Beat of a Different Drum

Who is the greatest drummer of all time? The backbone of the ensemble, this important figure is often shrouded in mystery and overshadowed by the rest of the band. Being a great drummer depends on more than just technical ability. The best drummers contribute a significant sound or style to their group and leave an indelible mark on the audience.

  • Ringo Starr of The Beatles provided a steady back beat and creative flourishes that helped make this band the legend it is today. Pete Best, the original drummer for the Beatles, was with the band for 2 years. Ringo is also one of the few drummers to get to not only write songs, but sing the lead vocal as well!
  • Keith Moon of The Who was nearly maimed in an explosion during "My Generation" while they played on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
  • Phil Collins of Genesis has played just about every instrument out there, so some might contest his inclusion on his list, but drumming is where this musician got his start.
  • Neil Peart of Rush may not be the most glamorous drummer on this list, but his name registers on every "Best Drummer" list I could find!
  • When John Bonham, the drummer of Led Zeppelin, died the band disbanded. If that's not a testament to the power of a drummer, I don't know what is.
  • John Densmore, was the rhymthic engire for the The Doors, a feat not easily accomplished!
  • Dave Grohl, perhaps most famous as being the drummer for Nirvana, was also the drummer for the first Foo Fighters album.
  • Gene Krupa was a legendary jazz drummer known for his flamboyant style and endless energy!
  • Rick Allen of Def Leppard achieved recognition, not only for being the only Def Leppard drummer to live more than a few years after accepting the gig, but also because he suffered the full amputation of his left arm and continued to rock harder than ever!
Written by Tara on July 27, 2010


TW on July 28, 2010


Outside of Krupa, I would be hard pressed to include any one the drummers on the list in the top drummers of all time. There are scores of jazz drummers that are much better than Rick Allen, John Densmore, Bonham, Moon etc. - Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Paul Motian, Omar Hakim, Dennis Chambers are but a few. And then there is the great, great Buddy Rich...

As far as rock/r&b/blues drummers, there are also many drummers who I would put above the names on this list. Levon Helm (The Band) is not only a better singer than Ringo, he is a much better drummer. Neil Pert is great, but check out Vinny Colaiuta. Bernard Purdy and Kenny Aronoff are two of the best but you never hear their names. Ginger Baker, Stewart Copeland get props for creativity beyond simple rock beats and Bill Bruford for his imagination and incredible abilities with odd time meters.

Two unsung drummers are Uriel Jones and Benny Benjamin who played on just about every Motown record made. Fantastic drummers.

Fun list. Thanks.


I'd also include Topper Headon (The Clash) and Mitch Mitchell (The Jimi Hendrix Experience) on the list for rock drummers, and Jimmy Cobb (Miles Davis, many others) for jazz.

Leave a comment