Aaron Spears, a Grammy-nominated drummer who played with Usher, Ariana Grande and many other major pop stars, has died. He was 47.
His death was confirmed on Monday in a statement on his official Instagram account by his wife Jessica that was co-signed by the couple’s son August. The statement did not provide details about other survivors or specify a time, place or cause of death. Representatives for Spears could not immediately be reached for comment late Monday night.
In 2004, he earned a Grammy nomination as a producer for Usher’s album “Confessions,” which sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. The next year, Spears drummed during the Grammys for a medley of Usher’s “Caught Up” and James Brown’s “Sex Machine,” a performance that made the drumming community take notice.
Over the years, Spears would play with Grande, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne, among many other artists.
“You’ve seen Aaron drum prolly 5-10 times in your life if you attend concerts & sometimes without knowing,” Questlove, the D.J., drummer and producer, said in an Instagram post on Monday. “That’s how much in demand his services were.”
Aaron Spears was born on Oct. 26, 1976, according to a profile published by Remo, a drumming equipment manufacturer that sponsored him.
He was from Washington D.C., grew up in the Pentecostal faith and developed an interest in drumming through his involvement with the church. As a child, he later said in an interview with the German show drumtalk, he would sit on someone’s lap in church playing “the stuff up top” while they played the pedals.
One of his first professional gigs was drumming in Gideon Band, a group with a style spanning jazz, rock and R&B. He demonstrated his musical prowess by never repeating a “chop,” or rhythmic phrase, the band said in a statement.
Moving from the local scene in Washington to the national one was intimidating, Spears said.
“The level of musicianship had me questioning if I belonged there,” he told drumtalk in 2018. “I just didn’t know if I was ready to make the jump.”
He clearly did belong. For nearly two decades after his breakthrough performance at the Grammys, Spears played with a long list of major artists, including Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys. He also performed on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and was the music coordinator and drummer for a season of the television show “The Masked Singer.”
Offstage, Spears held drum clinics and master classes around the world. During one such educational visit this year to Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., he sat in for a performance with the school’s marching band, the Human Jukebox.
But even after a decade of success, Spears expressed humility about his success, saying that he was careful to “stay relatable” and avoid developing a false sense of entitlement.
“The success that I’ve had is not necessarily because of me,” he said in a video published in May on the website of Ludwig Drums, one of his sponsors. “It’s really the connection that I’ve had with other musicians has helped to make me better.”