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John Drumbo French of the band Captain Beefheart, provides an enigma of sorts to those who study musicians and their life. French is an American musician who specialized in drums, but has also done vocals and played the harmonica in the most recent years of his career.

French moved between different bands, always a strong part of the band and yet never making any true lasting impression in anyone until after he left. For this reason, he is something of a ghost in the music world-his influence is felt everywhere, yet no one has direct connections to it and no one has tried to directly emulate his work, though he did prove in his time that some truly remarkable things could be done with a set of drums.

French was born in 1949 in San Bernardino, California. He spent his teenage years haunting the local music scenes with Doug Moon and watched the band The Omens. By 1964, he was playing professionally, first in the band Merrill and the Exiles. Then in 1966, he joined Beefheart and the Magic Band.

He heavily influenced the bands sound, and yet he was never in the band credits or the photographs. This did not seem to bother him unduly though-when he was fired, he left and when he was invited to return, he came back, though the times he spent with the band were difficult for him; he often cited physical and mental abuse in his interviews later on and said that the reason he stayed was because he believed in turning the other cheek and that he had little right to get angry at anyone when he was only sixteen.

The only major exception was when the band leader later required him to learn forty songs in two weeks which he simply could not do and walked out as a result.

Overall though, the music seemed to be the most important thing to French, not recognition, money, or fame. In fact, it was not until the 1990s that he was able to lead his own recordings and finally gain the recognition he deserved for his work. He was also invited to do a solo for the British Music Collective in 1996.

Now, French works on his own recordings. In 2008, City of Refuge came to the market, showcasing not only his unique style, but also his ability to put music together in a way that is popular with many people. He also led the reunion of Beefheart and the Magic Band in 2003 for a tour, which led to a pair of CDs and a DVD showing the reunion.

After many years of work, French is finally being recognized for the music genius he is and such recognition is well deserved. He does not let it get to his head though; in interviews, he comes across as a man with a sense of humor, humility, and who is very honest about his life and his work.

Drew Mers is an advertising consultant to to Empire Rehearsal Studios, which rents music rehearsal studios to bands and musicians in Manhattan (New York City) and Queens.

Article Source: Profile of Famous Musician John French

 
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