For enthusiasts of rock music, the name John Bonham is likely synonymous with drumming greatness.
As the percussionist for the iconic band Led Zeppelin, he solidified his place as one of the most impactful drummers in the annals of music.
His unmatched combination of speed, power, distinctive sound, and groove set him apart from his contemporaries, leaving an indelible mark that continues to influence drummers to this day.
This article delves into his life, career, personal anecdotes, and untimely demise, exploring the reasons behind his enduring reputation as the best drummer of all time.
Who is John Bonham?
Born on May 31, 1948, in Redditch, Worcestershire, England, John Bonham embarked on his drumming journey at the age of five, utilizing makeshift kits comprising containers and coffee tins.
His first snare drum arrived at age 10, followed by a full drum set at age 15. Largely self-taught, he drew inspiration from jazz and blues drummers like:
- Max Roach
- Gene Krupa
- Buddy Rich
Bonham played in local bands during his teenage years and crossed paths with Robert Plant, the future Led Zeppelin vocalist, in 1965.
Their collaboration began in two different bands, the Band of Joy and Crawling King Snakes, ultimately leading to the formation of Led Zeppelin in 1968, alongside Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.
John Bonham’s Age
At the time of his passing in 1980, John Bonham was 32 years old, making him the youngest member of Led Zeppelin and the first to leave the world.
Survived by his son Jason Bonham, who followed in his father’s drumming footsteps, the younger Bonham went on to perform with various bands and even joined the surviving members of Led Zeppelin in reunion concerts from 1988 to 2007.
John Bonham’s Career
Spanning from 1962 to 1980, Bonham’s drumming career was primarily associated with Led Zeppelin, during which he contributed to nine studio albums, four live albums, and numerous singles.
Renowned for his forceful style, rapid single-footed kick drum technique, distinctive sound, and innate feel for groove, Bonham incorporated diverse percussion instruments like congas, timpani, and gongs to enhance the texture and dynamics of his drumming.
His iconic drum solo, “Moby Dick,” often exceeding 20 minutes in live performances, further solidified his legacy.
Apart from Led Zeppelin, Bonham lent his drumming prowess to other artists such as the Family Dogg, Screaming Lord Sutch, Lulu, Jimmy Stevens, and Wings.
John Bonham’s Personal Life
Married to Patricia Phillips, whom he met in 1965, Bonham was a loving husband and father to their two children, Jason and Zoe.
Despite his domesticity, he possessed a wild side, indulging in activities like drinking, partying, and fast-driving cars and motorcycles.
Known for his mischievous pranks, Bonham’s generosity and loyalty to friends in need were equally noteworthy.
His passion for music extended to collecting records and drum kits, and he harbored a fondness for animals, owning several dogs and horses.
What was the cause of John Bonham’s death?
On September 25, 1980, at the age of 32, John Bonham passed away while staying at Jimmy Page’s residence in Clewer, Berkshire, England, preparing for a Led Zeppelin tour.
Having consumed around 40 shots of vodka the previous night, Bonham went to bed but never woke up.
He was discovered lifeless the next morning due to asphyxiation from inhaling vomit; his death was deemed accidental, with no drugs found in his system.
His funeral on October 10, 1980, at Rushock Parish Church featured a simple headstone conveying loving memories, concluding with the poignant phrase, “Cherished memories of a loving husband and father.”
Who was the drummer for Led Zeppelin?
John Bonham held the position of drummer in Led Zeppelin, the legendary rock band that formed in 1968 and disbanded in 1980.
Serving as the rhythmic backbone of the group, Bonham’s creative and versatile drumming spanned genres from hard rock to funk to Latin.
Esteemed and irreplaceable in the eyes of his bandmates, his untimely death led Led Zeppelin to decide that they could not continue without him.
Who attended John Bonham’s funeral?
The private and solemn funeral of John Bonham saw the presence of family, friends, and fellow musicians.
Led Zeppelin members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones attended, along with manager Peter Grant, road manager Richard Cole, publicist B.P. Fallon, and security chief John Bindon.
Other notable musicians in attendance included Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Cozy Powell, Denny Laine, Roy Wood, and Bev Bevan.
Marked by simplicity and reverence, the funeral’s only audible element was the church bells playing “When the Levee Breaks,” a Led Zeppelin song featuring Bonham’s drumming.
John Bonham’s net worth
At the time of his demise, John Bonham’s net worth was estimated at around $10 million, primarily amassed from his tenure with Led Zeppelin, a band that sold over 300 million records globally.
Songwriting credits for hits like “Rock and Roll,” “Kashmir,” “The Ocean,” and “Fool in the Rain” also contributed to his earnings.
Additionally, drum endorsements from brands such as Ludwig, Paiste, and Remo bolstered his income.
Bonham allocated his wealth to family, hobbies, properties, cars, motorcycles, and charitable contributions.
John Bonham, a legendary drummer, left an enduring imprint on the world of music.
As an integral member of Led Zeppelin, one of the most influential rock bands, his unparalleled blend of speed, power, sound, and groove continues to inspire drummers across generations.
Beyond his musical prowess, Bonham’s roles as a loving father, husband, friend, and overall passionate individual enrich his legacy.
Though his life was tragically cut short at 32, his impact persists through his music and the admiration of fans worldwide, solidifying his status as the ultimate rock legend.