Hal Blaine, Hall of Fame session drummer and virtual one-man soundtrack of the 1960s and ’70s, died Monday.
Blaine played on the songs of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Beach Boys and laid down one of music’s most memorable opening riffs on the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”.
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 last year, Blaine’s name was known by few 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 and the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations.
Blaine also performed on 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,” Wilson said.
As a member of the Los Angeles-based studio band The Wrecking Crew, Blaine forged a hard-earned virtuosity and versatility that enabled him to adapt quickly 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 and eight songs that won Grammys for record of the year.
Our condolences to the family of #HalBlaine, drummer extraordinaire in the Wrecking Crew who played on many Beach Boys tracks, including “Good Vibrations,” “I Get Around,” “Help Me, Rhonda” & more. Love and mercy x https://t.co/SV3SCnWZ9j
— The Beach Boys (@TheBeachBoys) March 11, 2019
Here is a tribute to my dear friend and Drummer Man, Hal Blaine. Godspeed, Hal. 💔 https://t.co/3HgAyX2u9V
— Nancy Sinatra (@NancySinatra) March 11, 2019
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 pic.twitter.com/vLOX3RIKc6
— Brian Wilson (@BrianWilsonLive) March 11, 2019
God bless Hal Blaine peace and love to all his family Goodbye Hal an incredible musician. 😎✌️🌟❤️☮️
— #RingoStarr (@ringostarrmusic) March 12, 2019
“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,” the Recording Academy said in a statement Monday.
Some accounts have Blaine playing on 35,000 songs, but he believed that around 6000 was more accurate, still making him a strong contender for the most recorded drummer in history.
In 2000, he was part of the first group of session players to be inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame.
The son of Jewish immigrants, Blaine was born Harold Simon Belsky in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
He is survived by his daughter Michelle Blaine, and seven grandchildren.