John Densmore


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Biography

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“I play the drums,” says John Densmore, with tangible pride.

He may be belaboring the obvious, considering that, as the rhythmic engine of The Doors, he’s responsible for some of the most famous beats in rock history. But Densmore still bristles at what he calls the “dumb drummer” stereotype.

“The drum was the first fucking instrument,” he declares. “The reason people move and dance is that they’re trying to get back to that heartbeat. It’s the heartbeat you hear in the womb that started the whole deal. An orchestra, a four-piece rock band, whatever it is, they’re trying to get back to that heartbeat.”

The universal, ancient call of this heartbeat has been Densmore’s obsession since his childhood in Southern California.

“I took piano when I was eight, and I loved it,” he recalls. “I liked improvising on songs I had learned, rather than learning new ones. I got turned on by the piano. My teacher would give me songs to play, simplified classical and pop, and I got off on it.”

Eager to try his hand at another instrument, young John at first fixated on the clarinet. His orthodontist, however, strictly forbade him to wrap his wired mouth around any reed instruments. The world has this medical professional to thank, then, for the fact that John Densmore headed for the drums.

“I was in the orchestra and the marching band with those stupid uniforms,” Densmore recollects. “I got a rush from playing with 40 musicians, no matter how amateurish–there’s power in a marching band.”

He became enamored, in his teens, with jazz–and particularly with the playing of drummer Elvin Jones, whose evocative, muscular grooves with John Coltrane’s band influenced a multitude of rock musicians. He also became a habitué of the L.A. club scene, where bands like The Byrds and Love were a foretaste of things to come.

He met guitarist Robby Krieger, and the two began writing and playing together in a band called Psychedelic Rangers. Densmore next hooked up with Chicago-bred keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who was then playing in a group known as Rick and the Ravens with his brothers and a shy Floridian named Jim Morrison, who knew Manzarek from UCLA film school.

Eventually, Manzarek’s brothers left the band, and Densmore brought Krieger in. The foursome gelled, despite lacking an element most bands took for granted. “We couldn’t find a bass player,” Densmore remembers. “We tried once or twice, but we sounded like the Stones. A white blues band. Who cares? We wanted to be different.”

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Thank God for our music, because when we lost somebody like Ray, we still have those solos in "Riders" ["on the Storm]" and "Light My Fire." We can go to that and still feel his spirit, so that helps. John Densmore (Happy Birthday Ray) ... See MoreSee Less

Thank God for our music, because when we lost somebody like Ray, we still have those solos in Riders [on the Storm] and Light My Fire. We can go to that and still feel his spirit, so that helps. John Densmore (Happy Birthday Ray)

Christina Hale, S.A. Miller and 23 others like this

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James BeardI love the sound of the organ..... Huge part of why I am drawn to The Doors' music! My favorite is still The Alabama Song! Rest In Peace Ray.

7 days ago   ·  11
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Ronnie VelvetaI Met you in Hawaii many years ago... in Kona. I was your bartender at the Keauhou Beach hotel. As a good bartender, I didn't let anyone know who you were. You signed my copy of Morrison Hotel before you left Kona. Thank you. Just before Ray passed he played a gig in Honolulu. I got to hang out with him a bit after the show as my brother was doing sound. He was super cool man. Great spirits. Laughing & genuinely enjoying himself. After about an hour or so of laughter and funny stories(and some wine & beer) I realized that I had left my girlfriend out in the venue and bid him & Rob Roy Aloha. But before I did... I got him to also sign the same Morrison Hotel album that you had signed 10years before. He thought it was funny that you had circled your head and drawn an arrow to it. A great day indeed. I'll never forget it. Thanks to guys like you guys like me are carrying the torch. Happy Birthday Ray. And thank you John.

7 days ago   ·  10
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Igor RapoAnd he was such a great mythologiser, psychologist and occultist. A true counterpart to the dionsyian Jim. And the music will survive long, long after mankind has "turned off the lights". (Who knows who or what will be around to listen ?)

