John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)

Best remembered as the drummer of Led Zeppelin, who are widely considered to be one of the most successful, innovative and influential rock groups in the history of music The late great Jon Bonham was born 31st May 1948. Led Zeppelin were formed in 1968 after former Yardbirds Guitarist Jimmy Page recruited vocalist Robert Plant, drummer John Bonham, and John Paul Jones. The name Led Zeppelin stemmed from an old joke by Keith Moon and John Entwistle, of “The Who”, and Page stuck with that name to use for his new band. The name was subsequently changed to “Led Zeppelin”, to avoid a mispronunciation of “leed Zeppelin.”

Led Zeppelin were formed following the retirement of The Yardbirds, guitarist Jimmy Page whoformed another band and recruited Robert Plant, who in turn suggested Bonham. Page’s choices for drummer included Procol Harum’s B.J. Wilson, and session drummers Clem Cattini and Aynsley Dunbar. Ginger Baker was also rumoured to be on Page’s list. However, on seeing Bonham drum for Tim Rose at a club in Hampstead, north London, in July 1968, Page and manager Peter Grant were convinced he was perfect for the project, first known as the New Yardbirds and later as Led Zeppelin. Bonham was reluctant.  Plant sent eight telegrams to Bonham’s pub, the “Three Men in a Boat”, in Bloxwich, which were followed by 40 telegrams from Grant. Bonham was also receiving offers from Joe Cocker and Chris Farlowe but he accepted Grant’s offer. He recalled, “I decided I liked their music better than Cocker’s or Farlowe’s.” During Led Zeppelin’s first tour of the United States in December 1968, Bonham became friends with Vanilla Fudge’s drummer, Carmine Appice. Appice introduced him to Ludwig drums, which he then used for the rest of his career. Bonham used the longest and heaviest sticks, which he called “trees.” His hard hitting was evident on many Led Zeppelin songs, including “Immigrant Song” (Led Zeppelin III), “When the Levee Breaks”, “Kashmir” (Physical Graffiti), “The Ocean” (Houses of the Holy), and “Achilles Last Stand” (Presence). Page let Bonham use a double bass drum in an early demo of “Communication Breakdown” but scratched the track because of Bonham’s “over-use” of it. The studio recording of “Misty Mountain Hop” captures his dynamics, similarly exhibited on “No Quarter”. On cuts from later albums, Bonham handled funk and Latin-influenced drumming. Songs like “Royal Orleans” and “Fool in the Rain” are examples, respectively displaying a New Orleans shuffle and a samba.

His drum solo, first entitled “Pat’s Delight,” later “Moby Dick”, often lasted 30 minutes. He used bare hands for different sounds. Bonham’s sequence for the film The Song Remains the Same featured him in a drag race at Santa Pod Raceway to the sound of his solo, “Moby Dick”. In Led Zeppelin tours after 1969, Bonham included congas, orchestral timpani and a symphonic gong. He is credited by the Dallas Times Herald with the first concert use of electronic timpani drum synthesisers during “Kashmir” in Dallas, Texas, in 1977.

Jimmy Page had a very specific idea in mind as to what he wanted Led Zeppelin to be, and wanted to add acoustic textures. Zeppelin’s sound became a marriage of blues, hard rock and acoustic music topped with heavy choruses – a combination that had never been done back in the 1960′s. Led Zeppelin’s sound has since become a prototype for countless rock bands ever since, and was one of the major driving forces behind the rock sound of the 1970′s. Led Zeppelin released relatively few singles, preferring their albums to be viewed as indivisible, whole listening experiences, helping to promote the concept of album-orientated rock.

During Led Zeppelin’s first tour of the United States in December 1968, Bonham became friends with Vanilla Fudge’s drummer, Carmine Appice. Appice introduced him to Ludwig drums, which he then used for the rest of his career. Bonham used the longest and heaviest sticks, which he called “trees.” His hard hitting was evident on many Led Zeppelin songs, including “Immigrant Song” (Led Zeppelin III), “When the Levee Breaks” (Led Zeppelin IV / Zoso.svg), “Kashmir” (Physical Graffiti), “The Ocean” (Houses of the Holy), and “Achilles Last Stand” (Presence). Page let Bonham use a double bass drum in an early demo of “Communication Breakdown” but scratched the track because of Bonham’s “over-use” of it. The studio recording of “Misty Mountain Hop” captures his dynamics, similarly exhibited on “No Quarter”. On cuts from later albums, Bonham handled funk and Latin-influenced drumming. Songs like “Royal Orleans” and “Fool in the Rain” are examples, respectively displaying a New Orleans shuffle and a samba.

Their first two albums, with their heavy, guitar-driven blues rock sound, led to Led Zeppelin being regularly cited as one of the progenitors of heavy metal and hard rock, even though the band’s individualistic style drew from varied sources and transcends any single music genre. Their next two albums incorporated wider musical influences, particularly from folk music; the tracks “Stairway to Heaven“, and “Kashmir” are among the most popular and influential works in rock music, and cemented the status of the group as “superstars”.Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham,

Bonham has been described by AllMusic as one of the most important, well-known, and influential drummers in rock. Adam Budofsky, managing editor of Modern Drummer, writes: “If the king of rock ‘n’ roll was Elvis Presley, then the king of rock drumming was certainly John Bonham.”According to the Los Angeles Times, even after all these years, Bonham still ranks as the best drummer of all time, mentioning that “[his] beat still bangs like a mofo…Nobody else has brought quite that balance of muscle, groove and showmanship. ” The surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited to play Live Aid in 1985 and employed two drummers, Phil Collins and Tony Thompson, to take his place.

Throughout their career, Led Zeppelin collected many honours and awards. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2006. Among the band’s awards are an American Music Award in 2005, and the Polar Music Prize in 2006. Led Zeppelin were the recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and four of their recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. They have been awarded five Diamond albums, as well as fourteen Multi-Platinum albums, four Platinum albums and one Gold album in the United States, while in the UK they have five Multi-Platinum albums, six Platinum albums, one Gold album and four Silver albums.Jimmy Page was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his charity work in 2005 and Robert Plant was honoured as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to popular music in 2009. The band are ranked number one on VH1′s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock and Classic Rock’s “50 Best Live Acts of All Time”. They were awarded an Ivor Novello Award for “Outstanding Contribution to British Music” in 1977, as well as a “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 42nd Annual Ivor Novello awards ceremony in 1997. The band were honoured with the “Best Live Act” prize for their one-off reunion at MOJO Awards 2008, where they were described as the “greatest rock and roll band of all time”.

In 2007, Stylus magazine rated Bonham number one of 50 great rock drummers,as did Gigwise.com in 2008, and a Rolling Stone conducted a reader’s poll where he “led the list by a significant margin” in 2011, and ranked him as the greatest drummer of all time in a list of 100 Greatest Drummers of all time. Bonham was ranked no. 1 on Classic Rock’s 2005 list of 50 Greatest Drummers in Rock, and Modern Drummer describes him as “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummer in history.” In September 2008, Bonham topped the Blabbermouth.net’s list of “Rockers fans want brought back to life”, ahead of Elvis Presley and Freddie Mercury. Rhythm magazine voted him the greatest drummer ever, topping a readers’ poll to determine the “50 greatest drummers of all time” in October 2009. At the end of the BBC Two series I’m in a Rock ‘n’ Roll Band! on 5 June 2010, Bonham was named best drummer of all time. AllMusic also described him as one of the most important, well-known, and influential drummers in rock.

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