November 14, 2003 by

Tony Thompson


Categories: Musicians

Tony Thompson, the drummer of the disco funk band Chic and the pop group Power Station, died on Nov. 12 from renal cell cancer. He was 48.

Thompson attained musical prominence in the 1970s. He was performing with Patti LaBelle when he met guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards. The trio formed Chic in 1976 and became disco legends with the release of the album, “C’est Chic,” which included the chart-topping singles, “Dance Dance Dance,” “Le Freak” and “Good Times.” “C’est Chic” and the band’s next album, “Risque,” both went platinum.

When Chic disbanded in 1983, Thompson worked as a session drummer with David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Madonna, Diana Ross and Rod Stewart. Two years later, he joined Duran Duran members Andy and John Taylor and the late Robert Palmer to form the supergroup, Power Station. The band released the hits, “Some Like It Hot” and “Get It On (Bang a Gong).”

Thompson performed with the remaining members of Led Zeppelin in 1985 at the Live Aid benefit concert in Philadelphia. He joined the band for secret recording sessions, but a possible reunion was canceled when Thompson was involved in a serious car accident. Those recordings were never released.


58 Responses to Tony Thompson

  1. Michael Hicks

    Tony Thompson will always be remembered as one the Greatest Drummers that ever donned the cymbals. His style was Unique, and could not be duplicated. He was a viable part of the Chic Organization, and his memory will live on through all of the music he was a part of.
    God Bless Tony, and the Thompson Family, and Chic for giving us Vintage Tony!

  2. Tony Thompson Fan

    RIP Tony. You’re in God’s loving care now. We’ll sure miss the “Big Boom” sound of your drum kit, but most importantly, we’ll miss you, the person. I met you in 1988 in Queens, N.Y. and I remember how cool you were, no ego or anything like that. Just a brother who appreciated my compliments regarding your playing.

  3. Sparky

    Mr. Thompson, you will be missed. You are in good company, I’m sure, with Robert Palmer, and Bernard Edwards, but we will still miss you…

  4. Rick in Florissant MO

    Wow what a shock, not to mention a sad, sad loss…Indeed he is in that special place now with Bernard Edwards; both died way too young. May God rest your souls.

  5. IX

    I just found out today that you are gone. I just went to see Duran Duran the other night and I was saying to my wife that you and Roger Taylor were my favorite drummers. I was sad to think that Power Station wouldn’t have another album because Robert was gone…i didn’t know that you had gone as well…
    I feel honored to have seen you live in concert in Arizona…I was blown away…literally… I don’t think I’ve ever heard drumming so strong, so powerful, and soulful.
    I will miss you, I wish I could have played with you, just once.
    See you on the other side.

  6. Rick Zayas

    Tony was in a garage band with me, when we were kids growing up in Queens. He and this Bass Player, Bill Koehler, who is now principal bassist for the Peoria Symphony, used to come over to my house in Bayside and we would play all night and learn about Miles and Weather Report and Mahavishnu and Return to Forever.
    He always had a great sense of humor. The last time I saw Tony was in the early 80’s, in New York. I went to play in the A.C. hotels and we lost touch. God rest his soul and bring peace to his family.
    With Sympathy,
    Rick Zayas

  7. Susan Cooper

    oh so sad. I have just found this out. I feel so blessed to have met him, on more than one occasion. Here in Atlanta, and a few times in L.A.
    He was truly a talented and wonderful man. 🙁

  8. David

    I like many grew up listening to the entire CHIC sound, please remember that after Chic broke up, the world got to hear their grooves on Madonna’s like a Virgin Lp (yes that was Tony on there) and the great Chic backed song We Are Family (Sister Sledge). As a drummer what I loved about Tony was his versitility,his energy on the drums (he was very strong and loud) his sense of groove, never tried to be “cute” or “show off” he just did what many drummers don’t do today……..just played. As a black drummer let’s take it a step further. How many black drummers have had the opportunity to get respected for Rock,Funk,Disco,Metal,POP….Tony did. Tony I love you and miss you and please keep teaching us the importance of “groove”.Thanks so much for “the days” I know I will certainly keep your name alive in my own ways.
    Miss U Man
    D.C Ontario Canada

