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These guys march to the beat of a different drum. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 rock drummers.
For this list, we’ve chosen standout drummers who were the perfect mix of technical talent and popularity, and who proved themselves essential to the music of the bands they were in. We’re excluding drummers from genres like heavy metal, hard rock, hip-hop, and jazz.
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#10 – Phil Collins: Genesis
As Genesis evolved from progressive to pop rock, Collins showcased a strong musicality and versatility on the drums. Audiences were also impressed by his rare talent for singing and drumming simultaneously. Though he played jazz fusion, folk and blues in other projects, it was as a solo artist that Collins found further success, with the “gated reverb” of “In the Air Tonight” shaping much of the 80s pop drum sound.
#9 – Ringo Starr: The Beatles
He may not have been the finest technical drummer ever, but his offbeat and creative style helped build The Beatles’ sound we love. Despite being a lefty, Starr used a right-handed kit to keep the beat, and ensured the tempo of each song was just right. His crucial contributions showed that drummers could be just as important to songwriting as other band members, and influenced countless people from then on.
#8 – Nick Mason: Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd wouldn’t have been the same without Mason, who was the only unchanging band member on all their records. Whether playing acoustic or electronic drums or even percussion, he knew how to bring everything together to complete the band’s psychedelic and progressive rock sound. The proficient studio musician also knew how to show off on stage, as demonstrated by the band’s effects-heavy and extravagant live performances.
#7 – Mitch Mitchell: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Mitchell’s session drumming, including his time with The Who, landed him a permanent spot in The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s lineup over another drumming great, Aynsley Dunbar. By fusing his jazz influences with rock, he developed a rhythmic and melodic playing style that perfectly complemented the music. Mitchell’s heavy beats, snare drum stroke patterns, rolls and fills were also a source of creativity for Hendrix in studio and on stage.
#6 – Ginger Baker: Cream
Cream’s blues and psychedelic rock would have been very different without Baker’s flashy, jazz-inspired drums. While in the supergroup, “rock’s first superstar drummer” broke new ground by using double bass drums and playing lengthy solos. After the breakups of Cream and Blind Faith, Baker continued finding success with his world music and African-inspired sounds, but it was his booming 60s style that set the stage for today’s heavy metallers.
#5 – Stewart Copeland: The Police
Copeland helped craft The Police’s new wave mix of punk, reggae and jazz by incorporating those styles with his rock and Middle Eastern influences. Known for using syncopated beats and splash cymbals, he had a highly defined, innovative technique and a knack for enhancing songs with groove. Even after the band’s demise, Copeland showed off his lively and restrained playing in other projects.
#4 – Dave Grohl: Nirvana/Queens of the Stone Age/Them Crooked Vultures
He’s best known as the Foo Fighters’ main man, but this multi-instrumentalist first made waves in D.C.’s hardcore scene by hitting hard and fast in several bands. It was his intense and fierce bashing in Nirvana that cemented Grohl’s place in grunge. The “nicest guy in rock” further flaunted his passion for drums by lending his talents to Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures and many, many more.
#3 – Neil Peart: Rush
From hard rock to jazz, progressive rock to swing, Peart could play it all and he could play it well. The award-winning drummer distinguished himself with his unconventional time signatures and unique rhythmic style, but also displayed extreme endurance by playing extensive live solos on massive drum kits. Respected for his technical experience, he’s known for reversing his drumsticks to make heavier blows.
#2 – Keith Moon: The Who
Moon the Loon lived life as wildly as he played the drums—and though his time was cut short, his ingenious and frenzied drumming lived on. With an intense and sensational style, Mad Moon epitomized sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. He also proved fundamental to The Who’s sound with his back beats and double bass drum playing, and often stole the spotlight with his explosive antics.
#1 – John Bonham: Led Zeppelin
Thanks to his speed, heavy drumsticks, powerful arms, and rapid right foot, Bonzo’s thunderous bass drum was unlike anything rock had ever seen. His talent for finding the groove and mighty drum solos helped forge Led Zeppelin’s original and unforgettable blend of hard rock, blues and folk. Despite his short life, Bonham’s style remains unrivaled and fans, critics and musicians alike continue to crown him the king of rock drumming.
Do you agree with our list? Who is your favorite rock drummer? Be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com for more entertaining top 10s.