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The 4 Greatest Rock Drummers of All Time

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Authored by Phil Dotree in Music
Published on 10-20-2009

A great rock band needs to have a great drummer. Without a good set of skins, even the best guitarist and bassist will sound flat. They’re vital to a band’s overall sound, and are often the unsung heroes of major acts.

Here’s a look at a few of the greatest rock and roll drummers of all time, and what they’ve contributed to modern music.

1. Neil Peart – Rush’s drummer is often considered the greatest ever to rock a set of sticks. Whether you enjoy Rush’s music or not, it’s undeniable that Peart had a serious influence on progressive rock. Fusing jazz with heavy metal and hard rock, Peart was known to use odd time signatures and phrasing. His frenetic, incredibly precise style has been copied by hundreds of rock drummers. Peart was also a critical part of Rush’s songwriting process. He’s the band’s main lyricist, helping to write songs heavily influenced by literature and philosophy.

2. Ringo Starr – I might get a lot of flack for including Ringo on a list of the greatest rock drummers of all time, but he certainly deserves his spot. Ringo Starr had an amazing sense of time and rhythm, almost like a human metronome. He popularized the matched pair style of drumming. With the Beatles, he handled strange time signatures and rhythms effortlessly. Sure, Ringo could sometimes play fairly simplistic drum lines, but he did what he needed to make the greatest rock band of all time sound solid. His drumming was incredibly tight at all times. What’s more, his drum solo in “The End” is one of the most famous drum solos of all time, regardless of its complexity. There’s more to being a great drummer than playing fast, and Ringo firmly grasped this concept.

3. John Bonham – Bonham made numerous contributions to rock drumming. He had one of the first major drum solos on a metal recording in Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick.” He didn’t use a double bass drum pedal, which is astounding considering the triplets he favored in his kick drum. Bonham also had incredible live presence, as Zeppelin’s recently released concert DVDs show. He also tuned in tightly with the band to become one of the most memorable heavy metal drummers in history. When he died in 1980, he took a big piece of rock and roll drumming with him.

4. Keith Moon – The Who had to constantly convince Keith Moon to drum instead of singing on their records. Admittedly, his voice wasn’t great, but he made up for it with some tremendous drums. From “Behind Blue Eyes” to “Baba O’Riley,” Moon was arguably the most electric member of The Who. That puts him in good running for greatest rock drummer of all time. Keith Moon’s influence on modern music is astounding. Like Bonham, Moon died before his time, overdosing in 1978.

Although many current drummers cite the above four as major influences, this list is by no means complete. Please feel free to share your opinion on the greatest rock drummers of all time in the comments section below this article.

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