  9. Jeff Bak

    I just did a quick google search to find out who played drumms on Rod Stewart’s Forever Young. The drums on this song have always grabbed me and invariably I stop what I’m doing and pay close attention as I listen. They are not flashy or chop filled, just rock solid and perfectly supporting of the song and the arrangement. My guess was always the late Jeff Porcaro, and I was convinced I’d find his name listed in the credits. I was pleased to find Tony’s name, thinking “yeah that fits”. Tony had a rare gift that stands out in so many of his recondings. You can feel the power in his playing. There are few who will ever play with that amount of power, balance, and control. The spaces between what is played, the maturity and strength to leave breathing room for the arrangement make this performance of Tony’s stand out in particular.

  10. steve turner

    I played bass in disco/funk bands in the late 70’s/ early 80’s- Chic were our favourites, and we covered lots of their tunes, including the fab Sister Sledge stuff. What a blow to lose Tony after Bernard. Will always love their playing. Saw them live in London in ’79- brilliant doin it live as well as studio. Gone but never forgotten..

  11. Craig

    What a bloody waste! I’ve only just become aware of Tony’s desperately sad death. When Tony toured with Bowie in Australia way back in 83, it gave me the first opportunity to experience Tony’s brilliance. The video of the concert was released shortly afterwards, giving me the luxury of listening & trying to learn from him. One thing that really impressed me was Tony’s attention to detail in his drumming. He possessed all the tricks of the drumming art & then some.
    Rest in Peace Tony, this Australian will never forget you
    One of your bigest fans

  12. Tony Williams

    I can’t believe that it is almost a year, and I have only just found out about Tony Thopmson death.Chic has played a very important part in my musical career. A unique and distinctive sound all rounds.
    God bless, you will be missed.

  13. Alvin Watkins

    I happened to know Tony. He lived a block away from me in the 70s.We were both two young black drummers who loved to play rock and worshipped Ginger Baker the drummer for The Cream. Tony proclaimed himself Ginger Baker the 2nd and painted that on his jeans in DayGlo orange paint! We got together often and traded licks in each other’s basements. We spent many hours together in friendly competition playing in the same rock bands together with Bassist Billy Koehler and some other kids. One day we put our drumsets together in a friend’s basement where we used to jam and made the first double bass drumset that either of us had ever played! Half white and half blue! It’s there that he began to develop his style, louder was better for some reason in those days we used to get a rise out of drowning out the rest of the band! Although we both took our drumming seriously I became more involved with my school studies as it was our last year of high school. Drumming was more of a pastime to me. Tony told me that he was going to be a professional drummer. Sure I smiled, Me too! One day after school I stopped by his house to find that he had stayed home all day banging on a drum pad! A couple of months later he bought a new drum set. The biggest bass drum I ever saw. The beginning of the big boom sound! I was there. I lost touch for a moment but the next time I saw him he was on TV with Patti LaBelle! It’s hard to believe that it was so many years ago I still see his big smile and I can hear that big bass drum. R.I.P. Ginger Baker II Bang a Gong Tony, Bang a Gong!

  14. Rashad

    Sadly, I too am just learning of Tony’s death more than a year later.I knew Tony Thompson growing up. In fact, you can say I was related to him by marriage. My Grandmother’s last husband was Tony’s uncle Norman. Yes, he grew up in Springfield (Jamaica) NY and was playing the drums as far back as I can remember. My memories of him are vague as I was 12 years younger than he. I can remember, however, that Tony was a sensitive person who seemed to care a lot about people. I know his parents and other family were very proud of his success over the years. I’m sure he will be missed.

  15. joe hernandez

    i have just now have learned about tony thompsons death.we should be thankful for being able to enjoy the great sounds of tony’s playing in so many various of area’s of music. every time i listen to the radio i can count on listening to a song that tony is banging awawy at in the back.his drum playing was very distinctive and could be recognized. till this day i still have the power station tape. i can look at it and and see that most of the print is worn off, you thats a sing of a good thing

