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 habituΓ© 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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1 day ago

John Densmore

Jim Keltner, a famous drummer, asked me where did you get that idea to put the stick sideways, getting a knock sound on When the Music's Over? 'Jimmy Cobb' was my answer. I saw him play with Miles... now he's jammin' with the trumpeter again in the big band in the sky...jd

#JimmyCobb
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Jim Keltner, a famous drummer, asked me where did you get that idea to put the stick sideways, getting a knock sound on When the Musics Over? Jimmy Cobb was my answer.  I saw him play with Miles... now hes jammin with the trumpeter again in the big band in the sky...jd

#JimmyCobb

Comment on Facebook

That is a great sound. Steve Wonder said he did that a lot by mistake, being blind he just hit the rim, but he loved it and left it in. You can hear it in 'Sir Duke'. (Some people now a day's probably don't know that Stevie is a great drummer.)

True he even showed the famous Greg bissonnet how to play his songs correctly! LOL!

Cobb was a master. His influence and Elvin Jones' on your playing made The Doors sound unique! RIP Jimmy!

Hey John ! Hope you and your family are staying safe and everybody is well. Thanks for your dedication and for all the joy you bring. Great to see you here posting. Stay safe !!

RIP Mr Cobb John connected to all the great jazz drummers, thank you for opening our mind,ears and souls!

I love your drumstyle...my fav is the drums in the song wild child..

I love that song that says "i'm just a soul whose intentions are good".... Wait a second.. sorry it was Eric Burdon.

Please play some play through videos man. We would all love to see it. We love you.

That's one of my favorite songs, it'll be even more special now

Kind of Blue is the one lp everyone must own. Not, should own. Not, would be nice to own. But, must own...

Can you please show us some drum Tips and tricks. From the Doors songs john.

If there's a Rock n Roll heaven, you know they have a hell of a band.

My ultimate favorite song !!! Stay healthy ✌😷😎

Jimmy was one of the best! 😎

I love the sound of the side-stick snare, I'm a bassist but when I play drums I have to make myself not use the side-stick lol

cool fact, i love that song..

Jim Keltner is a very nice man

Respect ✊🏼

Hola, me encanta la contribución de cada integrante de THE DOORS. Es lo que los hace únicos. Espero me puedas mandar un saludo.

my bed time music is The Doors

Jimmys playing was just so sublime.

I love your work!

Rest in peace πŸ’

You mean like a rimshot?

Saludoors de temuco chile john y cuando por chile ....

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5 days ago

John Densmore

"We Will Meet Again"

Here I am jamming with "Sonambula" in a jazz club in Costa Rica. I look forward to being in this close contact with my fans again in the near future! jd
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It was great having you playing in our country and just as important, your inspiring and inspiring talk at the conference about conservation and ecotourism.

Tried a little one of your riffs the other night at a jam with some original songs way down in NEW ZEALAND, was cymbols ringing in my ears and my wrists were aching πŸ₯΄πŸ₯’πŸ₯

John Densmore the living legend!!!! I love you for an infinite while!!!!!!!

Would love to see you in Wisconsin John. Love to meet you.

Come to paris 3 july 2021... 😎🌞❀ feast of freands πŸ’ͺ❀😎

Look forward to seeing you, Mr Densmore...

Awesome playing!

It's on my bucket list to meet you.

I ll hope someday i ll see you in athens

I bet they were very pleased to have u

Para my su banda estimado john densmore ...estubieron a nivel y un poco mas k the beatles...

Ven a guadalajara México john densmore

Yo estuve ahí excelente noche en costa rica

Pura vida!! Mr. Densmore.

Sonámbulo Psicotropical

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7 days ago

John Densmore

There isn't any other musician I can think of that can split his brain into two parts, bass player and right-hand organ player. It's just magic. I connect it to his left hand because bass players and drummers are cooking the groove in the basement for everybody to dance to. And then his right hand would play these unbelievable licks that you would never forget, like the solo in "Riders On The Storm" or the "Light My Fire" intro. john densmore

(Remembering Ray Manzarek - 2/12/39 - 5/20/13)
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There isnt any other musician I can think of that can split his brain into two parts, bass player and right-hand organ player. Its just magic. I connect it to his left hand because bass players and drummers are cooking the groove in the basement for everybody to dance to. And then his right hand would play these unbelievable licks that you would never forget, like the solo in Riders On The Storm or the Light My Fire intro.  john densmore

(Remembering Ray Manzarek - 2/12/39 - 5/20/13)

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I got to talk to him on a call in radio show about 20 years ago. He said, "Hi Ray this is Ray". He answered a bunch of questions. With all of Jim's talent it would have been lost without the 3 other Doors. Just perfect 4 people to come together at the right time. I still wonder at how young they were when they made their 1st album. Best band ever.

Ray is not just a legend, but an "epic legend". He had such a brilliant style, once you hear his playing for just a few seconds you automatically know who it is - there is no other like him. As a non-musician it is hard for me to put it into words, other than just saying that magic flowed from his hands. His death deeply affected me, and I remember so vividly hearing that awful news 7 years ago. Ray Manzarek is truly among the most phenomenal musicians who have ever lived in our world.

