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33 Years Ago: Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham Dies

John Bonham
Richard E. Aaron, Getty Images

On Sept. 25, 1980, at 32 years of age, Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham passed away, inadvertently bringing an end to one of rock’s greatest bands.

The group’s final studio effort ‘In Through The Out Door’ had been released in Sept. 1979 after many delays. In May 1980, the group performed what would be their last European tour. That September, the band was in rehearsals at guitarist Jimmy Page’s house in advance of an American tour.

Bonham reportedly began drinking early in the day, continuing to consume copious amounts of alcohol well into the evening. Not long after the group’s rehearsals had wrapped up for the night, Bonham passed out in a drunken state and would never wake up.

In the weeks following Bonham’s untimely death, London newspaper The Guardian reported that Bonham had consumed “about 40 measures of vodka in 12 hours.” At the inquest of Bonham’s death, his assistant Rex King told the authorities how he and Page’s assistant Albert Hobbs had put Bonham to bed that evening.

On the morning of Sept. 25, Led Zeppelin’s road manager Ben Lefevre attempted to stir Bonham but noticed that something was indeed wrong with the drummer. After unsuccessfully searching for a pulse, Lefevre called an ambulance. A sample taken from Bonham’s bladder showed an alcohol level of 276 milligrams per hundered millilitres. Bonhams’s death was ruled accidental after it was determined that he died after inhaling his vomit.

Pathologist Dr. Edmund Hemstead reportedly said, ”This indicated he inhaled the vomit but didn’t die immediately as the result of that, and that he died some hours later due to the shocked state on inhaling vomit, during which time the alcohol in his blood would have broken down.”

Led Zeppelin issued a brief statement declaring they would not continue as a band without their departed drummer, and apart from a handful of charity shows they have kept their word. The most recent of these events, a full-length 2007 concert at London’s O2 arena, was released as the 2012 live album ‘Celebration Day.’

Next: Full 'Celebration Day' Details

Hear Cleveland’s WMMS Report the Death of John Bonham

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