Aaron Spears, drummer for Usher, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, dead at 47

ENGLEWOOD, UNITED STATES - MAY 28: Drummer Aaron Spears plays during the taping of his instructional DVD 'Beyond The Chops' on May 28th, 2009 in Englewood, New Jersey, United States. (Photo by Andrew Lepley/Redferns)
Drummer Aaron Spears' death was announced Monday by his family. He was 47. (Andrew Lepley / Redferns)

Aaron Spears, the renowned touring drummer who played alongside Usher, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, among others, has died at age 47, his family announced on Monday.

Spears' wife, Jessica Spears, confirmed the news of her husband's death in an Instagram post shared on the drummer's page. The post did not include a time, date or place of death for Spears or a cause of death.

"It is with a heavy heart and overwhelming sadness that I share the news of the passing of my beloved husband, Aaron Spears," she wrote. "Aaron was not only an incredibly accomplished drummer, admired by many for his unparalleled talent and passion for music; but he was also a devoted father to our precious son, August. His love, guidance, and warmth were the pillars of our family, and his absence leaves a void that words cannot describe."

The message continued: "We were blessed to have him in our lives, and his legacy will live on through the beautiful rhythms he created and the love he shared with us. We appreciate all the thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Please remember Aaron for the incredible person he was and the amazing music he brought into our world. At this time we ask for privacy as we work our way through this."

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Spears earned a Grammy nomination for his production work on Usher's highly successful "Confessions" album, which was nominated for album of the year at the 47th Grammy Awards.

He gained more acclaim in the drumming world after his now-legendary performance of Usher's "Caught Up" at the 2006 Modern Drummer Festival.

"I have to be honest, man, I had absolutely no idea that playing that song on that particular stage, at that time, was going to cause such a ripple effect that almost 20 years later people were gonna be asking me to play that song," Spears said in a 2022 interview with Drumeo of his 2006 performance. "Just the fact that some sort of emotion has come from something that I did, I am extremely thankful, I'm very appreciative."

Many of the artists that Spears played with and several of his fellow drummers paid tribute to the drumming icon online.

In a now-expired Instagram Story, Grande wrote: "I can’t wrap my head around this. We were all so incredibly lucky to know Aaron. The absolute brightest light of a human being. Always the kindest, always smiling. I am so honored and thankful that our paths crossed and to have spent so much very special time together. Thank you for your utter brilliance, for our laughs, and for your kindness always. I will miss your hugs. You are so, so loved and will be so very missed."

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"We lost a beautiful man and inspiration to all of us drummers," Bieber shared in an Instagram Story. "@aspears prayers for your family and loved ones you will be remembered and celebrated."

The Roots' drummer Questlove posted a video of Spears drumming on Instagram with the caption, "The world lost a legend today. Husband, father, producers music director, leader drumgod & just a Cotdamn BEAST in Aaron Spears." Questlove also highlighted just how prolific Spears' career was, writing, "You’ve seen Aaron drum prolly 5-10 times in your life if you attend concerts & sometimes without knowing. That’s how much in demand his services were (@arianagrande @britneyspears @ladygaga @mileycyrus @backstreetboys @therealmarymary @adamlambert @chakakhan @jordinsparks @usher ……man the list is endless."

Spears was born on Oct. 26, 1976, and grew up in Washington, D.C., according to a profile provided by his drum sponsor Remo. His passion for drumming first developed while attending Pentecostal church services with his parents, at first being awed by the in-house drummer and then becoming a part of the church band.

At age 23, Spears broke through in the local D.C. music scene playing with the jazz-fusion group Gideon Band. On Monday, the band released a statement regarding Spears' death.

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"We had the honor of witnessing the talent of Aaron Spears up close for over 25 years. We also were blessed to call Aaron 'brother.' Aaron Spears was one of one," the statement read. "Throughout all of the rehearsals, performances, and sheds, Aaron had the uncanny ability of never repeating a chop. He would play something mind-blowing, and the next time we played, he would play something equally mind-blowing and unique. It was a divine ability that reflected God's creativity."

In recent years, Spears held drum clinics and workshops throughout the world where he looked to harbor a learning and sharing environment for musicians of all ages and experiences.

"The success that I’ve had is not necessarily because of me, it’s really the connection that I’ve had with other musicians has helped to make me better," he said in a video published earlier this year with Ludwig Drums. "I've been able to do a lot of things in my career, the next step is really about being able to give back."

Spears is survived by his wife, Jessica, and his son, August.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.