  16. Cliff Gates

    I have looked for years for more detailed web info on Tony Thompson, and was overwhelmed with sadness to hear of his untimely death several years after the fact. Tony thompson was the Best. there is noone else in rock and roll whom you can instantly recognize playing on someone elses music. He added an entirely diffent cadence to modern music. He was one of the most influencial musicians i have had the oppurtunity to enjoy. He will be sorely missed. Despite the late date i would like to extend my condolences to the Tompson family. I lost my own father just months ago to prostate cancer and I am SO deeply sorry for your loss. Tony Thompson will always be remembered for who he was by those close to him and for his astounding talent by everyone. He was THE signiture drummer of this generation. This breaks my heart
    with my heartfelt condolences
    Cliff Gates

  17. Winston Byrd

    I know this is WAY after the fact, but I just found out TODAY that you’ve moved on, my brother. It hurt pretty bad. Tony was my hero (and still is!) when I was an up and coming drummer. Nobody and I MEAN NOBODY could ‘chop wood’ like Tony could. I copied him to the TEE! Now that I’m a jazz trumpeter, I still have the urge to let loose behind the kit as only he could and believe me, it’ll take forever and a day to equal a guy who deserved EVERY bit of recognition in the world and BACKED IT UP!!!!!!!!!
    God Bless You, Tony and thank you for your wonderful influence. The world truly isn’t the same without you!

  18. Power Station fan

    Thank you Tony. I will never forget 1985 when Power Station was HOT and Live Aid was a “thing” of the whole lovely decade. RIP.

  19. david

    I have really enjoyed listening to Tony’s playing with all the various artists he played with. I loved the fact that he was like a powerhouse behind the drums, but he wasn’t a heavily built guy. He played with passion and conviction. He is a drum legend who inspired many with his grooves. Everytime I hear him drumming it makes me want to drum as well.

  20. Beek

    I too was a good friend of Tonys back to the days of St.Marys in Springfield Gdns. and remember him with his first almost toy kit( which he actually bent the stamped kick petal) I remember seeing Mahavisnu with him and Bill Koehler in the early 70’s and we got are minds blown after that the whole world changed. Lotsa parties and fun spent with Tony …… he is sorly missed.

  21. Johnny Asia

    Tony was the first drummer I ever played with, back in Laurelton, Queens, around 1970. We had a “jazz-rock” band with bassist Bill Koehler.
    I was practicing one day, and Tony knocked on my door, Bill was with him. Tony asked “You want to make it big, don’t you!? So do we!” He was 16 at the time.
    We began playing together that day. It was great playing and hanging out with Tony. We attended the first Mahavishnu Orchestra gigs together, and got to hang out backstage. That’s where Tony met Billy Cobham, and started taking lessons.
    The rest is history, as they say.
    I miss you, Tony.
    Have a happy eternity!
    Johnny Asia, Guitarist from the Future

  22. Randy Belanger

    I can’t believe that this is the first time that I have heard about the passing of Tony Thompson. I am shocked and saddened to learn about the passing of a truly great drummer. Growing up in the eighties I first heard tony on the Power Station album. I was blown away by the staight on hard hitting drums on that album. For a funk and pop drummer, tony was heavier than many of his contemporery “rock” counterparts. I was thrilled when power station released “Living in fear” in the mid nineties. I never had the opportunity to see tony drum live, a fact that I am truly disappointed in.
    Rest In peace Tony, you will be missed.

  23. Darrell Harrison

    I only recently learned of the passing of Tony Thompson, who, in my opinion, was the most amazing drummer I’d ever heard. EVER.
    Growing up in the ’70s, CHIC was my favorite band – and still is. I was always amazed at the technical wizardry Tony displayed on every CHIC release. I was like, “How does he play so powerfully and so fast?!”
    You are indeed missed, Tony, and I’m thankful that I – and the world – had the opportunity to experience your talents.

  24. Les Taylor (London)

    Tony was part of one the finest rhythem sections ever! Tony and Bernard Edwards what a combination, Simply the Best. You will be missed and never forgoten.
    Thank you for the Joy you gave us all.

  25. Jon Dee

    I too have only just heard about Tony’s death. I saw that he had died by reading about it on the new re-release of the original Power Station album. One of the truly great drummers – I loved his playing style and he truly inspired me on my own drum playing.
    Rest in peace. And many thanks Tony.

