Bill Rieflin, the rock drummer and percussionist for bands like R.E.M., Ministry, and King Crimson over his a 30-year career, has died at the age of 59. According to a statement released by his family, Rieflin died following an “eight-year duel” with cancer, just one year after his wife, painter Francesca Sundsten, also passed away from cancer.
Read the statement from the family below:
Seattle native and life-long resident, Bill was a world-class musician who was at home on the drums, guitar, bass, and keyboards. He was also an accomplished composer and producer who possessed a sophisticated ear, a depth of rare talent and complete dedication to his craft. Known for much of his career as an extraordinary drummer, Bill performed with a wide range of artists and bands from Swans and Ministry to R.E.M. and King Crimson and many more.
Bill also lost his beloved wife of 27 years, master painter Francesca Sundsten, to cancer last year. His refined manner, brilliant mind, eye for the ironic and legendary sense of humor defined him as a man of discerning taste, palate, and company. We will miss him terribly.
Rieflin began working with R.E.M. back in 2003 and remained with the group until they disbanded in 2011. Then, in 2013, he joined King Crimson as one of several drummers before leaving the prog-rock outfit shortly before his passing. Throughout his career, Rieflin worked with artists and groups such as Peter Murphy, Chris Cornell, Nine Inch Nails, and countless others.
In a Facebook post, King Crimson founder Robert Fripp commented on his passing, noting, “Bill Rieflin flew from this world c. 11.50 Pacific, 18.50 UK. Tracy told Toyah 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.”
R.E.M.’s Mike Mills also posted an insightful message on Twitter upon learning of the drummer’s death:
Bill Rieflin was a gentleman and a gentle man, but he could beat the shit 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. R.I.P., Spill Brieflin.
— Mike Mills 🌿 (@m_millsey) March 25, 2020
[H/T Rolling Stone]