One of the greatest drummers of all time died this weekend at age 90. His name was Hal Blaine, and even if that doesn’t ring a bell, you certainly know some of the 35,000 songs he played on — including 50 number one hits and over 150 top ten hits, some of which you’ll hear in the video embedded above — as part of The Wrecking Crew, a legendary group of Los Angeles studio musicians.
I wrote about their accomplishments seven years ago after reading Kent Hartman’s book about them, which included this story about some out-of-the-ordinary percussion work Blaine did on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” away from his drum kit:
Blaine stepped out to his car and brought in a set of snow chains from his trunk. Spending the next few hours on his knees in an old microphone storage room, Blaine alternately slammed the heavy-duty galvanized steel links onto the cement floor while being remotely recorded. Drag on one, smack on two, drag on three, smack on four. The brilliant maneuver ended up being incorporated as a dramatic percussion element from the song’s third verse all the way through to its epic conclusion.
Think about that next time you listen to the song.
If you want to know more about the contributions Blaine and his ultra-talented colleagues made to popular music over four decades, check out the Wrecking Crew documentary I wrote about in 2015, which is now streaming on Netflix.