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Hal Lifson’s Corner: Kenny Aronoff Still Rockin’ After Three Decades

Posted: Friday, December 8, 2017 – 11:04 AM

I had the amazing opportunity two weeks ago to meet one of my drummer idols in a corner booth at Nate’n Al. Kenny Aronoff was the drummer on every John Mellencamp hit song and has played with a “who’s who” list of artists and bands, ranging from John Fogerty, Paul McCartney, Melissa Etheridge and Smashing Pumpkins.

Kenny was meeting with me to take in Beverly Hills for the holiday season before leaving on a road trip to appear at a “Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis” and an “America Salutes” concert in New York. He plays on the big awards shows because he knows all the technical sides of being a drummer and playing for the biggest artists on live TV. No mistakes are allowed and Kenny has to switch tempos and styles of music on a dime.

Raised in Massachusetts, he attended Indiana University’s music conservatory and performing classic timpani for conductors like Leonard Bernstein before launching his rock and roll career with John Mellencamp in the early ‘80s and his first big hit Jack And Diane with its booming drum break in the middle of the song put Kenny on the map.

“I know I can never be perfect, but I don’t mind spending the rest of my life trying to be the best I can be” is Kenny’s compact, but powerful philosophy. We took a walk around Rodeo and Beverly Drive after lunch and saw the lights begin to come on which impressed Kenny a great deal. I said: “Now Beverly Hills has its own ‘little drummer boy’ fill-in drummer”­–reminding him that he filled in for the lead character on drums in the Tom Hanks’ film That Thing You Do.

His book Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll tells his story of life in bands and on the road for over 35 years at the top of the music business. But for this one lovely winter day in Beverly Hills, we walked to the beat of The Ronettes’ Frosty The Snowman which played from the speakers as we traversed down Rodeo Drive. See some amazing drumming and interview videos of Kenny Aronoff on YouTube!

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