A Sinner Departed: A Look Back at Drowning Pool's Dave Williams
On June 26 of this year someone edited the Wikipedia page of former Drowning Pool lead singer Dave Williams to add in the following note: "A common rumor is that he drowned himself in a pool, hence the band's name." That's such a silly notion it seems hard to believe anyone really spreads that idea around, which explains why that bit of text has been removed from the article.
The truth is simpler: Ten years ago today, Williams fell asleep in the band's tour bus and never woke up, the result of an undiagnosed heart condition. Since then the DFW-based band, now on its fourth singer, has recorded three albums, none of which have matched the success that marked the first part of their career.
Now, some would ask, "Are you really going to write a blog about the guy who wrote what may be the greatest meathead anthem of all time?"
Well... yes, for that very reason.
"Bodies" is a song that has been misinterpreted by psychopaths, used to torture enemies of the state, and acted as the theme song to multiple wrestling pay-per-views. It's not a particularly deep song, but it is flexible.
It also serves as a time capsule for everything that was great and awful about hard rock at the start of this century. Everything about the song straddles that great/awful line:
- The main riff is catchy but unmemorable.
- "[Number] nothing wrong with me" is a perfectly fun but dumb thing to yell out.
- "Let the bodies hit the floor" is a great hook that is beaten to death to the tune of 26 or so times.
- It's a song that is about a violent activity (moshing) that isn't a celebration of violence; it's a song that isn't about mental illness, but the video features a guy in a mental hospital.
In that sense, "Bodies" is kind of like the Andy Warhol of nu-metal: You're not sure it's genius, but if someone claims that it is, you're not inclined to argue.
But here's the thing that's lost on most people after a decade: Dave Williams was one of the best frontmen in that genre. He wasn't the type of performer to just stand there and belt out his tracks or run mindlessly back and forth across the stage. There was a certain level of theatricality to his movements, but it never felt like he was performing or that what he did was staged.
This was a rare thing at the time.
Face it, most front men of that era either came off as arrogant assholes (Fred Durst) or awkward loners (Jonathan Davis). That didn't make their music bad, but it did make them hard to connect to. Williams felt like a guy who was truly passionate about what he did, even if was just singing about the simple joy that comes with colliding into complete strangers in the dark.
Now don't get confused: I'm not saying that if he hadn't died Drowning Pool would have eventually made The Wall or Rubber Soul. Sinner is, at best, a solid B- record but it's not like Drowning Pool's output since has been awful, it's just mostly unremarkable.
In fact, I imagine that they might have ended up a lot like Papa Roach, which is to say that they'd put out a solid single every six months and when we caught them at the Scout Bar our random notebook dumps would mention the guitar player's commitment to that weird haircut.
It wouldn't have been a bad way to spend a Saturday night.
Instead we have the Drowning Pool of today, working on a new album and filling up Facebook with memes and silly photos.
And letting the bodies hit the floor, of course.
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