5 days ago
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Louis Bova4 guys inspired each other to cause the magic.....you, Robbie,and Jim brought out those great solos out of Ray just as they coaxed some of your solos.....

7 days ago   ·  6
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Rose Amberhappy birthday ray!!!1ill never forget the two concerts i went yours and when i saw twicw in two different moments in sf1 one when you put out your book about the doors on haight st,in the 90s and one at embarcadero center movie theater ,sitting on the same lane i was!"!!!!!!!!!sooooo cool!!!!!!!!!1

7 days ago   ·  1
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Miriam DaveyLove love, love those 2 solos, from the first time I heard them, LMF in Jr. High, and ROTS, in High School. Emotions engaged always include sadness that the unique combination of talents and timelines resulting in creation of that music, was so ephemeral....especially "Riders...". It reached out of the radio and grabbed me the very first time I heard it, like nothing else since. Upon hearing Morrison had possibly died that summer, I recall thinking in my self-centered 15-yr old brain, "but, wait, I NEED more of that music...where am I going to get it now?....." Little by little, over the yrs, it's sunk in how special the Doors really were.....

7 days ago   ·  3
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Garrett GriffinMy friend has an unbelievable hi fi system and headphones. He's a hi fi nerd. he was demonstrating his set up to me last night with vinyl so he picked the second doors record. 'When the music's over'! Great song! Took the whole side of the record! GreAt drumming too! Reminds me of miles Davis and the blues but raunchy! I would say groups like the doors sound better on four tracks than most of today's "artistes" do on 24,or 64 or whatever blah blah, because music was more important than fame at that time....

7 days ago   ·  5
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Katy Murphy🎶Happy Birthday in Heaven Ray!🎶 thx for 50 yrs of music, you and all of The Doors have been a part of my life since the beginning! RIP 💖💫.........ty for sharing John, love this photo!

7 days ago   ·  1
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Richard FullerThanks for the great memories, Ray and Happy Birthday. As long as I can remember our cordial meeting and yes I still have your autographed books and DOORS records in my library you will never be considered 'missing in action.' My thoughts go out to John, Robby, Jim and Ray's loving family. Love and Eternal Peace. Rich

7 days ago   ·  2
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Damon JalaliYou were simply the Best Rock n Roll band in the world ( Zepp , Hendrix ,Winter, Dio ,and Pantera were also great and some how same same school )

7 days ago   ·  1
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Thomas GuéretteStraight Cracklin' military/Jazzy Snare, textured and colored Classical/Blues/Jazz B3/Leslie & F.Rhodes, Bottleneck country/blues/flamenco SG and unique charismatique Bariton voice enhance with Shaman Poetry, Ultimate unimmitable Combinaison! Thank God!

7 days ago
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Narelle LeePosts like this just make me adore you even more John. You have such a clean, beautiful, forgiving spirit and are forever true. ❤❤2X

7 days ago   ·  1
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Tommy VanPoolLove the music 🎶 got me threw an then some happy birthday to ray thanks for the post

7 days ago   ·  1
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Karen ModugnoYou changed our lives 💕 🎹🎤Thankyou for the musical journey ✌ 1968 Hollywood Bowl July 5 🌠

7 days ago   ·  3
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Richard MaherGreatest band to grace this planet

7 days ago   ·  5
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Michelle FreemanI will forever cherish meeting him. Rock on forever, Ray! Happy birthday!

7 days ago   ·  3
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Víctor PastranaIt's a shame you guys couldn't make peace when he was still alive. Was it worth it, John?

7 days ago
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Rob DuckSo grateful I seen him in Chatham. I had goosebumps the whole show....

6 days ago
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Szymon Ryzo RyznarTruly truly awsome, One and only, amazing and Real, open-minded Musician.

7 days ago
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Joey AnnaloroYou signed my leather jacket in Brunswick Maine a couple years ago, I was tongue tied as you talked to me, the magic the doors made, carried me through the darkest times of my life, from homeless to happy, the life you have lead Mr densmore and the moral code you represent is a model for us all to admire !

