Veteran rock drummer Bill Rieflin, who played with R.E.M., King Crimson, Ministry and many others, died Tuesday at age 59 after a long battle with cancer, his sister Kathryn confirmed to The Seattle Times.
Rieflin began playing with bands in his native Seattle during the 1970s and early ’80s. He joined Ministry in 1986 and also played with that group’s side projects Pigface and Revolting Cocks. After leaving Ministry in 1994, he contributed drums, keyboards and programming to a series of albums by the German industrial-rock band KMFDM.
Rieflin became R.E.M.’s touring drummer in 2003 and remained with the group until its 2011 breakup. He also appears on the band’s final three studio albums — 2003’s Around the Sun, 2007’s Accelerate and 2011’s Collapse into Now. He became a member of King Crimson in 2013, playing drums and keyboards with the famed prog-rock band until his death.
In a tribute posted on R.E.M.’s official website, singer Michael Stipe noted that Rieflin created “some magical and beautiful collaborations and life long friendships.
Stipe added, “[He’s now] among all the fine points of the stars and we are looking up with love — and with our own reverence for his beauty, his humor, his relentless curiosity and of course his incredible musical ear, his time here with us so precious and golden.”
R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills tweeted his own homage that reads, “Bill Rieflin was a gentleman and a gentle man, but he could beat the s*** out of a set of drums. A musical polymath, deeply intelligent and very funny. I’ll miss sharing his darkness and his laughter. Words really don’t suffice.”
King Crimson’s Robert Fripp also posted a tribute that said, “Fly well, Brother Bill! My life is immeasurably richer for knowing you.”
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