Bill Rieflin, Drummer For King Crimson, Ministry, R.E.M. And More, Dead At 59

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Written by Alex Gallagher on March 25, 2020

Legendary Seattle-based musician Bill Rieflin, who spent time performing and collaborating with an impressive array of bands including R.E.M., Ministry, King Crimson, Swans and Nine Inch Nails, has died of cancer aged 59.

King Crimson founder Robert Fripp shared the news in a Facebook post today. “Fly well, Brother Bill! My life is immeasurably richer for knowing you,” wrote Fripp.

Ministry have also paid their respects to the late drummer via Twitter. “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,” they wrote.

Actively performing in his hometown of Seattle from as early as 1975, Rieflin’s first collaboration with Ministry’s Al Jourgensen was as part of the Revolting Cocks in the mid-80s.

Throughout his impressive career, Rieflin would go on to perform on essential Ministry records like The Land of Rape and Honey and Pslam 69, along with several albums by German industrial outfit KMFDM and prog rock icons King Crimson. Rieflin was a member of the latter up until his death.

In addition to his recorded output, Rieflin also served as a touring drummer for R.E.M. throughout the 2000s, up until the band’s dissolution in 2011.

In a statement on the band’s website, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe shared his memories of Rieflin.

“A forever memory is decades old, 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. 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,” wrote Stipe.

“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 humor, his relentless curiosity and of course his incredible musical ear, his time here with us so precious and golden.”

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