Drummer Hal Blaine, who played on thousands of ’60s and ’70s hits, has died at the age 90
Hal Blaine, the Hall of Fame session drummer and virtual one-man soundtrack of the 1960s and ’70s who played on the songs of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Beach Boys and set down a standout amongst music’s most essential opening riffs on the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” died Monday.
Blaine died of natural causes at his home in Palm Desert, California, his son-in-law, Andy Johnson, told The Associated Press. He was 90.
On hearing of his death, the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson called him “the greatest drummer ever.”
The winner of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award a year ago, Blaine’s name was known by couple of outside the music industry, even in his prime.
But just about anyone with a turntable, radio or TV heard his drumming on songs that included Presley’s “Return to Sender,” the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were,” the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” dozens of hits produced by Phil Spector, and the theme songs to “Batman,” ″The Partridge Family” and dozens of other shows.”
“Hal Blaine was such a great musician and friend that I can’t put it into words,” Wilson said in a tweet that included an old photo of him and Blaine sitting at the piano. “Hal taught me a lot, and he had so much to do with our success — he was the greatest drummer ever.”
As an member from the Los Angeles-based studio band “The Wrecking Crew,” which additionally highlighted keyboard player Leon Russell, bassist Carol Kaye and guitarist Tommy Tedesco, Blaine fashioned a well deserved virtuosity and adaptability that empowered him to adjust rapidly to a wide range of popular music. According to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he played on 40 No. 1 hits, 150 top 10 songs.
“Trust me, you loved his work,” comedian J. Elvis Weinstein tweeted Monday.
Blaine also played on eight songs that won Grammys for record of the year, including Sinatra’s “Strangers In the Night” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
He may be the main drummer to back Presley, Sinatra and John Lennon.
“Godspeed Old Friend,” Sinatra’s daughter Nancy Sinatra said alongside an Instagram picture she posted of Blaine backing her up as she sang.
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.
Out of such huge numbers of remarkable sessions, his mark minute was the eye catching “on the four” solo — Bum-ba-bum-BOOM — that launched the classic “Be My Baby,” a hit for the Ronettes in 1963 that helped define Spector’s overpowering “Wall of Sound” productions.
The song remained a radio staple for a considerable length of time and got new life in the ’70s when it was used to open Martin Scorcese’s “Mean Streets” and again in the ’80s when it was featured in “Dirty Dancing.”
Hardly any drum parts have been so broadly imitated, from Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” to The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey.”
In a 2005 meeting with Modern Drummer magazine, Blaine said that he wasn’t quite sure how he came up with the solo. To the best of his memory, he accidentally missed a beat while the song was being recorded and improvised by only playing the beat on the fourth note.
“And I continued to do that,” he recalled. “Phil might have said, ‘Do that again.’ Somebody loved it, in any event. It’s just one of those things that sometimes happens.”
Blaine nicknamed himself and his companions “The Wrecking Crew,” because they were seen by their progressively fastened down elders folks as dangerous to the industry — a declaration that Kaye and others debated. Numerous members from The Wrecking Crew worked nonstop for 20 years, at times upwards of eight sessions every day, a pace that prompted a few relational marriages and divorces for Blaine.
As more bands played individually records and electronic drums emerged, business dropped off during the 1980s even as more youthful musicians, such as Max Weinberg of the E Street Band, cited his influence.
His journal, “Hal Blaine and The Wrecking Crew,” turned out in 1990 and he kept on showing up at symposiums and workshops into his 80s. Blaine likewise was found in the 2008 narrative “The Wrecking Crew” and was played by Johnny Sneed in the Wilson biopic “Love and Mercy.”
Numerous more youthful drummers considered him a friend and mentor.
“Hal was funny, sweet, and genuine,” Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz, drummer for the “Weird Al” Yankovic Band, said in email to the AP. “He made you feel like you were the most important person in the room. His inspiration and influence to drummers everywhere is immeasurable. Hal was a treasure.”
The child of Jewish outsiders, Blaine was conceived Harold Simon Belsky in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
By age 8, he was at that point drumming, utilizing a couple of dowels he expelled from a seat in the family room.
He was an expert by age 20 and inside a couple of years changed from jazz to shake.
The utilization of session musicians turned into an outrage in the late 1960s when it was found that the Monkees, the million-selling TV foursome, did not play on their songs. Blaine, who, obviously, drummed for the Monkees, realized that many best gatherings relied upon him and his friends. He even turned out to be agreeable with a portion of the players he sat in for, including Wilson’s sibling 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.
Blaine told the magazine that Bruce Gary, who played drums in the Knack, was once asked who his favorite drummer was.
“He was never so disappointed in his life to find out that a dozen of his favorite drummers were me.”
Blaine is survived by his daughter Michelle Blaine, and seven grandchildren.