Dennis Thompson, Drummer for Pioneering Rock Band MC5, Dies at 75

Dennis Thompson, the original drummer of the pioneering counterculture rock band MC5, died Thursday, his son Chris McNulty announced.

Thompson was recovering from a heart attack he suffered in April and being treated at long term care facility, according to his son.

“He was a true, free-spirited rock and roller up until the very last day,” McNulty told the Detroit News.

Johnson was the last surviving member of the band, which formed in Detroit in 1965 — the name means “Motor City 5.” Guitarist Wayne Kramer died in February.

Born in Detroit in 1948, Johnson joined the fledgling band in 1965 alongside singer Rob Tyner, guitarist players Wayne Kramer and Fred “Sonic” Smith and bass player Michael Davis. He quickly became known for his energetic drum styling, earning the nickname “machine gun” as a pun on his last name.

MC5 released just three albums during their time together — the 1969 live album “Kick Out the Jams,” and two studio albums before breaking up in 1972. Thompson had left the band months before this, however. MC5 reformed under a mostly different line up two years later only to break up shortly after.

Though they sold few records during their tenure, the band’s sound and aggressively left wing politics were enormously influential on the emerging punk and metal genres of rock, particularly Thompson’s drumming. The band reunited several times beginning in 1992.

After MC5, Thompson was a member of the short-lived bands The New Order (not related to the English group), New Race, and Motor City Bad Boys, among others. He continued to perform with surviving members of MC5 through at least 2022.

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