Happy Birthday John Bonham – On His 68th
Today marks what would’ve been John Bonham‘s 68th birthday.
Considered one of the greatest drummers in the rock industry, his fast paced and powerful drumming served to create the iconic sound we all know and love from Led Zeppelin, but Bonham never actually had any professional drumming lessons. Instead, he learned by himself with tips and help from other drummers from his local Redditch region. During his school years, John’s headmaster from his secondary school wrote in his report that he would either “become a dustman or a millionaire”.
Good thing it turned out to be the latter.
After leaving school in 1964, he worked as an apprentice carpenter for his Dad briefly while working with semi-professional bands as their drummer, later taking on drumming as a full-time role. Eventually, needing a steady and regular income, he joined a blues group called Crawling King Snakes – fronted by a little known name, Robert Plant (of course, that one).
More projects and bands along the way, elsewhere guitarist Jimmy Page (following the break-up of The Yardbirds) decided to form a new band. After choosing Robert Plant to be part of the project, Plant suggested Bonham for the drums (having worked with him on at least two groups by this point). John initially was reluctant (and also had other offers for more bands), but eventually chose to join Robert with the group that would initially be known as the New Yardbirds – but eventually became that legendary name we all know and love, Led Zeppelin.
The likes of “Immigrant Song”, “Kashmir” and “The Ocean” are just examples of his heavy-hitting drum style that would become synonymous with the group – and while many years of success followed, a shocking moment in 1980 would change everything.
After being picked up for rehearsals, Bonham asked to stop for breakfast – where he drank heavily, and continued to do so one arriving for the rehearsal. At the end of the day, John fell asleep, so was helped to bed and placed on his side. As a result of an accident during the night, John was found dead the following day. He was 32.
Instead of finding a replacement for Bonham, the remainder of Led Zeppelin took the decision to disband:
“We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.”
Despite his short life, John Bonham was part of a great era of music – one we’ll love for a long time to come.