Roger Hawkins – Muscle Shoals Drummer

Roger Hawkins, drummer for the Swampers, the famous Muscle Shoals rhythm section, died this past week at age 75. His work on seminal recordings by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Picket, and Percy Sledge in the 1960’s earned him #31 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time.

In the many obits written about Hawkins, his work on Top 40 hits like “Land of 1000 Dances”, “Chain of Fools” and “When a Man Loves a Woman” are most often mentioned. Click on the links in the last sentence to remember how central his drum beats were to the memorable sound of those songs.

The internet lists over 200 tracks credited to Hawkins, including a number of 1970s hits for a diverse set of artists. “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers was recorded in 1972. It lifted an intro from a 1969 reggae instrumental “The Liquidator”, and Hawkins brought the song an early reggae beat.

Paul Simon wanted the rhythm section from “I’ll Take You There” to play a track on his album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, and was surprised to learn they weren’t Jamaican musicians. So he headed to Muscle Shoals, were he wound up using the Swampers for three tracks, including the lead single from the album, “Kodachrome”.

Hawkins and other members of the Swampers played on Traffic’s album “Shoot out at the Fantasy Factory”, and joined the band on tour. In this live performance, Hawkins and Traffic’s Jim Capaldi are both playing drums and Swampers David Hood and Barry Beckett are playing bass and organ respectively.

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