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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John Coltrane's variant of what is known in music theory as the "circle of fifths". ... See MoreSee Less

John Coltranes variant of what is known in music theory as the circle of fifths.

Marcelo De Rosa, Uwe Pohl and 23 others like this

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RikEl Saderihey John, thank you for everything. your music has resonated through my soul since my early years. of all, just as Fulcanellis mysteries of the cathedrals, mathmatically, as welll as philisophically, the answer is in the numbers and the multiverse. you are the best. thanks, Erik

5 days ago
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Lorena CazJohn, I love you! You're the best percussionist ever.

5 days ago   ·  2
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Jack BenfieldLegend has it the tonal centre for Giant Steps is buried in there somewhere :-)

5 days ago
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Lorena CazCome on, come on, come on... Touch me baby!

5 days ago   ·  3
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Jose PenaJohn!!!Those are my favorite things!!!!!!!!!!

5 days ago   ·  1
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Janice Moore ApplegateYes to this soulful mandala.

5 days ago
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Natalie DornanNow that's interesting !

5 days ago
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Jason WagemannThis is so cool...

4 days ago
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Dave HoustonThere is definitely magic in these numbers.

5 days ago
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Mud Pill PalaceJC's Ghost Dance.

6 days ago
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Andy J HaleUnder Waterfall, John.

6 days ago
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Alexandre GarciaBruno Barude

4 days ago   ·  1
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Will ReinkeLafayette Compton

5 days ago   ·  1
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(Thanks Scott MacNeil for sending) ... See MoreSee Less

(Thanks Scott MacNeil for sending)

Thanasi Skordalos, Horvat Danijel and 23 others like this

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Alex RagaLudwig single-six configuration with three pancake frontal toms, all open without the bottom. Great barking drum for 1970 tour.

2 weeks ago   ·  2

2 Replies

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Bedrich MohrWill never forget the time in the late 80s when I met you and Ray Manzarek at the Bottom Line in the Village in New York at Rays show. A true honor. My favorite drummer and keyboardist. My favorite band. All hail The DOORS

2 weeks ago   ·  2
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Graham ShanahanI knew by the attire that it had to be you John ...unique style as always

2 weeks ago
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Paula Mott-RiznerAs always love any picture of you John! Long live " The Doors"

2 weeks ago
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Cata PeranAy, John C': 'tai más desactualizado XD pero con amorsh <3 u r gr8

2 weeks ago
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Matthew Wayne ElliottGnarly pants

2 weeks ago
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Freddie MoralesCool attire John!

2 weeks ago
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Janice Moore ApplegateThose pants are a big yes.

2 weeks ago
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Gayle WilmouthLove this pic. Rock on

2 weeks ago
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John JoinesMan, what year was that?

2 weeks ago
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Christian PolizziBakersfield 1970

2 weeks ago
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Chad DulaneyThose pants tho...

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Allan JacoJohn The best!

2 weeks ago
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SF Pereyhot!

2 weeks ago
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Brett Warnick NewThanks for the music dude.....

2 days ago
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Denis Jim De AngeliMy favorite drummer😉

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Michele TangredaGreat John Densmore!! ;)

2 weeks ago
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