  26. Gino Bartolini

    From the first time i heard “some like it hot”, i wanted that sound of drums!Yes i’m a drummer too.Later i found out that you can’t copy his style,his power ,his groove,his magnificent backbone.Thats what he learned me;play your groove and all the rest is … well … we’ll see …
    No one influenced me so like Tony did.People say i’m solid like a drummachine.That’s the inspiration he gives me… songs like Le freak Like a virgin and the latest power station…. Solid and powerfull !
    Thank you for the groove and we will remember you for ever!

  27. Frenchic

    Tony Thompson and Bernard Edwards of CHIC with keyboards Jeff Bova, super guitarist Eddie Martinez and singer Robert Hart founded the band DISTANCE in 1989.
    The LP “Under the one sky” is an unknown gemm of rock-pop-funk and as I know was one of the work Tony loves the most.
    Tony Thompson will ever be THE super drummer of CHIC and Power Station.
    Originally in 1977 the CHIC drummer would have been another super drummer : Omar Hakim. But he was too young to perform in clubs and discotheques. So Tony was appraoched to be the drummer Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers searched for CHIC. Now Tony is gone and for the rebirth of CHIC (new album in April 2006) Omar Hakim takes the place of Tony. Curious story…
    There is not a day without earing Tony’s drumming.
    Thank’s for all Mister Tony Thompson !

  28. Koen Janssens

    Growing up in Belgium in the 70s, I wasn’t really into rock music, instead disco, the luscious orchestration, the pounding bass, and tight drumming really captivated me. Of the 1000s of disco LPs and 12″s I own, I will NEVER EVER lose any of Chic’s records, with Tony Thompson’s meticulous drumming on each and every Chic record. My favs are “Chic Cheer”, “My Forbidden Lover” and “Open Up”. Tony definitely knew his place in the groove. He made Chic’s irresistible groove, him and Bernard Edwards. I was saddened to read in “Chic: The Politics of Disco” (2004) that he didn’t earn a cent off Chic’s records. Bernard and Nile Rodgers kept him out of the millions of dollars they made. And Tony was their #1 drummer on ALL their records. The author goes on telling – from the 3 interviews he had with Tony in the months before his death – that Tony was deeply saddened by not making the money he should have gotten.
    Tony was the reason I became a drummer in the early 80s.
    I will never forget him.
    Rest in peace, Tony.

  29. Bill Koehler

    I found out that Tony was ill in an e-mail from Bill Peritori. As I was trying to find a way to get in touch with him, I found out that I was too late. He had passed away a few days after I had heard of his profound illness. I tried to get in touch with Cookie, but I couldn

  30. Ivan

    Tony was one of the most influential drummers to me in the 80’s. I first knew of this guy when I first heard his drumming with Power Station. It was a time of synth pop/rock, when drummers had to play & sound like drum machines while trying to do fills with those hexagonal Simmons electronic pads. But Tony’s kick in the balls sound & style broke the norm & just blew me away. Only as I matured I realised what he did with Edwards/Rodgers as well as session work with Madonna & Bowie before were just as phenomenal and transcended genres.
    He is one of the most underrated drummers with the most impressive CV. For those of you familiar with drumming sites, I fail to understand why a site like DRUMMERWORLD neglect to even give this master a mention. I wrote to them on this but never didn’t even got a feedback.
    If you feel the same way log onto and tell them to show some respect to Tony.
    Canadian expat living in Malaysia



  32. terrance davis

    i have a great respect for tony thompsons playing.
    a friend turned me on to chic in 1978 and i followed them up to the end.when i think of a power drummer tony comes to mind i rember all of his projects duran sledge bowie power station
    ross and much more .
    you kept it real and will always bee rememberd.

  33. jo

    It’s been almost 3 years, and I still miss my good friend Tony. He was one of the sweetest people i knew. The memory that I have most often, is Tony standing in a card isle one Christmas trying to get the perfect card for me.I still have that card. He always cared about what I thought, and was always there to advise me. He was the reason my son started school at 3. I miss our daily conversations, and his great sense of humor, along with that silly laugh of his. My world is just not the same without him. Thankyou for all of the wonderful memories Tony. With Love, Jo

  34. dan glaser

    What a loss to the world of drumming and music generally. This man really brought music to life. I discovered his drumming through the Diana Ross track ‘I’m coming out’. Until I heard that song, I had always assumed that drums were generally a background/supporting instrument. This song changed all that. When I hear it now, it reminds me how the world of contemporary music has become a very much poorer place. As the old cliche goes – gone but certainly never forgotten.

