Although they don’t always get the headlines, drummers have an essential role in any band or performance. If the drummer is off beat or struggling to keep up, the whole performance comes crashing down. Fortunately, these five drummers never had such problems. Although we know this list is highly subjective (feel free to comment your own favorite drummers), we’ve chosen five drummers that not only had/have talent but have also contributed to the way drums are played for all aspiring musicians.
In truth, everybody seems to know Phil Collins for something different. While some will think of ‘In the Air Tonight’, others will love his work on the Disney classic Tarzan. However, only those old enough will remember his drumming days with Genesis. After joining the lineup in the UK, Genesis went from strength to strength and it wasn’t long before Collins had developed the signature ‘gated snare’ sound.
Ultimately, Phil Collins is a drumming legend and the respect he has earned from other musicians goes to show it. After one of the most famous drum fills of all time with ‘In the Air Tonight’, lots of other musicians used him for studio recordings including Robert Plant and Eric Clapton. What’s more, he played the drums for recordings even after he took over the lead with Genesis and in his solo singing career.
From England, we move across to Canada to find another legend of the drumming world. Considered by some the best drummer of all time, he was the lyricist and main drummer for Rush. Over the years, he has been recognized for his talent and, in 1983, became the youngest ever Modern Drummer Hall of Fame inductee.
As a key feature of Led Zeppelin, John Bonham quickly began entertaining crowds all over the world. During the recording of ‘Good Times Bad Times’, Jimmy Page later noted how everybody assumed he was using two bass drums when he actually only had one. Often, we can mark the success of musicians by the influence they have, and Dave Grohl once said that he used to spend endless hours in his bedroom just trying to imitate and emulate Bonham’s talent.
In one interview, Paul McCartney said that the real ‘beginning’ of the Beatles came when Ringo Starr first sat down and played with the band. He described looking around the room at George and John before knowing that the band was complete. Although overlooked as a result of other drummers around during the 1960s, Starr was influential in the Beatles and played a key role in shaping the songs that have defined more than one generation.
Above all else, Starr was reliable – a good trait for any drummer. Once you add the fact that he was a left-handed player on a right-handed kit, you really understand the talent and why the funny fills he offered were so special. Back to Dave Grohl, he once noted that ‘Ringo was the king of feel’.
To round off our top five, Keith Moon was known for extravagance, smashing drum kits, and unique playing styles. Rather than simply accompanying the music, Moon pushed the boundaries of where the drum should go and his influence in this regard is still felt today. Sadly, while still a beloved member of The Who, Moon died in London at the age of 31.
Sadly, all great careers come to an end. Neil Peart died at the beginning of 2020 and a nerve issue will prevent Phil Collins from playing as he once did…let’s hope there’s a new generation of drummers who will soon find their names among these greats!