Childhood & Early Life
John Henry Bonham was born to the English couple Joan and Jack Bonham in Redditch, Worcestershire, England. By the time he turned five, he started playing drums.
He went to the Lodge Farm Secondary Modern School and from 1962 to 1963 he played for the Blue Star Trio and Gerry Levene & the Avengers. He later started playing for his first semi-professional band, Terry Webb and the Spiders.
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In 1968, he became part of the English rock band, ‘Led Zeppelin’, as the drummer. The band was initially called the New Yardbirds and it changed its name later to, ‘Led Zeppelin’.
In 1969, the band ‘Led Zeppelin’ came out with their self-titled debut album, ‘Led Zeppelin’, which was released under the Atlantic Records label. The album initially received negative reviews, but was commercially successful.
On October 22, 1969, he played the drums for the Grammy Award nominated second ‘Led Zeppelin’ album, titled ‘Led Zeppelin II’. The album was successful and became one of the band’s bestselling albums.
On October 5, 1970, ‘Led Zeppelin’, released their third studio album, ‘Led Zeppelin III’, which was one of their highest selling albums. The album received good reviews from music critics.
In 1971, he was the drummer for the song, ‘Everybody Clap’, which was a song by Scottish singer, Lulu Kennedy-Cairns. The song was written by Maurice Gibb and Billy Lawrie.
On November 8, 1971 ‘Led Zeppelin’ released its fourth album, ‘Led Zeppelin IV’. A bestselling album, it featured the popular songs, ‘When the Levee Breaks’, ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Rock and Roll’.
In 1973, the band ‘came out with its fifth album, ‘Houses of the Holy’, which featured the song ‘The Ocean’. The album earned a Grammy Award nomination and peaked at the music charts.
In 1975, ‘Led Zeppelin’s sixth studio album, ‘Physical Graffiti’ was released. The album featured one of its famous songs, ‘Kashmir’, which he also co-wrote and was played at almost every concert.
In 1976, he played the drums for the seventh ‘Led Zeppelin’ album, ‘Presence’. The album received mixed reviews from music critics and was one of the band’s lowest selling albums.
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In 1979, he played the drums for his friend, Roy Wood’s album, ‘On the Road Again’. The same year, he also drummed for the English rock band ‘Wings’ for their album, ‘Back to the Egg’.
In 1982, the band Led Zeppelin’ came out with its ninth and final studio album, titled, ‘Coda’. The featured tracks included, ‘We're Gonna Groove’ and ‘I Can't Quit You Baby’. This was released after his death.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1968, he married Pat Phillips, whom he met in the year 1964. The couple had two children together.
He died at the age of 32 in Clewer, England, UK; it is believed that he died due to excessive alcohol consumption and choking on vomit in his sleep.
In 2005, Classic Rock magazine ranked him at the No.1 position on their list of ‘50 Greatest Drummers in Rock’.