Flea Pays Homage to 'One of the Greatest Drummers' Tony Allen: 'He Was and Still Is My Hero'

Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea has penned a heartfelt tribute to his “hero” Tony Allen. The pioneering drummer who helped define Afrobeat during his tenure with Fela Kuti died Thursday at the age of 79.

Calling Allen “one of the greatest drummers to ever walk this Earth,” Flea recalled his fellow rhythm maker’s spirit. “What a wildman, with a massive, kind and free heart and the deepest one-of-a-kind groove,” Flea wrote. “Fela Kuti did not invent Afrobeat, Fela and Tony birthed it together. Without Tony Allen there is NO afrobeat.”

Flea and Allen worked together on 2012’s Rocket Juice & the Moon, the eponymously titled album by their group of the same name, which formed in 2008 and included Damon Albarn. “I was lucky enough to spend many an hour with him, holed up in a London studio, jamming the days away. It was fucking heavenly. He was and still is, my hero,” Flea continued. “I wanted to honor his greatness so much when we played together, and I was nervous when we started, but he made me laugh like a two-year old, and we fell right into pocket. I lit up like a Christmas tree every time I knew we were about to lay down some rhythm.”

Allen and Albarn had previously worked together in their band The Good, the Bad & the Queen, which included the Clash’s Paul Simonon, and the Verve’s Simon Tong before forming their collaborative group Rocket Juice & the Moon with Flea.

“With Tony’s longtime musical collaborator and friend Damon Albarn, we jammed ’til the cows came home. We partied in Nigeria, we partied around Europe, and it was always about the music,” Flea said. “Just grooving high, grooving deep. Tony Allen I love you, I’m so grateful to have had the chance to rock with you. God bless your beautiful soul.”

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The epic Tony Allen, one of the greatest drummers to ever walk this earth has left us. What a wildman, with a massive, kind and free heart and the deepest one-of-a-kind groove. Fela Kuti did not invent afrobeat, Fela and Tony birthed it together. Without Tony Allen there is NO afrobeat. I was lucky enough to spend many an hour with him, holed up in a London studio, jamming the days away. It was fucking heavenly. He was and still is, my hero. I wanted to honor his greatness so much when we played together, and I was nervous when we started, but he made me laugh like a two year old, and we fell right into pocket. I lit up like a Christmas tree every time I knew we were about to lay down some rhythm. With Tony’s longtime musical collaborator, friend and champion, Damon Albarn, we jammed til the cows came home. We partied in Nigeria, we partied around Europe, and it was always about the music. Just grooving high, grooving deep. Tony Allen I love you, I’m so grateful to have had the chance to rock with you. God bless your beautiful soul.

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