The day prior to Bonham’s premature death, his band members had been rehearsing.
Bonham had been binge drinking for twelve hours during the session, which began at noon and ended at midnight. He had consumed 40 ounces of vodka.
After passing out on a sofa, Bonham was put to bed by an assistant to sleep off his drunkenness. The assistant claims to have laid Bonham on his side with pillows for support.
John Paul Jones found Bonham the next morning. He tried to wake him but was unable to and called paramedics. It was too late.
An inquest into Bonham’s death determined he had died from the inhalation of his own vomit during sleep, which led to pulmonary edema. (fluid accumulation in the lungs, which can cause respiratory failure). The cause of death was “consumption of alcohol.”
A verdict of accidental death was presented and recorded.
This is what Robert Plant had to say about the evening of September 24: “On the very last day of his life, as we drove to the rehearsal, he was not quite as happy as he could be. He said, ‘I’ve had it with playing drums. Everybody plays better than me.’ We were driving in the car and he pulled off the sun visor and threw it out the window as he was talking. He said, ‘I’ll tell you what, when we get to the rehearsal, you play the drums and I’ll sing.’ And that was our last rehearsal.”
John Bonham’s family funeral service took place on October 10, 1980 at Rushock Parish Church in Worcestershire. Two hundred and fifty mourners attended, made up of family, friends, bandmates and other musicians, including Roy Wood, Denny Laine, Bev Bevan and Jeff Lynne. Paul McCartney left a wreath and tributes flooded in from fellow drummers including Carmine Appice, Phil Collins, Cozy Powell and Carl Palmer. After the family service, the funeral procession made its way to Worcester Crematorium where the final service was held.
He left behind a wife and young son.
John Bonham was 32 years old.