Former Scorpions Drummer James Kottak Is Dead at 61 and Fans Want Answers


Jan. 10 2024, Published 9:53 a.m. ET

James Kottak standing over his drumset at a Scorpions show.
Source: Getty Images

Following announcements from his daughter and his former bandmates, we now know that Scorpions drummer James Kottak died at the age of 61 on Jan. 9, 2024. James was best known for his work with Scorpions, but he was also a drummer for the band Kingdom Come before he joined Scorpions in 1996.

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Following the news of his death, many people who loved his work as a drummer or the bands he was in wanted to know what James's cause of death was. Here's what we know about his death and what remains unclear.

James Kottak sitting at his drums.
Source: Getty Images
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What was James Kottak's cause of death?

The Scorpions announced James's death with a post on social media accompanied by a black and white picture of him.

“Very sad news … our dear friend and Drummer for 20 years James Kottak has passed at the age of 61,” the band wrote. “James was a wonderful human being , a great musician and loving family man … he was our Brother from another Mother and will be truly missed . … Rock ‘n Roll Forever. RIP James.”

The statement didn't include any information on a cause of death, and that information hasn't become available from any other source. James has been open in the past about his struggles with alcoholism, which led him to be arrested for public drunkenness in 2014 and was also the reason he was ultimately fired from Scorpions in 2016.

“We reached the point — or he reached the point —where it was just not worth it,” said Scorpions guitarist Matthias Jabs of the decision to fire him.

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In an interview in 2018, James said that his recovery was a "work in progress," but that he had spent most of his time sober over the last decade.

“Over the last 10 years, I would say I was 90 percent sober, and then I’d have these struggles and I’d go through a bad two- or three-week period,” he said.

“So right now it’s, like I said, to use a cliché, it’s one day at a time and I work the program.”

Source: Facebook/Scorpions
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James was the longest-serving member of Scorpions, having been with the band for 20 years. He was also with Kingdom Come for nearly a decade before that, from 1987 to 1995. James was born in Louisville, Ky., and was married to Tommy Lee's sister Athena from 1996 to 2010. After they divorced, a custody battle ensued over their son Matthew.

James also popped up on reality TV from time to time, most notably on the 2012 series Ex-Wives of Rock.

In 2019, James released the song "Get Out of My Kountry," which revealed to many that he had conservative views on the issue of immigration.

“We don’t need anymore outsiders,” he said. “We can’t even fix the homeless problems?! When homeless problem is solved, we take care [of] everyone else…”

Although we don't know his cause of death, many fans of James's are likely going to remember him for his lengthy runs with several important bands.

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