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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1 week ago
John Densmore

The Doors's cover photo ... See MoreSee Less

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My hero.

He was so polite to meet in person . I remember meeting him with my mother after he performed in Santa Monica at McCabes guitar 🎸 shop years ago .Now he is gone and my mother is also gone but I cherish the memories and the photo my mother took of me standing with him .

We need Ray and Jim more than ever!

Ray was incredible. Simply no Doors without Ray’s genius

Cheers Ray and Jim ...

What a Beautiful Soul!

A true “ hippy” he was

I miss him and even never met him person…

I saw The Doors in concert around 1970 and Ray twice after that. He was always very unassuming and down-to-earth.

Ri.p. man… you brought some great tunes !

Sad day. Hope his soul is flying free…

He is in spirit like Jim but sorely missed!

Peace and Love!

I hope Ray and Jim are together.Ray loved him so much.

On ne l oublie pas , toujours dans nos cœurs. pensées pour Ray

Soulful and sublime.

Thirty Years ago Mr. Manzarek was in my hometown appearing at the University. So wish i could have attended. Pretty sure that at one time i owned thirteen cassette tapes of the greatest music ever. For a bunch of film makers, you guys rocked as musicians......

He made the difference, that warm San Francisco feeling in his playing will always stay in our memories

Heartfelt

He changed the landscape for keyboardist role in a band

Definitely a ground breaking musician, as was the band

Yous a Doors man too!

Met him TWICE in the span of two sun filled days. ♥️ warm soul.

One of my favorite musicians of all times

9 years already.....RIP

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3 weeks ago
John Densmore

Featured in Bass Player Magazine, John remembers the late bassist Phil Chen. ... See MoreSee Less

Featured in Bass Player Magazine, John remembers the late bassist Phil Chen.

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Mr. Chen was unbelievable live. He made the whole sound groove together. Definitely one to revere and appreciate their time here.

The first non white musician to be seen on MTV. He was in a Rod Stewart video

Phil was great musician. Me and Mr. Chen in 2012.

Jeff Beck blow by blow enough said

RIP Phil. I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Phil Chen around 2009 when he came to DC to DJ at a reggae club called Patty Boom Boom. He played some great tunes! Little did I know at the time that he played bass with members of the Doors! Or else I would have had so much more to talk to him about lol!

The nicest, most humble star bassist I’ve ever met. His daughter is a sweetheart too. Missing Jamaican Phil.

It took Phil Chen's level of talent to replace Ray's left hand. RIP Phil 🙁 So sorry for your loss, John.

Great player, wishing peace.

I never realized just how many bass players The Doors have worked with since the group began . Lonnie Mack was one of my personal favorites .

He was great and a nice guy

Saw him with Ray and Robby in 2011. Great bass player.

I saw him in Juarez, Mexico with Riders on the Storm back in ‘08. What a great performance it was. Such an amazing man and musician.

I was just watching Rod and the Youtube video You Wear It Well live 1972 and Phil was there.

Rip Dear man, God’s Love to your family 😇🎸

Kind and deserving post, John. Phil was a 30-year buddy. He took bass playing very seriously. At various times when I was visiting LA and staying with him, he’ll be up at the crack of dawn playing in his music room, practicing for hours. I once said, “Hey Phil, you got the job man, you don’t need to work that hard…” He smiled and in his thick island accent said: “I do it for myself man; the only way to get better, for me, is to practice…“ RIP PC 🙏

.. The Doors had no bass guitar player .. Ray left hand did it 😎

I believe he played with Robbie over the past few years, right? I spoke to him for a minute or two, and offered to buy him a beer at The CoachHouse in San Juan Capistrano. He struck me a Stellar Individual, even in just a brief n super casual, chance encounter. Sorry to hear he's left us.

May his soul rest in heaven

RIP Phil!!

He was an amazing bassist.

Best to the family!

I remember he had a great bass groove on those disco/rock tunes with Rod Stewart in the 70's.....

Saw him in Paris with robby and Ray...great player

I saw him play in Chicago with D21c at The House of Blues

You’re a good man John Densmore! Thank you for drumming for your friends memory and transition, and for you kind words of him.🙏🏻💕

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1 month ago
John Densmore

Went to my 1st live music (at the Skirball)... this guy (L. Shankar) wrote the soundtrack to Scorsese's Last Temp of Christ" with Peter Gabriel, played with Sting, etc. and he still thinks he needs orange hair!...jd

#LShankar #Skirball
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Went to my 1st live music (at the Skirball)... this guy (L. Shankar) wrote the soundtrack to Scorseses Last Temp of Christ with Peter Gabriel,  played with Sting, etc.  and he still thinks he needs orange hair!...jd

#LShankar #Skirball

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Was brought up on Peter Gabriel,Pink Floyd,early in my teens the film The Doors came out,what an impact The Doors had on my group of friends and I,we even had a grass mound wed go drinking on called morrisons tump,great days

So wish i could work with you and Robbie. Thirty years ago Mr Manzerek was in my hometown and i was sorry to miss it. If there is one thing on my bucket list, it would be to do some studio time with you two. God Bless Mr. Densmore

God forbid he asked for a signature

Can still remember this as my first favorite band ever... loved the song Light my fire...the music was always amazing and had an air of being way ahead of the time. It is still as relevant the first day you performed it as it is today. I understood that at at 11... still listen to your music every single day John... thank you for the memories. Remember watching the tv shows you would be performing on and being mesmerized. ❤️

Looking good Jhon !!! Love The Doors for ever! Peace, Love & Músic ☮️❤️🌠

Wow youre looking great John! Haha I guess he's set in stone with the style😂 surely is unique! John Densmore

Was just playing drums along to my Doors greatest hits album- I love how your playing adds so much color and feeling to those songs 😎

Fantastic!! So much talent right there❤️

You and Robby and Ray never got the musician-chops credit that you deserve.

Thanks for reminding me of that great piece of music. It's definitely a masterpiece, and so cool to see you two geniuses together in the here and now!

We all need orange hair actually in my case any hair would be good!

Wow. So sorry I missed this, I haven't ever seen him perform live, but Pancha Nadai Pallavi was a life-changing record for me.

Shankar is a music legend ...dial Shakti, Zappa, solo material and countless other collabs. John,it's pretty cool that you still check out the non regular music scene. Yeah, still can't get over that electric orange hair...😄.

Looking great, john - the years have been kind - thanks for your fab music

Hes the best i ever heard. Love his music

Hi John.. I was at the show hosted by Rex Weiner last year and asked a few questions from Mumbai. Hope all well

I love it. The peace symbol still flies high.

I still respect you John Densmore you were part of greatest band ever lived. I don’t hate you. But I’m sad about the things you said about Jim in your book.

Hi John! Your silver looks great compared

John Densmor thank you for your contribution to the greatest music ever produced

One of my favorite drummers to listen to.

From purple haze to purple shirts,............ if thats a peace sign then it surely is a, well, sign of the times.......

Looks better on him than it would on me! And glad you’re doing the normal fashion thing!

That album got me though some rough times

Looking Good John ...peace

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