Dean Zimmer has arthrogryposis, a rare disorder that restricts joint movement in his arms and legs. He’s 51 years old and is confined to a wheelchair.
He’s also an absolute rockstar on the drums.
Zimmer talks about his past and shows off his raw talent in the 6-minute documentary, “Drummer Wanted,” by filmmakers Ross Harris and Stanley Gonzales.
“I answered a drummer wanted ad,” Zimmer explains in the clip. “I said, ‘Hey down here, I’m the drummer. They looked at me like I had three heads, like, ‘You’re the guy?'”
Zimmer began playing drums about 30 years ago, by banging on his legs before moving to a drum set. He told the Los Angeles Times that he knew people would be skeptical of his new passion — even his family had their doubts.
“Nobody really told me I couldn’t do it, but I could just see it in people’s eyes,” he told the paper in an 1990 interview. “I was the opposite of [people who didn’t fight to overcome their adversities]. I wasn’t handicapped; I just couldn’t walk real good.”
He proved everyone wrong.
Rick Abbott, Zimmer’s bandmate, says their group has opened for acts like Eddie Money, Styx, Kansas, and Thin Lizzy throughout their career.
“It’s just amazing to see him play because when he’s playing he can’t just sit there and move his arms and legs like normal,” Abbott says. “He’s bouncing around and it’s all part of the motion, and when you see him you’re like, ‘Alright, this guy is gonna try to play the drums,’ and then you see him and you’re like, ‘Huh?'”
Zimmer, meanwhile, seems like he would rather drum than talk about his drumming.
“Play from the heart, man,” he says in the video. “That’s all I ever knew.”