7 days ago   ·  1
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Daniel Patrick Glynnthe sound of ray organ sucks you in and the bellow of jim voice kept you tehir that in essence is the doors bless you ray rip happy b day!

6 days ago
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Caroline McElroyRIP Ray. Saw Peace Frog recently and loved them.

6 days ago
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Crystal HowellIt helps me for sure. Remembering Ray today, listening to a rare live album from Vancouver 1970. Great Jam !

7 days ago
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Mike ArnoldSure did great justice to that Vox Continental. But it was still Mr Manzarek that brought it out. I am certainly grateful.

7 days ago
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Rose DugganSo happy to have seen him in Dublin a few years ago.

7 days ago   ·  2
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Yeah, I always did that. That’s my thing! The melody and the words tell me what to play. You can really tell the tempo from the ambiance of the melody and the words. (John Densmore on playing to Jim's lyrics) ... See MoreSee Less

Yeah, I always did that. That’s my thing! The melody and the words tell me what to play. You can really tell the tempo from the ambiance of the melody and the words. (John Densmore on playing to Jims lyrics)

Donielle Jo Lewis, Olivier Françoise and 23 others like this

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Rodney VeinotI love how Densmore played to Jim's singing. He really knew how to accent specific parts which sometimes highlighted the intensity of the words

2 weeks ago   ·  11
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Joe CottenListening to 3 different live versions of "The End" last night, it struck me how much your "conversation" with JM's lyrics was so vital. The '67 D.C. Hilton Ballroom show is forever etched in my heart. It was great seeing you play at the Neuart, btw.

2 weeks ago   ·  3
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Tommy VanPoolAwesome John spent most if not all of my teenage years listening over an over I was walking thru mile square park an saw you with peter phrampton highlight of my youth you asked me to move I couldn't speak so ya smiled an kind of went sliding by us awesome memory it was a trip best part of my trip lol

2 weeks ago   ·  3
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Dale JamesJohn You're so awsome now and were Sooooo awsome back then!! You accented Jim and the Doors music PERFECT!!! Thank you for all the Years of Absolutely GREAT music!!!

2 weeks ago   ·  2
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Steve SavoieI think you did that probably better than any other drummer. Your songs had an ambient quality that few have ever matched. 🙏 Loved your book BTW.

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Judi Cosentinoyou are awesome, John Densmore, I wish I could have seen you play back then.

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Richard FoxI used the same mind of inspiration for creating bass lines along of course w the chord progression

2 weeks ago
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Thomas Vogtlyrics were great -> melodies were great -> so the music was/has to be great too :-)

2 weeks ago

1 Reply

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Shadman Soumik'The Doors' was not only thaumaturgy of JDM... But also a bunch of "Xtremely Miraculous"... Densmore... Your Beat is people's Heartbeat.. Take my respect.. #Densmore

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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James Redmond" ...tempo from the ambiance of the melody" - a song there.

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Roger MayorgaGenial john densmore

2 weeks ago
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Rob DowGreat photo 👍🏼👍🏼

3 weeks ago   ·  2
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John EretThe Doors were true poetry set to music.

2 weeks ago
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Rean Nancooi Really Love your Drumming, love the Doors God Blessings

3 weeks ago   ·  3
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Gayle WilmouthAnd you were brilliant at it.

2 weeks ago   ·  2
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Kris CoxJohn is my cousin he definitely is one of the greatest

2 weeks ago
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Martin Verreaultbreak on through to the other side

2 weeks ago   ·  2
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Jr OlmosAwesome

2 weeks ago
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Katie WallerBest Band ever existed

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Robert ColomerWhat a Great picture

2 weeks ago
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Ureta Lorca Andres Arturo¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡Jim,ray,robby,john great !!!!!!!!!!!

3 weeks ago
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AnnaMaria CritelliGreat Shot Dense! ⭐⭐⭐😘

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Fer Morales CabalcetaLove u john!!

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Björn LumièreMiss running into Ray.

3 weeks ago   ·  1
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Barducco Art BarduccoThe Best. .🍃

3 weeks ago   ·  1
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