Woolley didn’t receive any writing credits with Nine Inch Nails, but he performed all keyboard work for the band between the years of 1991 and 1994. Along with the rest of the band he won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance for “Happiness in Slavery,” which they played live at Woodstock ’94.
Woolley took the place of Lee Mars for their 1991 Lollapalooza tour, and the position stuck. He not only played with the band live, he also appeared in music videos like “Wish.” After he left in 1994, he was replaced by Charlie Clouser.
After leaving Nine Inch Nails, he worked on Rob Halford‘s 2wo project and his own group VOID.
Woolley’s ex-wife Kate Van Buren shared the news of his passing on Facebook with several photos of him with his family. Her post detailed how the two met and their life together.
“I met James Woolley in late 1991 at the Sunset Social Club in Los Angeles. I was with my friend Tatiana enjoying the live band, then stood in the long line for the ladies’ room. James was sitting on a chair nearby,” she wrote.
Her post continued, “We started talking and it was love at first sight. I did not know he played keyboards in Nine Inch Nails until weeks later…James worked hard and played hard with NIN. He brought coolness to playing keyboards, which isn’t as easy to do as playing guitar or drums. Those years were truly magical and quite an adventure.”
She went on to detail how after he finished with Nine Inch Nails, they got bought a house, got married and started a family. She alludes to his neck injuries making it hard to play with the kids, but says he always took time to teach them piano and go out and enjoy nature.
Trent Reznor, frontman of Nine Inch Nails, also commented on his friend’s passing. “I hadn’t crossed paths with him for some time, but always thought of him fondly,” Reznor said. “He was a fun character to be around, a solid musician and a genuinely good guy.”
A memorial service will be held in Chicago on Friday, August 19, with the funeral taking place the following day.