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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5 days ago
John Densmore

In this video, John describes how "Riders On The Storm" came about and his drumming technique for the song. ... See MoreSee Less

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Listen to this song all the time! Love this video of you explaining...Miss Jim M. The great American Band . Thx for sharing John.

Is is good, Mr. D. No, it's great. Only a few 60's/early 70's cuts I still listen to, and thrill over, other than for pure o dee nostalgia. "Riders On The Storm" is one. Actually, top of my list. When that song hit the airwaves back in summer of 1971, it reached out over the airwaves, through the static and the heat, and grabbed my 15 year old psyche. Right through that little Panasonic solid state radio. In my un-air-conditioned rural North LA "Delta" home, it often did not cool off enough to fall asleep till 1 a.m, but this song gave me a much-needed little chill. Never have entirely stopped being sad that the promise of more music like that died that July, but also never stopped being thankful it existed at all. Yep, it was good then, for sure. But it's great now. Thanks for your integrity and keep the faith. Miriam in Louisiana

Such a haunting and timeless song, it sounds as amazing today as it did when you guys released it.

So cool, wish that you played the entire track..

'Riders On The Storm' was just hitting the airwaves when I heard about the passing of Jim Morrison. It was those two separate events that started my fascination with Jim and my life-long love of the Doors' music.

Mr Densmore!!!!!,... So happy to see, once again, how you epitomizes the enduring values of the sixties. And The Doors. And Mr. Morrison. (Just in case you are actually reading the comments...)

I've been a Doors fan my whole life and LA Woman is one of the few albums I can still remember exactly where I was when I first heard it.

Thanks for sharing, John. Great information!

top 3 of the best songs ever... LOVE it..

Fact. John is the most underrated drummer in history. Amazingly creative stuff on every song on every album.

The Doors have such musical skills very creative John Densmore in my books ranks in top drummers for timing ingenuity skill and just pure rawness skills most band do not pocess.The Doors.

I love Jim♥️😭😭😭

John densmore is full of Shit Jim didn't like him least favourite door

Thank you for sharing this! It must be sureal to play along with such incredible and iconic music that you helped create and recorded so many years ago. Amazing!

Great story and album John. Riders is one my favorite tracks. Also Cars hiss by my window.

One of my favorite songs John. Of course I love all the songs.

LA Woman is legendary ..........

Fell in love with this song at the age of 5, when released, and I still love it. ❤️

Love you John.

Thanks for your time and interesting memories... 👍

My favorite Drummer The Legendary Sir John Densmore

That was great gracias amigo no me moleste mosquito let me eat my burrito peace n love

Yes! It’s very good, one of my faves !!

Fascinating. Thanks

You're welcome. ♥️

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