  35. Chris Ross

    Simply the most powerful drummer I have ever heard. Tony Thompson had the unique ability to stay in pocket while “dragging” the toms well into the next stanza. Not to make light of his ability to keep a beat or work the high hat, his work on the Power Station and Madonna’s cover of “Love don’t live here anymore” are two of my all time favorite examples of his incredible skills.
    Drummers like Thompson add weight to the imagination of what would otherwise seem impossible.

  36. Flastfast

    May God lay you to a peaceful rest Tony. You will always have a very special place in my heart because of my love of Led Zepplin. I was never a Chic fan, but your work in Power Station and your other mid 80’s ventures are forever torched into my 16 year old memories- the best memories I will ever have.

  37. Johnny Mahon

    I knew Tony when we were all in our teens. A skinny kid with a big afro and trademark round glasses. He was always pretty ‘chic’ in his dress too. Cool leather jackets and I distinctly remember these boots he had that came up to his knees.Totally wild for those days, leather. in an array of red yellow green and orange patches. You couldn’t miss him on the street, and the girls loved him.These were very good days of our youth when we were learning, living and breathing music and dreaming of one day “making it”. It’s great to see that you made it Tony.Too bad it couldn’t have been for a lot longer. Peace, from an old friend from the old neighborhood.

  38. jazzy Thompson

    i miss you so much dad its been almost four years this november. im sitting here crying i miss you like crazy.i miss you picking me up form school and just being with you ever moment of my much has changed in the last few years, ive grown a lot aahah and jensen is going to be 18 in november crazy i know.i wish i was with you.stuff ruff down here.i wish you could give me a sign or something to show that you can hear me.anything even just a little light flicker or something.i want you to know that you are an amazing person.notice i say are present tense why do i choose this word because you arent dead as many people would say.your not on earth with me mom and jensen but your still alive your souls just somewhere else but not here. you were the best dad anyone could ever wish for i hope you know that.personally i thought i was closer to you than mom.(hope she didnt see that) i was with you all the time and i could turn to you when ever and you were there for were my wings that helped me fly through my journeys in life. i miss you dearly and i cant wait till i finally get to see you someday.i love you dad

  39. Don

    I was 18, working in a diner in Long Island, NY… played the bass for a few years. They had those juke boxes at each table… and the single Good Times/My Forbidden Lover came out… when I heard My Forbidden Lover it made me go out and get the Risque album. This was a pivotal moment in my musical tastes and Niles, Bernard and Tony really made on impact on me in my formative years. I’ve been a fan ever since.
    Thank you, Tony for the wonderful music you left behind… millions have enjoyed your work.

  40. Alvin Watkins

    Its been a long time since I laid eyes on Tony. We used to trade drum talk in high school and we we’re rival drummers in the neighborhood bands. Even when he “made it” he came back and looked me up a few times. Its strange but when I first heard “I’m coming out” the drumming sounded so familiar. Six months later Tony told me it was him. The last time we hung out we went to a disco and I bragged to my friends who he was. “I’m coming out” came on near the end of the night and we started to laugh. We we’re drinking and Tony was walking around the club yelling “thats me on the drums!” The next day they lit up my phone after seeing him on their album covers at home. We had a lot of fun and laughs that night. It was the last time we hung out. Of course we dresed in our signature high heeled boots and jeans. Damn that was over 15 years ago. But it always feels like last night and I find myself with a silly grin on my face when I’m shopping and in the background I hear “I’m coming out,I want the world to know”. Man we we’re so young then and we had the world on a string. Its getting near your birthday again. God bless.

  41. Herbie J

    I am from the island of Dominica and was pleased to learn that Tony had Antiguan/ Trinidadian roots. Ya Monn, iree. This is awesome. What a tight drummer he was. The drums on GOOD TIMES and Les Freak……so steady…so paaawerful.
    For a black drummer playing rock so powerfully……you were irreplacable.

