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Muscle Shoals Drummer Roger Hawkins Dies At 75

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Drummer Roger Hawkins has died. As part of the Swampers, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, he backed Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, the Staple Singers, the Rolling Stones and others in the '60s and '70s. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAND OF 1,000 DANCES")

WILSON PICKETT: (Singing) One, two, three. One, two, three.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: There are lots of jokes about drummers, but songs like Wilson Pickett's "Land Of 1,000 Dances" might not have been a hit without Roger Hawkins...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAND OF 1,000 DANCES")

PICKETT: (Singing) Na, na na na na, na na na na na na na na na na, na na na na. I need somebody to help me say it one time.

BLAIR: ...The yearning in Percy Sledge's voice might not feel so urgent.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN")

PERCY SLEDGE: (Singing) Baby, please don't treat me bad. When a man loves a woman...

BLAIR: Roger Hawkins is one of Rolling Stone's 100 greatest drummers of all time. The magazine singles out the intricate symbols he added to Aretha Franklin's "Chain Of Fools."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHAIN OF FOOLS")

ARETHA FRANKLIN: (Singing) But up until then, yeah, I'm going to take all I can take. Oh, yeah. Chain, chain, chain. Chain, chain, chain.

BLAIR: Hawkins was born in Mishawaka, Ind. In an interview with the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, he said his first instrument was the piano.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROGER HAWKINS: I didn't care for the piano teacher, and the piano teacher didn't care for me. And - but one thing - she did bring a little toy set of drums to the class one day. It was a bass drum. She was hitting down beats. You know, the one, two, three, four - teaching us where one and three - and I thought, well, you know, I can do that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MUSTANG SALLY")

PICKETT: (Singing) Mustang Sally.

BLAIR: The Swampers were bassist David Hood, guitarist Jimmy Johnson and then Barry Beckett. Here's David Hood.

DAVID HOOD: Since about 1964, we recorded about a thousand songs together with everybody - Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, the Staple Singers. And we'll really miss Roger. He's probably one of the best drummers in the world. And he's really going to be missed.

BLAIR: Roger Hawkins died at his home in Sheffield, Ala. He was 75. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL TAKE YOU THERE")

THE STAPLE SINGERS: (Singing) I know a place ain't nobody crying, ain't nobody worried, no, ain't no smiling faces. No, no, lying to the races. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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