Music News

Forty Years Gone: Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died on this day in 1980

Getty Johnbonham630 092520
Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Led Zeppelin‘s John “Bonzo” Bonham, widely considered one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummers of all time.

Bonham was just 32 years old when he died on September 25, 1980, after a night of heavy drinking. Rather than find a replacement drummer, Led Zeppelin decided to disband after Bonham’s passing, announcing their decision in a joint statement issued in December of that year that read in part, “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.”

During the group’s 12-year history, Bonham’s incredibly powerful yet groove-heavy playing drove one classic song after another. Among the classics on which his heavy-hitting style is on full display are “Rock and Roll,” “Moby Dick,” “Immigrant Song,” “When the Levee Breaks,” “Kashmir,” and “The Ocean.”

Bonzo is cited as a major influence on and inspiration for other rock royalty drummers, including Aerosmith‘s Joey Kramer, Rush‘s Neil Peart, Phil Collins, Dave Grohl, Motley Crue‘s Tommy Lee, KISSPeter Criss, and Red Hot Chili PeppersChad Smith.

In 2016, Bonham topped a Rolling Stone list of “The 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time.”  “At his most brutally paleolithic he never bludgeoned dully, at his most rhythmically dumbfounding he never stooped to unnecessary wankery,” the magazine declared.

John’s only son, Jason Bonham, has followed in his father’s footsteps. He’s served as Led Zeppelin’s drummer at most of the band’s few reunion shows, led his own bands, and played with other rockers including Foreigner, UFO and Sammy Hagar.

By Matt Friedlander
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.