How Did John Bonham Die? The Tragic Details of His Sudden Death

how did john bonham die, image of john bonham playing the drums in 1975
Image from Shutterstock.

The world was devastated 43 years ago when the shocking news came of John Bonham’s sudden death. He and Led Zeppelin were at the height of their career, about to embark on their first national tour in three years. The anticipation was high, but then the sudden death of the now famed greatest drummer in rock history left the band’s fans without more of their iconic rock music ever again. It proved a loyalty and a brotherhood amongst the band members that only made us love Bonham and Led Zeppelin more.

Who is John Bonham, and what is John Bonham’s cause of death? What did John Bonham’s will say? Find out all that and more about the world’s greatest drummer below.

How Did John Bonham Die?

John Bonham’s cause of death was asphyxia, also known as a pulmonary aspiration.

This happened following a day and night of extremely heavy drinking.

As the next of John Bonham’s tours with Led Zeppelin across North America was set to begin in October, the band was at the height of rehearsals. On September 24, 1980, the drummer was picked up by Rex King, the band’s assistant, to take him to Bray Studios for the next rehearsal. On the way to the studio, the pair stopped for breakfast, during which he threw back 16 shots of vodka screwdrivers that were between 400 and 560 milliliters a piece.

After rehearsal, Bonham continued drinking late into the night as the band gathered at Jimmy Page’s house in Clewer, Windsor, known as the Old Mill House. Upon falling asleep at midnight, he was placed on his side after being moved to bed by an unknown person.

Late the next day, Benji LeFevre, the band’s touring manager, and John Paul Jones found an unresponsive Bonham, who was soon pronounced diseased.

While it was ultimately ruled an accidental death, there was a judicial inquiry, known as an inquest, into John Bonham’s death a month later on October 27, 1980. The investigation revealed that in about 24 hours, Bonham had consumed approximately 40 shots of 40 percent ABV vodka.

After, in his sleep, he vomited and choked on his own vomit. No recreational drugs were found in his system, a wonder considering he had only recently overcome a heroin problem, according to Rolling Stone. The only drug he was on at the time of his death was an unknown medication for depression and anxiety.

Related: 30 Best 70s Songs

When Did John Bonham Die?

John Bonham passed away on September 25, 1980.

He was survived by his bandmates, wife, and two children. He was also survived by his younger brother and sister and his parents.

How Old Was John Bonham When He Died?

John Bonham was only 32 years old when he died in Berkshire, England.

Where is John Bonham Buried?

John Bonham’s funeral was an intimate service at a small church near his family’s farm and was attended by only family and his Led Zeppelin band mates; however, there were many flowers featured at the service, including a wreath by the BeatlesPaul McCartney.

After John Bonham’s funeral, his remains were cremated and subsequently buried on October 12, 1980, in the St. Michael Church graveyard in Rushock, Worcestershire.

Related: New Beatles’ Song 2023: What Might the AI-Assisted Track Sound Like?

john bonhams grave
Image from Shutterstock.

Who Inherited John Bonham’s Money?

At the time of John Bonham’s death, the famed drummer was worth approximately $10 million. With inflation, that translates to around $30 million by 2023 standards of the massive worth of John Bonham’s estate.

John Bonham’s will stated that his money was to be inherited by his wife and his children.

Based just on Led Zeppelin’s stake in the music publishing company United Blag Productions, of which Bonham, along with the other band members, owned 22.5 percent, his wife, Pat Bonham, received 11.5 percent. In comparison, John Bonham’s kids split the rest at 5.5 percent each.

What Were John Bonham’s Last Words?

No one has ever revealed John Bonham’s last words to the public. Obviously, his bandmates were the ones to hear them, considering his long night of drinking with the other Led Zeppelin members. With the surprise and shock of his death, however, it is possible that they don’t even remember what his last words were, especially if they were just as drunk as he was. 

When Was John Bonham Born?

John Bonham’s birthdate was May 31, 1948.

John Bonham’s Zodiac sign was Gemini. That means his strengths were his curiosity, adaptability, ideas, and affection towards others. On the latter spectrum, his Zodiac sign also meant he was indecisive, inconsistent, and often nervous. If the final weakness is true, you’d never know it if that included performing on stage.

Where Was John Bonham From?

John Bonham was born and raised in Redditch, Worcestershire, England.

Where Did John Bonham Live?

At the time of his death, John Bonham’s estate was in Cutnall Green, Worcestershire, England. His family is believed to still own the property, which is known as Old Hyde Farm.

Bonham purchased the large property in 1972, turning it into a working family farm. The farm is 100 acres and includes a motor car workshop pedigree like free-range chickens and Hereford cattle. The latter included a prize-winning bull named “Bruno.”

Bonham’s sister, singer-songwriter Deborah Bonham, released her album, The Old Hyde, in 2004 in honor of her brother as well as other deceased family members. It also includes John Bonham’s son, Jason, on drums.

John Bonham’s Ethnicity

John Bonham’s ethnicity is believed to be pure English, coming from a long line of Brits.

How Tall Was John Bonham?

John Bonham’s height was approximately 5 feet, 10 inches tall.

How Much Did John Bonham Weigh?

John Bonham’s weight was roughly 156 pounds.

a bunch of music books, one of which names led zepplin
Image by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.

How Did John Bonham Become Famous?

John Bonham made his mark on the world as the drummer of Led Zeppelin, during which time he became known for his signature way of playing. This included his power, speed, distinct sound, and the way he simply felt the groove of the music.

Regarded as one of the world’s most influential and greatest drummers in music history, no matter the genre, he was also known for his fast, single-footed kick drumming.

