Dennis Thompson, Drummer and Last Remaining Member of MC5, Dies at 75

Dennis Thompson, the drummer whose thunderous, hard-hitting style powered the proto-punk sound of the loud, outspoken and highly influential Detroit rock band MC5, died on Thursday in Taylor, Mich. He was 75.

He died in a rehabilitation facility while recovering from a recent heart attack, his son, Chris McNulty, said.

Mr. Thompson was the last surviving member of MC5, which will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in October.

He joined the group in 1966 at 17 years old. His intense playing style in MC5, short for Motor City Five, earned him his nickname “Machine Gun” from his bandmates, for how ferociously he hit the drums. He played that way because the group could not afford to connect a microphone to his drums in its early days.

“The amps were turned up to 10, so he basically just had to hit the drums as hard as he possibly could to be heard,” Mr. McNulty said.

The band was politically outspoken and aligned with the countercultural left, supporting the anti-Vietnam War movement and protests against racism.

Musically, MC5 was known as one of the forefathers of punk rock, starting with the breakout 1969 live album, “Kick Out the Jams.”

Born Dennis Tomich in Detroit on Sept. 7, 1948, Mr. Thompson’s death followed that of a fellow band member, the guitarist Wayne Kramer, in February. Mr. Thompson had been recovering from a heart attack in April when plans for the Hall of Fame induction were announced.

In his final years, Mr. Thompson formed an unexpected father-son relationship with Mr. McNulty, 55, who said he used ancestral research to track down his biological parents after being adopted at birth. Mr. McNulty met Mr. Thompson, his biological father, in late 2022.

In addition to his son, Mr. Thompson is survived by his sister, Donna, Mr. McNulty said.

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