Red Carpet Interview
11th Annual LA Music Awards 2001
Ricky Lawson (November 8, 1954 – December 23, 2013) was an American drummer and composer. A native of Detroit, Michigan, he worked extensively as a session musician, collaborating with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Steely Dan, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and other artists. He co-founded the jazz-fusion band the Yellowjackets and won the 1987 Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance for “And You Know That” from their album Shades.
Lawson started playing drums at the age of sixteen. He would borrow his uncle’s drum set and carry it to his house across town via the Detroit bus system. In high school, Lawson played in his high school jazz band, which consisted of only five members, including the director. Lawson played for The Sons of Soul, who performed at the 1969 Michigan State Fair, opening for The Jackson Five along with The Blazer, a band from Cooley High School in Detroit that included La Palabra. Also in high school, he played such sports as water polo and swimming. His swimming talent eventually earned him a scholarship to college. He only spent one year at college, being invited to play drums for Stevie Wonder. In the ’80s and ’90s, he played drums for Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. He played on Whitney’s famous hit, “I Will Always Love You.” Lawson has a one note “solo” in the song, where he kicks the bass drum before Whitney’s dramatic vocal finale. He says that this is his favorite solo of his career.
Lawson collaborated with many artists, including Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Phil Collins, Babyface, The Yellowjackets, Whitney Houston, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Bette Midler, Russell Ferrante, Toto, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Lionel Richie, and George Duke, among others. Lawson, one of the founding members of The Yellowjackets, received a Grammy Award for co-writing their hit song “And You Know That.” He also co-authored the Pointer Sisters’ hit “Uh-Uh,” and co-produced the album Seriously Slammin’ and the Fattburger hit “Good News.”
Lawson appeared on Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature tour DVD, Two Against Nature: Steely Dan’s Plush TV Jazz-Rock Party, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds “MTV Unplugged DVD 1997″.
Lawson became disoriented while performing at the Spaghettini jazz club on December 13, 2013 in Seal Beach, California. He was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm and treated at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. He died on December 23, 2013, aged 59, when he was removed from life support after ten days.
In one of his final studio recordings, Lawson appears on 8 of 13 tracks of well-known bassist and Fourplay founding member Nathan East’s March 2014-released album, Nathan East. The album dedication In memory of Ricky Lawson appears as the final statement in the liner notes.