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Legendary drummer Hal Blaine dies aged 90

Hal Blaine in the 1960s © Getty

Influential drummer Hal Blaine, who was a member of the fabled Los Angeles group of session musicians The Wrecking Crew, has died at the age of 90.

A statement issued by his family announced he died at his home yesterday (11th March).

It reads: “Hal Blaine - loving father of Michelle Blaine; grandfather of Anthony, Josh, Aaron, Whitney, Tempest, Ever and Lyryk; and inspiration to countless friends, fans and musicians - has passed on today, March 11th, 2019 at the age of 90. May he rest forever on 2 and 4.

“The family appreciates your outpouring of support and prayers that have been extended to Hal from around the world, and respectfully request privacy in this time of great mourning. No further details will be released at this time."

Hal Blaine was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, on 5th February 1929, and moved to California with his family as teenager.

Having played drums since the age of eight, Blaine later perfected his craft under the tuition of Roy Knapp, who also taught Gene Krupa how to play, and he became a session musician in the 1950s.

The following decade, Blaine became a pivotal member of a group of session musicians, which he dubbed the Wrecking Crew in reference to their naysayers who worried the group's flirtations with rock and roll was going to "wreck" the music industry.

As the de facto house band for Phil Spector, the Wrecking Crew helped the producer perfect his Wall of Sound style and they were hired for thousands of studio recordings in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Blaine performed on over 100 top ten singles, and on 40 number ones, throughout his influential career working with artists including The Beach Boys, John Lennon, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel and John Denver.

Arguably his most famous and instantly recognisable drumming was on The Ronettes’ ‘Be My Baby’ in 1963.


Hal Blaine in 2008 © Getty

Paying tribute to Hal Blaine, Brian Wilson said: “Hal Blaine was such a great musician and friend that I can’t put it into words. Hal taught me a lot, and he had so much to do with our success - he was the greatest drummer ever.”

The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts, who performed at Blaine’s 90th birthday recently, said: “Godspeed Hal. He gave us all so much. Feeling very blessed to have celebrated his life with him."

In 2000, Blaine was among the first "sidemen" inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and last year he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Recording Academy’s Neil Portnow said: “Hal Blaine was a legendary session drummer whose contributions as a member of the Wrecking Crew helped propel countless hits to the top of the Billboard charts in the '60s and '70s.

“He contributed to tens of thousands of songs throughout his career, including the Beach Boys' "Caroline, No" and Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." We extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and fellow music creators.”

You can read some of the tributes to Hal Blaine from across the rock world here:

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