As a drummer, I get asked who my favorite drummers are a lot. I usually answer with Questlove, Stewart Copeland of the Police and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The real answer, though? Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham.
I don’t feel the need to name him at first because I just assume it’s a given — shouldn’t John Bonham be every drummer’s favorite drummer? The gigantic wooly mammoth that was the driving force behind Led Zeppelin would have turned 67 on May 31. He died on September 26, 1980 after downing roughly 40 shots of vodka in 24 hours. Led Zeppelin wisely disbanded shortly after Bonham’s death. The hole left behind by his passing was just far too enormous to fill.
At the time, there wasn’t anyone playing drums like John Bonham. The Who’s Keith Moon was the most maniacal drummer around, but Bonham was easily the most powerful. His snare hits were like thunder claps, his bass drum work like the rumbling sound of an elephant on the move. And while those two traits alone were enough to make him stand out, the fact that the big man had such an inherent swing to his playing, and was able to create such a groove is what makes him a legend. We don’t expect our giants to be funky. We expect them to be slow, lumbering, menacing. We do not expect them to pack a groove, only a wallop.
Any Led Zeppelin tune showcases Bonham’s one-of-a-kind drumming, but it’s thanks to the wonderful glory of YouTube and the handful of videos posted of Bonham’s isolated drum tracks that we’re able to dig a little deeper.