Doobie Brothers’ founding drummer John Hartman dies at 72

John Hartman’s drumming is heard on some of The Doobie Brothers’ most ubiquitous hits: “Listen the Music,” “China Grove,” “Long Train Runnin’” and “Jesus is Just Alright” among them. The founding member of one of rock’s most enduring bands has died at the age of 72.

The current Doobie Brothers – including fellow founders Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons – announced the death of the man they called “Little John,” on their official social media pages.

“John was a wild spirit, great drummer and showman … he was also a close friend for many years and an intricate part of the band personality.”

The Doobie Brothers’ spokesperson confirmed Hartman’s death to USA TODAY.

Hartman, a native of Falls Church, Virginia, initially left the band in 1979, nine years after forming the outfit in San Jose, California, with Johnston and soon afterward, Simmons. His departure followed some of their greatest success with now-classic rock anthems including “Black Water” and “What a Fool Believes.”

Essential reading: The Doobie Brothers’ ‘Takin’ it to the Streets’

He returned for a stint in 1987 before officially retiring in 1992. In 2020, Hartman joined his fellow Doobies for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

While the majority of the band’s songs were written by Johnston and Simmons, Hartman offered songwriting contributions to their solid discography over the years, including 1974’s “Road Angel” (from the “What Were Once Vices are Now Habits” album) and 1976’s “Wheel of Fortune” (from “Takin’ it to the Streets,” the first Doobie Brothers album to feature Michael McDonald).

Hartman last played on the band’s reunion albums “Cycles,” in 1989 and “Brotherhood,” in 1991.

Early in the Doobies’ formation, the decision was made to add a second drummer to the mix. In 1971, Michael Hossack joined Hartman for percussion duties, a post that Hossack held for a couple of years before being replaced by Keith Knudsen.

The dual-drummer setup continued throughout the history of the band; the current touring incarnation of The Doobie Brothers includes a solo drummer (Ed Toth) aided by percussionist Marc Quiñones.

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