‘Greatest drummer ever’ Hal Blaine dies aged 90

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Tributes are being paid to “the greatest drummer ever” Hal Blaine following his death at the age of 90.

Blaine was the famous session musician who played with artists including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and John Lennon.

As a member of elite LA studio band The Wrecking Crew, he played on songs including Presley’s Return To Sender, The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations, The Ronettes’ Be My Baby and Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson, as well as the theme songs to Batman and dozens of other TV shows.

According to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he played on 40 number one hits and 150 top 10 songs in the US.

He died of natural causes at his home in Palm Desert, California, his family said.

The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson paid tribute in a tweet, saying: “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.”

Beatles drummer Ringo Starr tweeted: “God bless Hal Blaine. Peace and love to all his family. Goodbye Hal. An incredible musician.”

The winner of a Grammy lifetime achievement award last year, Blaine was never a household name.

But his skills helped create hundreds of hits in the ’60s and ’70s, and he played on tracks that won the Grammy award for record of the year six successive times, from 1965-1970.

Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, which organises the Grammys, 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.”

The son of Jewish immigrants, Blaine was born Harold Simon Belsky in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

He was drumming by the age of eight, using a pair of dowels he removed from a seat in the living room. He made it professionally aged 20.

As a member of The Wrecking Crew, which also featured keyboard player Leon Russell, bassist Carol Kaye and guitarist Tommy Tedesco, Blaine adapted quickly to a wide range of popular music.

He may be the only drummer to have backed Presley, Sinatra and John Lennon.

“Godspeed old friend,” Sinatra’s daughter Nancy Sinatra said in an Instagram tribute.

Some accounts have Blaine playing on 35,000 songs, but he believed that around 6,000 was more accurate, still making him a strong contender for the most recorded drummer in history. In 2000, he was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame.

His memoir, Hal Blaine & The Wrecking Crew, was released in 1990 and he continued to appear at symposiums and workshops into his 80s. Blaine was also seen in the 2008 documentary The Wrecking Crew and was played by Johnny Sneed in the Wilson biopic Love & Mercy.

The use of session musicians became a scandal in the late 1960s when it was discovered that the Monkees, the million-selling TV foursome, did not play on their songs.

Blaine, who drummed for the Monkees, knew that many top groups depended on him and his peers. He even became friendly with some of the players he sat in for, including Wilson’s brother Dennis Wilson.

“He was thrilled that I was making their records because while I was making Beach Boy records, he was out surfing or riding his motorcycle,” Blaine told Modern Drummer.

He also told the magazine that Bruce Gary, who played drums in the Knack, was once asked who his favourite drummer was.

“He was never so disappointed in his life to find out that a dozen of his favourite drummers were me.”

Blaine is survived by his daughter Michelle Blaine, and seven grandchildren.

(c) Sky News 2019: ‘Greatest drummer ever’ Hal Blaine dies aged 90

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