Some of the most famous of John Bonham’s songs with Led Zeppelin include “Good Times Bad Times,” “Bonzo’s Montreux,” and “Moby Dick.” The latter of these Led Zeppelin songs features an epic four-and-a-half-minute drum solo. The original performance was featured on the Led Zeppelin album Led Zeppelin II.

The same album also featured his hard-hitting performance on “Immigrant Song.” Others of John Bonham’s albums with Led Zeppelin featured his evident skills on Houses of Holy’s “The Ocean,” Presence’s “Achilles Last Stand,” and Led Zeppelin IV’s “When the Levee Breaks.”

John Bonham’s legacy was so great that Led Zeppelin disbanded instead of replacing Bonham as drummer. They made the announcement in a December 4, 1980, press release. “We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.”

Related: The History of the Greatest Musicians of All-Time: Led Zeppelin

John Bonham’s Children

John Bonham had two children with his wife, Pat Phillips.

John Bonham’s son, Jason, came first on July 15, 1966. Like his father, Jason Bonham is a drummer and has successfully toured and recorded with several artists, including Sammy Hagar and The Circle, UFO, Foreigner and Bonham, and Black Country Communion.

After his father’s death, Jason Bonham also played with Led Zeppelin a couple of times, most notably during the band’s Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary reunion show on May 15, 1988. Nearly 20 years later, he joined them again at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert on December 10, 2007.

A young Jason Bonham is also seen playing drums in the The Song Remains the Same Led Zeppelin concert film. He was only 7 years old at the time.

John Bonham’s daughter, Zoë Bonham, was born on June 10, 1975. She also took after her father’s musical gifts, but instead of drumming, she went down the singer-songwriter path like her aunt. She has performed at multiple Led Zeppelin conventions.

Both of John Bonham’s children represented their father at the band’s 1995 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. 

Related: 34 Best Music Documentaries

John Bonham’s Siblings

John Bonham was the oldest of three children.

John Bonham’s brother, Mick Bonham, was born in 1950. He was a disc jockey, author, and photographer. He later died in 2000.

John Bonham’s sister, Deborah Bonham, is the only surviving Bonham sibling. A blues and rock singer-songwriter, Deborah Bonham was born in 1962. She was only 6 years old when Led Zeppelin first formed.

Who Was John Bonham Married To?

John Bonham’s wife was Pat Phillips.

The pair met in 1964 at a dance in Kidderminster. They were married one year later, in 1965. Bonham was only 17 at the time of their union.

Is John Bonham’s wife still alive? Yes. She still lives in their house and farm near Cutnall Green.

John Bonham’s Parents

John Bonham was the oldest child of Joan and Jack Bonham.

Both of his parents supported their son’s musical ambitions, with him learning to play the drums by the time he was 5 years old. At age 10, Bonham received his first snare drum from his mom and, five years later, a Premier Percussion set drum kit from his father.

His years of learning, mostly being self-taught and never taking formal lessons, saw him trying to imitate his biggest idols, including Buddy Rich, Max Roach, and Gene Krupa.

Joan Bonham, a singer for the 40-member band The Zimmers, passed away on February 10, 2011.

John Bonham’s Tattoos

It is unclear whether John Bonham sported any tattoos; however, others have immortalized him in permanent ink. The most notable is Dave Grohl’s infamous tattoo. What’s more infamous, however, is how the Foo Fighters frontman did it.

“I became so obsessed [with Bonham] that I gave myself a three-interlocked-circles John Bonham tattoo on my arm with a [expletive] sewing needle and some ink,” Grohl explained to the Guardian. “I was branded for life.”

What was John Bonham’s BAC When He Died?

John Bonham’s blood alcohol content (also known as blood alcohol concentration) was around 276 milligrams per hundred milliliters. This was discovered in a bladder sample taken after his death. 

Why is John Bonham Considered the Best Drummer?

We’ve already established that John Bonham is named as one of the world’s greatest rock drummers, but how is that determined? Well, according to Bill Ward of Black Sabbath: “Bonham was light of foot and light in his wrists. It was his dexterity, his touch, that seemed to intuitively know how to find the power points on each drum.” 

Related: 29 Best Drummers of All Time, Ranked 

Who Did John Bonham Think was the Best Drummer?

While most regard John Bonham as the best, he obviously had his own opinion outside of himself. He has named Gene Krupa as one of his greatest influences. The jazz drummer was best known for his charismatic showmanship and energetic style, which Bonham obviously showed off in his own style. 

Bonham also noted drummers like Ginger Baker, Buddy Rich, Keith Moon, and Max Roach as some of his biggest influencers. 

Who Was John Bonham’s Best Friend?

No two members of Led Zeppelin were closer than John Bonham and Robert Plant, despite the fact that the former once punched the latter right before a show. The pair went way back, working as starving artists together before Led Zeppelin helped them both make it big. 

Concerning the fight and others that the two have had, Bonham has said: “Robert and I have known each other for so long that there’s never any maliciousness in these fights. We just lose our tempers sometimes.” 


There is no telling where Led Zeppelin would have gone had it not been for the shocking and untimely death of its star drummer, John Bonham. His is a story that proves that while there is good fun in having a few drinks with friends, there is a certain responsibility that comes with it outside of simply not drinking and driving. Learn more about the dangers of excessive drinking, binge-drinking asphyxia, and alcohol poisoning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is an example of a tragic death that should never have to be told about another living soul again.

You May Also Like: 

Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





how did chester bennington die famous people who committed suicide chester bennington in a white tank leaning down on stage as he sings into a mic

How Did Chester Bennington Die? His Tragic Suicide

musicians who got plastic surgery oldest musicians still alive today short country singers dolly parton singing on stage

26 Oldest Musicians (Still Alive in 2023)