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Music

The drummer Led Zeppelin's John Bonham called a "God"

When discussing the greatest drummers of all time, John Bonham invariably comes up. It would be shocking not to hear the bearded leviathan’s name mentioned, as he was the man who single-handedly managed the engine room of one of the greatest bands of all time: Led Zeppelin. 

Bonham was a genius in that he married intellect with raw power, creating a sound of the type that no one had ever heard before. He took his earliest cues from jazz and big band music and married them with the unfettered attitude of contemporary rock ‘n’ roll. This diversity is what allowed him to deliver some of the most influential drumming moments in history.

He poured his heart and soul into his work, and whether it be ‘Moby Dick’, ‘Whole Lotta Love’, or otherwise, Bonham’s character colours the sound of Led Zeppelin, and without him, they just would not have been the same. You could even argue that without his input, they wouldn’t have been able to take over the world so quickly, as he was the best imaginable ballast for Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones to lay their magical frills over. 

Listen to John Bonham’s isolated drums on ‘Good Times Bad Times’

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Duly, Bonham became as synonymous with the drums as Hendrix with the guitar. A virtuoso in every sense of the word, it is no surprise then that once upon a time, Mr. Hendrix accurately described Bonham to Zeppelin’s frontman Robert Plant, as detailed in A Thunder of Drums: “That drummer of yours has a right foot like a pair of castanets!” 

It’s a testament to Bonham’s playing style that his dextrous ability was immediately perceived by everyone who heard his records or saw him play live, guitar God or not. 

Given that Bonham is so revered as a drummer, fans have long wanted to dig a little deeper into how he formed his unmistakable sound and find out who inspired him. Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most significant influences on him was the composer, bandleader and jazz drummer-extraordinaire Gene Krupa. The Chicago native was famed for his energy and charismatic showmanship, and this captivated a young Bonzo, who idolised the percussionist and his unique technique.  

Noted by his brother Michael on Bonham’s website, John was largely influenced by the 1956 biopic film The Benny Goodman Story, in which Krupa played a starring role as the king of swing. Michael says that “John went to see the film with his dad” and that, simply put, for a young Bonzo, “Gene Krupa was God.” Elsewhere, Bonham also expressed his affection for another Krupa film, Beat The Band, where the percussionist plays a set on some steam pipes.

It is clear that Gene Krupa was the man who made John Bonham, and for that, we thank him.

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