The top ten drummers of all time
There are obviously more than ten great drummers in musical history, this is Damson’s ten best.
We love debate and we know this list is going to lead to a big one. It happens. We know this means we will get abuse for missing someone off, but it is a top ten list, which means it’s limited to ten amazing drummers. We know, and I mean know, that there are far more than ten amazing drummers, but this is our list. It’s a top ten, not a top 12, 18 or whatever. Some drummers don’t make the cut. But feel free to leave a comment and tell us who we should include, we do update the top ten from time to time.
Here are several amazing drummers who narrowly missed out.
Pat Mahoney – LCD Soundsystem | Taylor Hawkins – Foo Fighters | Charlie Watts – The Rolling Stones | Joey Jordison – Slipknot [Joey was previously number 8 in our list but slipped out following an update.
Now, let’s bang that drum!
10 – Travis Barker
Blink 182’s Travis Barker is one of the most famous, if not THE most famous drummers of the modern age, and for good reason. Overlooking the MTV/reality TV generation rubbish he got himself into, Travis is a PHENOMENAL musician. A punk rock guy at heart, he has never been afraid to experiment, performing with Rappers and DJs, but always keeping his own distinguishable style with everything that he does. In our opinion, some of his very best work was on the very first Album with the Transplants, which straddles punk and hip-hop so well. He recovered from a career, and life, threatening plane crash in 2008 and has not missed a step. Will hopefully go down in history as one of the greatest of all time.
9 – Ringo Starr
“Ringo isn’t the best drummer in the world…He isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles….” For years, the rumour was that John Lennon said this in an interview, but he didn’t. It has since been credited to British Comedian Jasper Carrott. Even if this was a product of Lennon’s famous whit, it would be doing a terrible disservice to Ringo’s talent. As strange as it sounds, considering he was in the biggest band in the world, Ringo was underrated and underappreciated. Nowadays, people see him for the percussion genius that he is. Dave Grohl (more on him later) calls him the “King of the Feels”. A drummer needs to be steady and reliable, and Ringo had all of that and so, so much more.
8 – Ginger Baker
It’s no secret that Ginger Baker wasn’t a particularly likeable guy, but, his immense talent matched his ferocious temper. Teaming with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton to form Cream in 1966. His nickname of “Rock’s first superstar drummer” is well deserved. A showman through and through, Ginger infused his Jazz training with extended power and blues solos. Since Cream lasted all of 2 years, ginger has kept himself busy over the years with a variety of projects, from Afrobeat, to collaborating with Public Image LTD. If you want to get an idea of who the man himself really is, spend 2 hours watching “Beware of Mr. Baker”.
7 – Ramon “Tiki” Fulwood
“Tiki” Fulwood was an absolute pioneer. He sadly passed away in 1979 from a bout of stomach cancer, but form the late 1960’s, he was employed as the drummer of, at various points, George Clinton’s Parliament – Funkadelic, and even Miles Davis. Legend has it that at a tender 17 years old, Fulwood had to sneak into clubs to perform, and Clinton eventually had to beg his mother to take him on tour. Modern funk and soul musicians take very heavily from Tiki, which just goes to show how much of an influence he has had on the music scene.
6 – Dave Grohl
Poor Taylor Hawkins. Amazing drummer he may be, but it must sting a little when you know the singer of your band is a better drummer than you! “The Nicest Man in Rock” made a name for himself behind the drum kit in Nirvana, you may have heard of them?? After Kurt’s untimely suicide, he started up the Foo Fighters, and over the years they have grown into one of the biggest bands in the world. Not content with fronting the Foo’s, he has also lent his relentless, brawny style to Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures amongst others. His future is definitely as a frontman still, but when he does get behind the drums again from time to time, you can bet it will be a hell of a spectacle.
5 – Keith Moon
Moon, the inspiration for Animal in The Muppets, smashed his drums just as ferociously as he smashed up hotel rooms. He is almost as famous for his destructive behaviour as he was for being the drummer in The Who, one of the greatest, and loudest Rock Bands ever. When he wasn’t blowing up toilets, he was one of the best and surprisingly melodic drummers in History. Unfortunately, Moon did aged 31 from a drug overdose, which some say had been coming due to his crazy behaviour, not that that makes it any less tragic.
4 – Buddy Rich
No drummer from the jazz world had more influence on rock percussion than Bernard “Buddy” Rich. His arrival in the late 1930s was without precedent: a flashy, aggressive, self-taught Jewish kid from Manhattan, taking extended solos that showcased his dazzling speed and intricate stick work at a time when most drummers wouldn’t dare think outside of the box. Eventually, he recorded and performed with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Louis Armstrong, but he was best-known for leading (and arguing — he was famously foul-tempered) his own high-energy bands.
3 – Stewart Copeland
Sting’s voice and playing style may be the vintage sound of the Police, but none of this would have been possible without Stewart Copelands subtlety and aggression. A well-traveled child, Copeland’s style has a lot of various influences, especially the middle-east, which heavily influenced the early records by the Police. Since the Police all went their own way, he’s written soundtracks and solo albums as well as appearing with other groups. He’s also written soundtracks for TV and movies. He’s written for orchestras, even playing classical percussion. In summary, he is one of the most talented people in musical history. End of.
2 – Neil Peart
Peart has stirred up a lot of debate both here at Damson HQ and with you guys who read the list and are so passionate in your views. Originally he didn’t feature in our Top 10. Oh, he was close but no cigar. Then one day our daily playlist blared out (ok, not so much blared as background!) Moving Pictures. Instantly there was a pause in the office as Red Barchetta played. The way Peart melodically compliments the vocals and guitars without overpowering them had us tapping along with our pens. Then the question came; “Who is this?” and a quick check on Spotify revealed Rush. The drumming epiphany took place and we realised the error of our ways.
Neil is without a doubt one of the best drummers of all time. It’s possible he could be number one but we just feel that position is well held by its current incumbent. Peart drew so much inspiration from the leading British drummers (British drummers really are the best!) yet he sandwiches himself in between two of them. You can hear in much of Peart’s style how he drew inspiration from the best drummers of previous generations (Ginger). Peart also didn’t let competition turn into jealousy as he drew inspiration from greats that were competing with Billboard chart-topping at that time (Copeland). It’s because of this that we move Neil above both of them.
1 – John Bonham
Unsurprisingly, John Bonham is number one on most lists of drummers. An absolute Tour-de-force, “Bonzo” confused fans for years, convincing them that he was using two bass drums, but in reality, his style was just ferocious, disorienting, deliberate, and LOUD. His awesome technique and a big open sound, he sent Zeppelin’s tunes soaring. He embodies raw, emotional, rock drumming that comes straight from the soul. When Bonham passed away at 32 in 1980, Led Zeppelin decided to disband, releasing one of the most poignant statements in musical history:
“We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.”