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Bill Rieflin (1960–2020), R.E.M., King Crimson, Ministry drummer

by Kirk Fox

Bill Rieflin was a drummer who worked with R.E.M., King Crimson, and Ministry during a long music career.  The Seattle musician started out with the punk bands the Telepaths and the Blackouts in the 1970s. He joined industrial rock band Ministry in the late 1980s. In 2003, he became the touring drummer for R.E.M. and recorded with them until the band called it quits in 2011. Most recently, he was the drummer and played keyboards with legendary English prog rock band King Crimson.  

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Died: Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (Who else died on March 24?)  


Details of death: Died at the age of 59 from cancer.

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What they said about him: “A forever memory is decades old, “when I first met Bill at a late night Policeman’s bar in Seattle, sat at a greasy table drinking scotch, and we listened to ‘Birdland’ off the jukebox in reverent silence and awe. His attentiveness to that song then and there indicated a lot to me about what it would be to work with Bill — which commenced to create some magical and beautiful collaborations and life long friendships.” – Michael Stipe  

“Today we lost a wonderful artist, tremendous human being and an integral part of Ministry’s developments and success… Safe travels my brother on the way to your next universal gig.” – Ministry 

“Fly well, Brother Bill!”. “My life is immeasurably richer for knowing you.” – King Crimson’s Robert Fripp 

Full obituary: Seattle Times 

Related lives: 

Neil Peart and Rush‘s Greatest Songs  

Ginger Baker (1939 – 2019), Cream drummer 

John Bonham, Rock’s Greatest Drummer 

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