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Hal Blaine (1929–2019), drummer who defined the pop music of a generation

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Wrecking Crew drummer played on hits including "Be My Baby"

Hal Blaine was the drummer for the Wrecking Crew, the session band that played on some of the greatest pop and rock hits of the 1960s and ‘70s. The songs he played on include “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver, “Everybody Loves Somebody” by Dean Martin, “These Boots Are Made for Walking” by Nancy Sinatra, “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” by Diana Ross, “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain & Tennille, “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by the 5th Dimension, the theme song from "Three's Company," and hundreds more. He played on 40 Billboard No. 1 hits, was awarded 263 gold and platinum records, and his drums were featured in six consecutive Grammy Award Record of the Year recipients, from 1966 through 1971.

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Died: March 11, 2019 (Who else died March 11?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 90

Is there someone you miss whose memory should be honored? Here are some ways.

Hal Blaine Strikes Again: Blaine was absolutely everywhere during the height of his career, and his drum skills touched so many songs that he decided to provide proof of his ubiquity. He had a rubber stamp custom made, reading “Hal Blaine Strikes Again,” which he would stamp on the score for any piece of music he played on. He began stamping it in venues where he played too — drummer Mike Botts of Bread later noted, “Every studio I went to in the late ‘60s, there was a rubber stamp imprint on the wall of the drum booth that said, ‘Hal Blaine strikes again.’ Hal was getting so many studio dates he actually had a rubber stamp made. He was everywhere!’”

Blaine on the making of his iconic beat in “Be My Baby”: “I was supposed to play the snare on the second beat as well as the fourth, but I dropped a stick. Being the faker I was in those days, I left the mistake in and it became: ‘Bum-ba-bum-BOOM!’ And soon everyone wanted that beat.” —from a 2015 interview with the Guardian

What people said about him: “I’m so sad, I don’t know what to say. 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. We also laughed an awful lot. Love. Brian” —Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys

“25 months ago Hal Blaine and I made music for the last time together at the NAMM Convention. Today I regrettably have to say goodbye to Hal, and thank him for the magic he put on all our Ronettes recordings… and so many others throughout his incredible career. Thank you Hal. Love forever, Ronnie xxx” —Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes

“May he rest forever on 2 and 4.” —from a statement by his family

Hal Blaine's greatest in our gallery.

Full obituary: Los Angeles Times

Related lives:

  • Glen Campbell (1936–2017), country music star got his start playing in the Wrecking Crew
  • Leon Russell (1942–2016), legendary rocker played keyboards with the Wrecking Crew
  • Earl Palmer (1924–2008), fellow Wrecking Crew drummer