Rock's Greatest Drummers
Published on 21 October 2021
Who’s the most important member of the band? The drummer, of course! But, don’t let them know that.
We kid, we kid. But seriously. The best drummers can make a good band a legendary one.
On this day in 1976, Keith Moon played his last show with The Who before his untimely death in 1978. This anniversary got us thinking about the greatest rock drummer of all time. Obviously, we could go on and on, but for the sake of not making this too long, we’ve narrowed it down to the players who we consider as innovators, game changers and just downright drumming heroes.
In no particular order, let’s dive in…
Since we just mentioned him, let's start off with the one and only Keith Moon. Self-described as the greatest drummer in the world, Keith’s performances were truly electrifying. He had boundless energy, drive and personality. He was the defining element of what made The Who, well, The Who. His playing style was tribal, unique and was the man behind the beats to some of the most revolutionary tracks of a generation. As inspiration for Animal in the Muppets, Keith gained a reputation for smashing up hotel rooms as hard and as violently as he hit his drum kit. Maybe not the greatest reputation to have, but he owned it.
With his contribution to The Who and influence on generations of drummers to come, Keith’s talents cannot be overstated. He truly was one of a kind and irreplaceable. The video below is of Keith’s last performance with the band. Check it out!
We’ve all dreamed that we were Mr Grohl at some point, haven’t we? The man has covered a LOT of ground during his time on the music scene. He might have swapped drumming for strumming these days, but Dave Grohl’s career as a drummer was nothing short of legendary. Rightly considered as one of the greatest rock drummers of his generation, Dave’s instantly recognisable drum fill in the Smells Like Teen Spirit intro flipped an internal switch in all of us, making us think, we want to be Dave Grohl.
Dave’s drumming style is unique. His beats are creative, he's got excellent rhythm and most importantly, his stage presence is next level. In an interview, he once credited his pillow as the reason for his powerful single-stroke rolls. When he was younger and before he owned a drum kit, he would practice his rudiments on a pillow. With an obvious lack of resistance, this made him lean into the rolls, which went on to become his signature ‘machine gun’ style fill. Just take a look at his awesome compilation of clips of his insane playing during his Nirvana days.
The late, great Ginger Baker was a force to be reckoned with. It would have been utterly criminal not to mention him. He gave his talents to the likes of Blind Faith, Masters of Reality, Public Image, Ltd., Hawkwind and of course, supergroup Cream. Cream’s blues and psychedelic rock sounds would have been very different without Ginger Baker’s powerful polyrhythmic jazz-inspired drums. He was one of the pioneers of using two kick drums and was never shy of busting out extended drum solos. He was creative, had an impeccable sense of pulse, copious amounts of raw power and a ferocious temper to match. There will only ever be one Ginger Baker.
Without a doubt, John Bonham changed the rock drumming world forever. For the most part, John was self-taught and tried to emulate his heroes such as Max Roach and Buddy Rich when he received his first drum kit at 15 years old. Thanks to his speed, powerful super-human strength and rapid right foot, John Bonham’s talents were unlike anything rock music had ever seen. Bonzo’s thunderous bass drum, groove and iconic drum solos shaped Led Zeppelin’s signature blend of hard rock, blues and folk. John was an absolute powerhouse in every sense of the word and when he was behind the kit, he drove the band with such confidence and power.
Just listen to the iconic drum solo in Moby Dick. We’ll say no more.
As the old drummer joke goes:
Q: How many drummers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Five. One to do it and four to talk about how much better Neil Peart would have done it.
There’s so much truth in that. Lovingly known as ‘The Professor’, Neil Peart’s skills were immense. The best of the best. One third of the Toronto band Rush, Neil Peart was once described as a ‘monster drummer with a poet’s heart.’ From hard rock to jazz to swing, Neil Peart could play it all. The award-winning drummer distinguished himself with his unconventional time signatures and unique rhythmic style. Respected for his technical experience, he approached his playing style with scientific meticulousness. A quick google of his drum kit set up would illustrate that this man meant business.
As far as we’re concerned, the debate over whether or not Ringo is a good drummer is over. Case closed. C’mon, the man was a key player in one of the greatest bands in the world for crying out loud. He might not be the most technical drummer to have graced the planet but his offbeat and creative drumming style helped build that iconic Beatles sound. For us, that’s far more important to us than his ‘flam paradiddle-diddle’ being up to parr. During his career, Ringo created some of the most distinctive rhythms, fills and drum breaks in the history of pop music and we’ve always admired his tasteful yet dynamic playing.
Thousands of drummers that have come and gone since the good old Beatles’ days - a large majority of them heavily influenced by Mr Starr might we add - but no one has ever played quite like our Ringo.
Now, we know we've probably missed out on your drumming hero... Or maybe you're raging that we have added Ringo to our list. Sorry, folks! So we don’t cause any arguments, we thought we’d add in an honourable mentions list:
Have we missed anyone?
Probably! Who would you include, let us know on social media!