Book Review: Born to Drum

[Full title: Born to Drum: The Truth About the World’s Greatest Drummers–from John Bonham and Keith Moon to Sheila E. and Dave Grohl]

“Are you a drummer?” it’s a question that is posed to the author on the first page of his book “Born to Drum.” The answer is…”No”. This is a surprise response to a book that is written about drummers from the drummer’s perspective. Even more surprising is that you would never know it as this book is about as close to a drummer’s authorship as you can get. In a book with the sub title “The Truth About the World’s Greatest Drummers” the truth is on every page. The author gets to the real insights by asking all the right questions.

Tony Barrell, a British journalist who covers pop music for the Sunday Times in the UK among other publications, simply has a great admiration for drummers. An admiration that runs so deep he decided to write an entire book about them. A talented interviewer, Barrell speaks to a “Who’s-Who” list of drumming legends as well as the up-and-coming generation of drummers. Names like Phil Collins, Nick Mason, and Bill Bruford are included along with Niko McBrian and John Densmore.

The book is divided up like an investigation in which Barrell is trying to figure out what makes a drummer tick. He explores the differences between working-class drummers and show-offs, studio and stage musicians, those in search of perfect time and those who are looking for sexual liaisons. He also includes a look back at the seedier history of rock drummers from the days of destroying hotel rooms and crashing cars to passing out on stage from too many medicines.

By including both the older and younger generation the reader gets a real impression of the differences of drummers then and now.

Barrell’s publisher Dey St., an imprint of Harper Collins, was kind enough to send a review copy to us here at Off Beat. Here are my impressions: “Born to Drum” is a fun read. I finished the entire book in two sittings and once I started I wanted to read more. As a drummer, I immediately related to almost everything in the book. Drummers will constantly be thinking to themselves, “I knew that,” and “I feel the same.” My favorite part of the book is when he talks about Ringo Starr’s immeasurable impact on the drumming community. Ringo gets a lot of credit as an influencer but not much as a drummer.

This book will appeal to drummers, and like the author, non-drummers alike.

Buy on Amazon

Tony Barrell’s website

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