Foo Fighters drummer, Dave Grohl once said, “I love being a drummer. Everyone thinks you’re dumb. What they don’t realize is that if it weren’t for you, their band would suck.” And it’s totally true. Drummers are considered the backbone of a band and provide a rhythm for the rest of the musicians to follow. They have shaped the sound of generations of music, mastered beats and held some of our favorite bands together. From John Bonham and Neil Peart to Meg White and Travis Barker, here are 10 of our all-time favorite drummers.
Esteemed musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer for Led Zeppelin, John Bonham takes the top of our list. Having a reputation for being one of the most influential drummers in rock history, he began learning to play the drums at just five years old on old containers and coffee tins. He played in various bands like The Crawling King Snakes, the Blue Star Trio and Terry Webb and the Spiders, quickly becoming notorious for his speed, keen right foot and mesmerizing drum solos. Having been listed as one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummers by AllMusic, Modern Drummer and Stylus magazine, Bonham was truly a one-of-a-kind drummer with a showmanship like no other.
Drummer and lyricist for the rock band Rush, Neil Peart has been awarded for his talents on multiple occasions and landed himself into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1983. His early introduction to music came from piano lessons and for his 14th birthday, his parents bought him his very first drum kit. He took lessons at the Peninsula Conservatory of Music and performed his very first solo that same year.
Known for his heavy drum solos and distinct sound, Peart was a true craftsman and loved to incorporate electronic percussion to his songs. Some of his best work can be heard on Rush’s 2012 album Clockwork Angeles. Some of Peart’s greatest influences included Pete Thomas, Phil Collins and of course, John Bonham.
Blink-182’s drummer Travis Barker is without doubt one of the most well-known musicians of the punk scene. Names “punk’s first superstar drummer” by Rolling Stone, Barker is a songwriter, record producer and drummer known for his hardcore attitude, skater sensibility and high-energy performances. Born in Fontana, California, Barker began drumming at a very young age and eventually found mainstream success, establishing himself as one of the most skilled drummers of the new millennium. He has collaborated with a variety of hip-hop and EDM artists and founded popular rock bands including +44 and Box Car Racer. In addition to his drumming career, Barker founding his very own clothing line Famous Stars and Straps in 1999 and LaSalle Records in 2004. Talk about a versatile artist.
It’s not often you find female drumming superstars, but Meg White of the White Stripes has definitely made her mark in the industry. From her distinctive stomping beats to her brightly-colored outfits and super shy attitude, White has become a fan favorite and industry darling. Getting her start “on an impulse,” White played Jack White’s drums for the first time in 1997 and was immediately hooked. Just a few months later, the two started the band the White Stripes and quickly received international fame. Not to mention four Grammy Awards. Her drumming style is quite simple and has been called “primal” from fans and critics alike. In addition to her drumming, White also sang on occasion, taking the lead on songs including “In the Cold, Cold Night” and “Passive Manipulation.” While White suffered from acute anxiety, the White Stripes cancelled most of their tour in 2007 and disbanded in 2011.
Known for his relentless drumming and striking sound, Dave Grohl is an American singer, songwriter, record producer and most importantly, one of the most notable drummers in the world. He is the founder, lead vocalist and guitarist for rock band Foo Fighters and was the drummer for Nirvana for four years in the 1990s. He has played drums for Queens of the Stone Age, The Crooked Vultures and was brought in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. Grohl has gained endless momentum throughout his musical career and is always on the road touring with Foo Fighters.
Born in 1946, Keith Moon was the drummer for rock band the Who and had established himself as an eccentric and offbeat individual. He was introduced to drums in the early 60s and after playing music with local band the Beachcombers, he joined the Who in 1964. Moon was quickly recognized for his unconventional drumming style and loved to include double bass drums in his stage set-up. During his career, Moon had built a reputation for being rather destructive, smashing drum kits and hotel rooms. His favorite antic however, was flushing explosives down toilets. He was brought into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1982 and was voted the second greatest drummer in history by a Rolling Stone readers’ poll. Moon died from a drug overdose at the age of 31.
Born in Lewisham, South London in 1939, Peter Edward “Ginger” Baker is a self-taught drummer and founder of the rock band Cream. Learning the drums at the young age of 15, Baker developed a style of drumming that merged his jazz background with African rhythms and heavy metal. Baker founded the band Cream in 1966 alongside Jack Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton. He is best known for his endless drum solos in the Cream song “Toad,” exceptional showmanship and use of two bass drums. Baker’s talent earned him a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2008.
One of the most sought-after drummers today, Chad Smith is the drummer of the band Red Hot Chili Peppers and hard rock group Chickenfoot. Smith grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan where he began playing drums at seven years old and was greatly inspired by bands, including The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Kiss and more. Known for his loud, hard hitting drumming style, Smith has gained worldwide prominence and was placed at #10 on Spin magazine’s list of “100 Greatest Drummers of Alternative Music” in May 2013. Fun fact: Chad Smith closely resembles comedian Will Ferrell.
Larry Mullen Jr.
Best known as the drummer and co-founder of band U2, Larry Mullen Jr. is a savvy drummer with a distinctive sound that developed from playing in a marching band as a child. Keen on fills and drum rolls, Mullen has been said to have an extraordinary sense of rhythm and recorded 15 studio albums with U2.
Rolling Stone ranked Mullen the 96th greatest drummer of all time in 2016 and has received 22 Grammy Awards throughout his career. In addition to U2, Mullen has worked on many solo projects and recorded the soundtrack and theme song of Mission Impossible with Adam Clayton in 1966.
Bill Stevenson is best known for being the co-founding member and original drummer of California punk rock group the Descendents, but he has also played for Black Flag, an iconic L.A. punk rock band founded in 1976. Born in Torrance, California, Stevenson was a student at Mira Costa High School where he met his bandmates of the Descendents. His iconic machine-gun snare rolls and hardcore sound has earned him a spot on our list as he’s paved the way for bands like Blink-182, Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer. Stevenson is also a producer and has worked in the studio with bands, including Rise Against, As I Lay Dying and NOFX. Fun fact: Stevenson has a love for caffeine. In 2014 he said, “In our band, we would drink a bunch of coffee, or I’d eat 50 Snickers bars, before we played.”
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