The tragic day Led Zeppelin ended

The tragic day Led Zeppelin ended

December 4th, 1980 was a day of great sadness.
1 December 2023 4:38PM

Hi, Woodsie here and for me, December 4th, 1980 was a day of great sadness when two months after the tragic death of John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham, Led Zeppelin announced that the group was breaking up.

After Bonzo’s death, there were rumours that Cozy Powell, Carmine Appice, Barriemore Barlow, Simon Kirke, Ric Lee or Bev Bevan would join the group as his replacement. However the power and improvisation of Bonzo could not be replicated, so the remaining members issued a press statement that simply said "We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend, and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were." The statement was signed simply "Led Zeppelin".

Bonzo was a mostly self-taught drummer, influenced by the playing of Max Roach, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.

Bonzo was simply put a ‘drummers drummer’. His playing has long been the standard by which other rock drummers in particular have been measured. Bonzo was ranked no. 1 on Classic Rock's 2005 list of 50 Greatest Drummers in Rock and Modern Drummer described him as "the greatest rock 'n' roll drummer in history."

Rhythm magazine voted him the greatest drummer ever, topping a readers' poll to determine the "50 greatest drummers of all time" in October 2009.

A Rolling Stone reader's poll where he "led the list by a significant margin" in 2011, and in 2016, the same magazine ranked him as the greatest drummer of all time in a list of 100 Greatest Drummers of all time.

Dave Grohl said:

John Bonham played the drums like someone who didn't know what was going to happen next—like he was teetering on the edge of a cliff. No one has come close to that since, and I don't think anybody ever will. I think he will forever be the greatest drummer of all time.

Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers remarked:

To me, hands down, John Bonham was the best rock drummer ever. The style and the sound was so identifiable to one person. Any drum set that he would play, it sounded like him.[65]

And while a host of musicians have also paid tribute, perhaps the most telling comments came from John Paul Jones who said Bonham was a "bass player's dream", whilst Jimmy Page also commented:

One of the marvelous things about John Bonham which made things very easy [for a producer] was that he really knew how to tune his drums, and I tell you what, that was pretty rare in drummers in those days. He really knew how to make the instrument sing, and because of that, he could just get so much volume out of it by just playing with his wrists. It was just an astonishing technique that was sort of pretty holistic if you know what I mean.

John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 as a member of Led Zeppelin.

I once had the pleasure of owning a Ludwig kit that featured Bonzo’s signature kick drum front skin, as shown below. It looked and sounded great, however I can’t say it improved my drumming.

Here is the great man, live on stage being introduced by the singer who insisted that he was signed up as Led Zeppelins drummer otherwise he wouldn’t join the band.