I met him shortly before he passed. Told him “I love you Ray!!” I also met you too. I was a TSA agent and I helped you get through the security checkpoint at DFW airport a few years back. Not 300 yards from where I had met Ray a couple of years prior! What’s crazy is in my locker that day, I just so happened to have had a Doors Tshirt in my locker! I didn’t think quickly enough to go grab it to have you sign it! It was a strange coincidence because I had never taken it to work before, was gonna wear it after work!

Amazing! Spent last night watching Doors videos for hours. 4 great musicians. But as a drummer I love the interplay between you and Ray the most. Nice! 😊

I had the pleasure of seeing Ray play live 10 times in the US and Europe, from 2003 onwards, and of meeting him in Paris, Manchester and Dublin. He was astonishingly talented. My father was a professional organist for over 40 years, and between him and Ray, there are no other musical heroes who come close to how much I loved them. I once sat on a street corner with Ray for a few minutes in Paris, alongside Robby. They were so kind and friendly, and genuinely happy to meet fans, even though it had long passed midnight and Ray was clearly physically tired after what must have been a very long day. I'll always treasure those memories. And once, again in Paris, I introduced him to my mother, who was also a big fan of Ray's. And he made her feel like the only person in Pere Lachaise that day. An absolute gentleman with real old school respect for a lady of his generation. Ray Manzarek: A true rock and roll legend x

Ray must have been ambidextrous, but what he created was above and beyond merely that! Actually drummers have that ability to varying degrees, as you know. Your right hand and your left hand, and even both feet-can be doing way different things. He had the tune as well as the rhythm to deal with, though, and you had the rhythm alone. And sometimes he sang, too. Talent doesn’t cover it.

Reading all the great memories and occasions on here , tremendous, Ray, john,robbie and jim, you guys ,the doors,simply magic. I cant articulate with enough emphasis how much i love everything about yous, the impact on my life, to the core.Thankyou all,in awe and wonder always yeppπŸ‘ŒπŸ˜

Thanks to him, The Doors combined this magical sound of blues, rock, jazz and his signature keyboard/organ sound. It's not something that has ever been reproduced, in my opinion. But it certainly has been imitated. Rest easy Ray. Hope you and Jim are together.

ray was also a great arranger. he could take jim's big pic ideas and structure and arrange them into a musical pattern & language. ... he must have been a good counselor too. keeping morrison on the rails and leading a band to top status in that very competitive era was no easy feat.

First hand accountability from the one & only John Densmore! ... the farher we get from that magical musical time the more we see why it was the Best times of our lives! ... the Soundtrack of the '60's still Rocks!

John, nice tribute!! I truly hope that you and your family are doing well and that you know that you are a legend too!! Remembering you from the good old days back when you sat next to me in high school. Take care and be well, my best Donna Kaplan HauserπŸ₯‚

Wish Ray was still here, loved how articulate he was and how he explained The Doors music and just things in general. My thoughts go out to his family and friends today on the 7th anniversary of his death. I cannot express how thankful I am for the music that you four guys made together. It changed my life when I heard it in my early teenage years and has been with me ever since. There never has been nor will there ever be a band like The Doors!

I've been very lucky to see Ray play twice, in Benidorm and Barcelona. an incredible memory that I will always carry in my heart.❀️

A true one of a kind musician. Unique and talented in ways people don’t really understand. Helped make the Doors have their own distinctive sound. He is missed. Riders on the Storm is a great example and my personal all time favorite Doors song. Thank you Ray!

So glad I got to see him play one last time back in 2012 in San Francisco. I'll never forget how he half kneeled, half stood on the bench to play the final song....amazing energy for a guy in his seventies...was hard to believe he was gone a year later.

I tried playing bass with my left and melody with the right for a while and is frickin' hard. You have to split your brain. I loved Rays' work and still do. Miss you Ray.

One of the smartest musicians out there. The Doors was a band made of 4 very smart guys. They made some very smart music. You have to be smart and sophisticated to appreciate their art. Sorry, this ain’t no Motley Crue or Poison, this was art.

He was brilliant. Us fans were in awe of that capability. The 4 of you guys had such unique special talent individually and an even greater accomplishment as a unit. The best

I just watched The Doors last concert that was filmed. It was one of your final shows. I love this band! ❀️

I am a sax player most of the time. But a year or so ago took up learning keys. Inspired solely by Ray M. And my love of his playing and The Doors fantastic music.

Ray was truly amazing, Jim had a great voice and such a way with words, and John, you and Robby are still sensational in your crafts! You four together made one hell of a band!! The Doors will forever be my very favorite band of all time! RIP Ray!

I attended the concert you held in his honor a few years ago to raise money for cancer... it was such a beautiful tribute to RM from so many amazing musiciansπŸ’—πŸ•ŠπŸŒž

Thank you sir.... I was fortunate to see he and Robbie perform together. I was born in 69 and had always read about The Doors mystique. But that night I finally understood it. Beautiful.... ❀️ from MPLS.

I met Ray at Phil Harris Records. A gentleman, indeed. Also saw him perform with X at the Whiskey and with you as The Doors in the 21st Century. One of the best musicians ever. <3

Ray was exceptional. Cool guy and a big heart. He was so talented and brought a very unique sound to The Doors. Just the mysterious ticking sound in touch me is mind blowing.

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