Foremost, the role of a drummer is to come up with the beat that’s gonna get the song on the radio…I am paraphrasing none other than, drummer extraordinaire, Kenny Aronoff! In part, this is how Kenny sees his role and from a songwriting perspective, Kenny makes a very interesting point.
To use a much cited example, when you hear a song like “Jack and Diane” (which was a huge John Mellencamp hit) we think, “John wrote a great pop/rock song.” And he did, but he wasn’t alone. As a point of reference, check out the “writing demo” version of “Jack and Diane” included in the John Mellencamp “On the Rural Route 7609” Box Set. It’s a stripped down, acoustic guitar and voice demo and while the basic melody, working lyrics, and chord structure are pretty much there, it is a far cry from the full-band arrangement that appeared on the “American Fool” album.
Click HERE to check out excerpts of the solo acoustic “writing demo” version and the album version of “Jack and Diane.”
It’s really cool for me to listen to this stripped down demo because I imagine it is, more or less, what was presented to Kenny when he was tasked with the role of delivering the beat that would lift and transcend the song from a folk ditty to the radio hit we all know. And indeed, that’s what Kenny’s drumming did for “Jack and Diane.” And this is just one of numerous examples which could be used to illustrate the role that a drummer can have in shaping direction and breathing life into a song.
It’s an important lesson in the power of instrumentation, arrangement and creativity. At the very least it is a reminder to always treat drummers (all musicians actually) very well! If you write alone and your songs will eventually be recorded and realized with other musicians, those musicians will play a key role in shaping those songs before they reach the public, so appreciate and respect that fact!
That’s the lesson I take from Kenny’s “Jack and Diane” story. And as you can imagine, with Kenny’s long and jam packed career as a drummer, there are many lessons to be learned from his many stories. Thankfully, a number of these music and life lessons are interwoven throughout Kenny’s new book, “Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Visit www.kennyaronoff.com to find out all things Aronoff, drop by Kenny’s Twitter page https://twitter.com/AronoffOFFICIAL for updates, and be sure to check out the new book at: https://www.halleonard.com/product/viewproduct.action?itemid=140763&
All the best,