Bill Rieflin Of King Crimson, R.E.M. Dies At 59


Bill Rieflin, who played drums for bands like Ministry, R.E.M. and King Crimson, died Tuesday in Seattle after a battle with cancer. He was 59.

King Crimson’s Robert Fripp shared on Facebook that Rieflin’s wife Tracy told him “the day was grey, and as Bill flew away the clouds opened, and the skies were blue for about fifteen minutes.”

Fripp added: “Fly well, Brother Bill! My life is immeasurably richer for knowing you.”

R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe paid tribute to his former bandmate on Instagram.

“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,” he recalled. "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.

“And so to Bill now, he is among all the fine points of the stars and we are looking up with love – and with our own reverence for his beauty, his humour, his relentless curiosity and of course his incredible musical ear, his time here with us so precious and golden.”

R.E.M.’s Mike Mills tweeted: “Bill Rieflin was a gentleman and a gentle man, but he could beat the s**t 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.”

Rieflin played with R.E.M. following Bill Berry’s retirement in 1997 and was a member of King Crimson beginning in 2013.

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

Singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock described Rieflin as a “musical genius and bleak perfectionist.” He tweeted: “Bill graced me with his drumming, harmonies and laser-sharp insight between 2005 and 2013. RIP dear boy.”

Death Cab for Cutie’s Dave Depper is also among those paying tribute on Twitter. “One of the wisest, kindest, funniest, grumpiest, most talented humans that has ever graced the earth has left us,” he shared. “Bill Rieflin introduced me to so many new ways of thinking, both through his art and his friendship.”

Krist Novoselić of Nirvana remembered Rieflin as “a straight up person and excellent musician.”