R.E.M. drummer Bill Rieflin, who also worked with Ministry, playing at Lakewood.
Photo: Allen Sullivan / AJC
Photo: Allen Sullivan / AJC

Bill Rieflin, drummer for R.E.M., King Crimson and others, has died

Drummer Bill Rieflin, who played with artists ranging from R.E.M. to King Crimson to Nine Inch Nails to Ministry, has died of cancer. He was 59.

Rieflin’s death was confirmed by King Crimson founder Robert Fripp, who posted on social media that he learned the news from Rieflin’s wife, Tracy.

A Seattle native, Rieflin met R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck when he moved to the city in the late-‘90s. Following the departure of R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry, Rieflin took over behind the kit and worked with the Athens-born band from 2003 through 2011, when the band dissolved.

His contributions are heard on R.E.M.’s final three albums – “Around the Sun” (2004), “Accelerate” (2008) and “Collapse Into Now” (2011).

Rieflin also played in the Minus 5, a band formed by another R.E.M. auxiliary player Scott McCaughney that sometimes included Buck.

Read and sign the online guestbook for Bill Rieflin

In an interview with NPR in 2011, Rieflin reflected on what he’d miss about working with R.E.M.

“Firstly and perhaps most importantly, the R.E.M.'s are a rare breed in my experience: they are all lovely guys — very smart, funny and, significantly, among the most generous and big-hearted people I have ever met,” he said.

R.E.M. paid tribute to Rieflin on its Instagram page.

In 2013, Rieflin joined King Crimson, toured with the band and appeared on five live albums released between 2015 and 2018. In 2019, he announced an indefinite sabbatical. 

In keeping with Rieflin’s versatility, here is an array of tributes left for him on social media.

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About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.  
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