Hill passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, Texas, days after leaving ZZ Top's 50th anniversary tour to address a broken hip.
While Hill was accustomed to playing through pain on tour with Top, Billy Gibbons tells Variety that the bassist wouldn't have missed any gigs if he didn't know he needed the respite. Beyond his hip, Hill was also dealing with an injured shoulder and ulcers.
"He’s been kind of tiptoeing through keeping himself ship-shape, best he could," Gibbons said. "But I think that this was a real challenge. And by throwing in the towel, it might’ve caught up with him. Who knows? I’m just glad he’s in a good spot."
ZZ Top was forced to postpone or cancel a handful of tour dates in 2016 and 2017 due to Hill's health problems. That was why he urged his bandmates to continue the 50th anniversary tour in his absence this time around with guitar tech Elwood Francis in his place.
"Of course I said, 'Hey, man, health is number one. Go do your thing,'" Gibbons recalled telling Hill. "And I could tell through those first two valiant attempts, if he’s not giving it 110 percent, he was the first one to kind of say, 'Gee whiz. Let’s go take care of this.'"
Gibbons recalls Hill being "adamant" that the band keep going until he was well again. He says Hill wagged his finger on the way out, saying "The show must go on. Don't forget it."
ZZ Top canceled their concert the night after Hill passed away, but have since resumed the trek, which is scheduled to continue into the spring of 2022.
Hill's precise cause of death is still unknown.