  42. jazzy Thompson

    I know i posted one of these not that long ago but i can’t ever get my mind off of you. it’s four am and im up and cant sleep because i miss you sooooooooo much. I will still here and there stop and break down or go through times of depression. life without you isnt the same dad. i regret a lot of things that happened before you leave this planet,i just wanted to say im sorry for not call you dad as much as i should have, im sorry for taking you for granet, i just didnt think i was going to ever loose you and not as fast as i did either. Whenever i hear a recording of your voice my eyes start to water up and i can help but break down. Im thankful to have mom and jensen here and all the support, it must be hard for you not to have us there with you. But at least youve got your mom and dad, and grand daddy too. I hate it whenever mom and i get into a fight now because i used to have you to turn to when i was upset, you got me so well, you understood ever part of me.We just moved into our new house,its really nice and big but id be better if you were here. the thing i worry about leaving the apartment is that i have so many great memories with you there and i dont want to loose them. The first night staying here i took your 8 inch tom that has your ashes in it to the new house and placed them in my room with a picture of you next to them and your drum sticks on top. I guess i have a part of you here with me. I think im going to put the cherry wood kit that we all picked out together as a family in my room,no matter how crammed it may be. I know your probably not going to see this ever seeing that your not down here on earth with a computer,but im sure you can hear my thoughts and my cries. You truly were the best dad anyone could ever ask for, and i mean it. I love you,i wish my kids could meet you and see what an amazing person you were, so kind and so respected. you were a beautiful soul and still are. Man have four years gone by so fast. I was eleven when you pasted away and now im 16, where did the days go? you wouldve been 52, ya old man. Just in the past year or so have i really realized how hard it is for mom to live each and everyday, she was forced to move on, well she hasnt and probably next will move on but you get what im saying. She had to watch the love of her life get pulled away by something she could not control and had to accept that. I give her major credit. I have so much more to say,but i think ive written enough for now. I love you dad,i will never forget that night in the hospital when you woke out of the coma and spoke to me,forever and always i will love you.

  43. tony

    fantastic fantastic beat innovation from Mr Thompson… wow…. I can’t stop listening to just the Power Station stuff…. yes, he left a real mark on music… how many people can say they left an indelible mark on the world… Tony T can say that! God Bless You… when it thunders it’s Tony T on the kit jamming… or Bonham… could be either one.

  44. Kevin D.

    I grew up with Tony in Springfield Gardens. We shared many wonderful times together. I fixed his first drum kit and remembered how hard he used to play. He would always break his snare heads and bass pedals. Tony asked me to be his drum roadie for a band called Chic and that they had a record deal with Atlantic Records and were going on tour. I had a wonderful opportunity being on the road with Tony, Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers. I will always remember the great times we had on the road and all the people we met. We lost you and Bernard way too soon. I will always love and remember you.
    Your friend, Kevin

  45. Séan

    One of my all time Favorite Drummers.
    I miss his drumming, I always look out for CDs that he may have recorded on.
    Thankfully I have CDs that he has played on to listen to over and over.
    If anyone ever comes across the Distance CD,
    “Under the One Sky,” get it.
    His drum hits touch your spirit.
    Tony T & Bernard Edwards one of the greatest bass
    and drum duos ever. There is a Spirit in their
    groove that touches the soul.
    To Jazzy I read your posts, you have my sympathy. May God’s love help you and your family through the sad times you go through.
    Blessing & Peace Tony Thompson & Family

  46. Ayjay

    I just find out today that Tony T was gone nearly five years ago; Sorry to hear that — he was a conerstone for the supergroup CHIC nothing spectacular just real chops and groove… Bye Man! neva 2 Late!

  47. Verlincia Jones


  48. Donna Scibetta

    Dearest Tony, WE always knew you were the best
    drummer in the world!!!!Remember the parties at your house, steve, susan, billy k, billy beek,
    diane, cookie, rory, tom. you are missed but not

  49. Bill Koehler

    Tony, I wish your family well! I visited the site today and was very sad to read your daughter’s words of loneliness. I, too hope that you are listening and that we will all see you again!
    If your family members ever wish to call or write me, I would be honored to talk about the memories of a dear friend from so long ago!

  50. Beek

    I am an old friend of Tony’s from the early days. We all miss him. Does anybody have any contact with Cookie or other friends and would like to write……………Billy

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