Saturday, September 25, 2010

Thirty Years Gone

In September of 1980 I enter the new school year ready to settle in. Life for me as a 15 year old is, I'm certain, fairly routine and not particularly different from others my age. By this point I've embraced a very stringent, overtly ingrained ideal about my musical preferences which is quite simply immutable, bordering on religious in its import. Led Zeppelin is the end-all, and there is no argument, be it theoretical or empirical, that will change that. On the surface, all seems right with the world -- that is until Thursday, the 25th.

Between classes my friend Bob approaches and proceeds to tell me something that will have an immense impact on my life at that time: John Bonham has died. The words do not make any sense to me. Clearly this cannot be true, and I tell him so. His angry response to my lack of belief in his news alarms me as I know intuitively that his anger is clearly born of sincerity. My refusal to believe such an impactful message is an affront to his veracity. I go to my next class with an awful weight in my stomach. The palpable sense of dread is overwhelming to the point that I tell my teacher I'm not feeling well, and I have to go home. I leave, find my friend Dave, a fellow Zep devotee, tell him the news, and then go home. Finally, the reality of the situation lands. From the moment Bob tells me the news, I have a deep-seated sense that it is true. I call Bob to apologize for not believing him, and in doing so, break down in tears.

By September 25, 1980, I am part of a group of friends most of whom form a coterie of Zeppelin loyalists. It is a dark day indeed, that Thursday, as we all try to come to grips with this tragedy. We have no idea what are the details. All we know is that one of our principal points of commonality has been struck a terrible blow, and we're not sure how to make sense of it. Eventually, we re-group, carry on with our lives, and perhaps all grow up a little.

John Bonham is still recognized as perhaps the greatest of all Rock drummers -- and deservedly so. His legacy is massive, and continues to grow. His reputation for all manner of off-stage shenanigans is legendary. But it is his recorded legacy, both live and in the studio, that will live on. He is the very pulse and, with John Paul Jones, foundation for much of what Zeppelin delivers as a musical unit. The unmatched brilliance of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant is not the same without that Bonham/Jones rhythm section underscoring so much of their music. And when he dies, one forth of Zeppelin dies -- an effective death knell for the band. On December 4, 1980, an official group-penned announcement brings the mighty Zeppelin to an official end. On that day, I shed no tears -- I am merely numb.

The word Thursday is derived from "Thor's Day". On Thursday, the 25th of September, 1980, Thor's hammer comes down on the world's greatest band, striking a lethal blow. Right now, on Saturday, the 25th of September, 2010, I've outlived my favorite band by 30 years -- by the grace of God. And though they are no more, the music of Led Zeppelin continues to thrill me, and for that I am grateful.

We miss you, Bonzo.

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