Drummer Ricky Lawson, 59, Dies of Brain Aneurism
Posted 12/27/2013

Drummer Ricky Lawson, a founding member of Yellowjackets and a studio session player with some of the biggest names in popular music, died Dec. 23 at age 59. He was taken off of life support in a suburban Los Angeles hospital after suffering a brain aneurism earlier in the month, according to a family member.

A native of Detroit, Lawson began playing drums professionally as a teenager, before graduating high school. In the late 1970s, he was a member of guitarist Robben Ford’s group, an early incarnation of Yellowjackets that included keyboardist Russell Ferrante and bassist Jimmy Haslip.

Lawson spent 1981–’86 with Yellowjackets, which won a Grammy Award (Best R&B Instrumental Performance) for the song “And You Know That,” from the ’86 album Shades (MCA).

Lawson performed and recorded with Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Steely Day, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, George Duke, Bette Midler, Quincy Jones, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and numerous others.

In addition to being an expert player in a wide range of drumming styles—including jazz, country, pop, r&b, funk and Latin—Lawson was a respected songwriter, producer and arranger.

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Ricky Lawson (Photo: DownBeat Archives)

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