Though the majority of popular musicians only play with a few acts during their lifetimes, rock drummer Kenny Aronoff has played with more than 70 bands and artists, according to his website.
Friday, the famed drummer and IU alumnus will be performing a free show at 7 p.m. in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Stone Age Institute co-director Nick Toth said Aronoff will not only be performing music but sharing stories and experiences he’s had throughout his 40-year career.
Stone Age Institute, a Bloomington-based anthropological organization, will be the sponsors of the event. Toth said the event will be free to give back to the community that helped the organization get started.
Aronoff is no stranger to Bloomington. Toth said the drummer lived in Bloomington for many years before moving to Los Angeles, and Stone Age co-director Kathy Schick said he was classically trained on percussion in the Jacob’s School of Music.
“In a lot of ways, he feels like a Bloomingtonian,” Toth said. “He has a lot of friends and family in the area, even though he is now based in the L.A. area, so this is kind of a homecoming for him.”
Aronoff has played with artists such as John Mellencamp, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen and two surviving members of the Beatles. Toth said he believes Aronoff’s large list of collaborators is not a coincidence.
“So many artists want to work with Kenny because he’s just so good,” Toth said.
After the show Aronoff will be doing a book signing for his new autobiography, “Sex, Drums, Rock’n’Roll!: The Hardest Hitting Man in Show Business,” Toth said.
Despite being a scientific organization, Toth said Stone Age does not exclude itself from the creative world. One of Stone Age’s speaker programs is on craftsmanship, which features musicians, artists, authors and more. Toth said Aronoff spoke at one of these programs about 15 years ago.
“We don’t draw a sharp line between science and art,” Toth said.
Toth said Stone Age has musicians like Aronoff and Police drummer Stewart Copeland on its advisory board, which helps consider scientific accomplishments and financial decision-making. The organization even has its own band that performs songs of various genres about evolution.
Schick said her and Toth’s friendship with Aronoff goes beyond his involvement with the organization. In 1988, the three of them met on a flight from Indianapolis to New York. Toth said Mellencamp’s entire band was on the flight because they were touring at the time.
Toth said he recognized Aronoff from his performance with Mellencamp on “Saturday Night Live” and decided to converse with him. As Toth and Schick were on their way to Africa, Toth said he promised to find Aronoff a traditional African drum. Toth eventually found a drum from Zambia, and Aronoff has used the drum in many recordings and performances.
Despite his large repertoire of musical acts, Schick said she believes Aronoff has found his own distinct drumming style.
“You can hear a song and say, ‘That has to be Kenny there,’” Schick said.
On top of that, Toth said he believes Aronoff works as diligently as he drums.
“He has an incredible work ethic,” Toth said. “He’s one of the hardest-working people I know.”
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