Bill Rieflin, drummer for R.E.M., King Crimson, and Ministry, has died aged 59

The acclaimed Seattle drummer had been battling cancer.

Former R.E.M., Ministry, and King Crimson drummer Bill Rieflin has died of cancer at the age of 59.

The musician’s death was confirmed by King Crimson founder Robert Fripp, who paid tribute on his official social media pages.

“A call from Tracy Rieflin in Seattle. Bill Rieflin flew from this world c. 18.50 Pacific, 18.50 UK,” he wrote.


“Tracy told Toyah [Wilcox, Fripp’s wife] and me that the day was grey, and as Bill flew away the clouds opened, and the skies were blue for about fifteen minutes. Fly well, Brother Bill! My life is immeasurably richer for knowing you. Pal Susan Silver has just sent us this pic from our visit last November.”

RF: A call from Tracy Rieflin in Seattle. Bill Rieflin flew from this world c. 18.50 Pacific, 18.50 UK. Tracy told Toyah…

Posted by Robert Fripp on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

In an emotional tribute, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe said: “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 humor, his relentless curiosity and of course his incredible musical ear, his time here with us so precious and golden.”

In a separate post, the group’s Mike Mills described Rieflin as “a gentleman and a gentle man” who “could beat the shit out of a set of drums”.

“A musical polymath, deeply intelligent and very funny,” he continued. “I’ll miss sharing his darkness and his laughter. Words really don’t suffice. R.I.P., Spill Brieflin.”


Bill Rieflin (1960-2020)It is with heavy hearts we acknowledge the death of our dear friend and consummate drummer,…

Posted by R.E.M. on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

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

Rieflin started out in Seattle, where he eventually joined up with Ministry’s Al Jourgensen to record some of the industrial metal band’s most celebrated albums – including ‘The Land Of Rape and Honey’, ‘The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste’, and ‘Psalm 69’.

Despite working extensively in the industrial metal genre with other bands including KMFDM and Pigface, he became a member of R.E.M. in the early 2000s after the retirement of original drummer Bill Berry. He played on the albums ‘Around The Sun’, ‘Accelerate’, and ‘Collapse Into Now’.

Rieflin joined Fripp as a member of King Crimson in 2013 and remained with the influential prog-rock group until his death.

Paying tribute on Twitter, Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic wrote: “So sorry to hear of Bill Rieflin passing away. A straight up person and excellent musician.”

In turn, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea responded: “Ahh fuck Bill died??? I loved that guy. What a sweetheart and a great fucking drummer. damn.”

Robyn Hitchcock added: “The great Bill Rieflin has changed hotel rooms for the last time – after a long battle with cancer he checked out and left us today. Musical genius and bleak perfectionist, Bill graced me with his drumming, harmonies and laser-sharp insight between 2005 and 2013. RIP dear boy.”


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