charges from a Los Angeles hospital. These were incurred by Hayward following a motorbike accident – seems like he had no health insurance then, either.
If I were asked to nominate Richie Hayward’s finest hour, I think it would have to be the thunderous drum pattern that underlies Little Feat’s ‘Old Folks’ Boogie’ from the ‘Time loves a hero’ album (1977).
Little Feat are due to play the Cropredy Festival tonight and it will no doubt be an emotional occasion for the remaining members.
Condolences to all those who knew and loved the man.