There are already hundreds of lists of the greatest drummers ever, and my list isn’t really that different. I myself am a drummer, and I am completely in awe of some of the great ones out there. So, I present to you, in no particular order, my favorite drummers of all time.
Danny Carey / Tool
Tool is known for it’s irregular time signatures and Danny Carey plays along with ease. He is actually a very restrained drummer, but is certainly loud when he needs to be. He tunes his toms to the key of whatever song he is playing; something most drummers don’t do. This man is my idol.
Neil Peart / Rush
A veritable drumming god. He has a 360 degree drum kit, and likely hits them all during each song. His drumming is pure magic. Rush is also known for odd time signatures and changes, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say Neil invented the concept.
Alex Van Halen / Van Halen
Before the mid-80s, Van Halen was the king of all rock bands. David Lee Roth is the ultimate frontman, Eddie Van Halen tears his guitar to shreds, and his brother Alex bangs on the drums hard and fast. I’ve tried to play along to Van Halen songs, but it just doesn’t work out for me.
Watch: Hot for Teacher
Dave Grohl / Nirvana, Foo Fighters
I don’t include Dave Grohl for his proficiency, though he is very proficient. I include him based on raw talent and musicianship. He was by far the most talented member of Nirvana, and he basically IS the Foo Fighters. He hit the drums hard in Nirvana, and you can just feel his energy and emotion as you listen to him.
Watch: Smells Like Teen Spirit
John Bonham / Led Zeppelin
People always talk about how great Keith Moon of The Who, and Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones are, but they both pale in comparison to the great Jon Bonham. Led Zeppelin is the quintessential rock band with outstanding musicians playing all four parts. I don’t care about The Rolling Stones, and to me, The Who is just another classic rock band. But when I listen to Led Zeppelin, I can feel the music penetrate my soul? Does that sound cheesy? I don’t care because it’s true. John Bonham is the source behind the power of Led Zeppelin. Mr Bonham and his amazing talent left this world far too soon.
Watch: MobyDick (Please, oh please at least watch this one)
Stewart Copeland / The Police
A lot of drummers just bang on their drums as hard as they can. I’m sure that works for most people, but Stewart Copeland is a far more nuanced drummer. He is probably one of the most technically proficient drummers I’ve seen. He has a large kit and always gets the perfect sound for each percussive moment.
Watch: Wrapped Around Your Finger
Rick Allen / Def Leppard
On New Year’s Eve in 1984, Rick Allen lost his left arm in a really stupid accident. When you’re the drummer of a then extremely popular rock band, losing an entire arm seems like a crushing career ender. How does a drummer drum without an arm? Rick Allen, though devastated, chose not to give up, and created a drum kit that he could utilize with his remaining arm and two legs. The impressive results are forever immortalized on the multi-platinum Hysteria and subsequent records.
Watch: Pour Some Sugar On Me
Clyde Stubblefield (Drummer for James Brown): The original “Funky Drummer”. His sounds have been sampled thousands of times by many-a Hip Hop artist.
Max Weinberg (Drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Former Drummer/Band Leader for Late Night with Conan O’Brien): Just the standard of professionalism, and obviously rocks when sitting behind Bruce Springsteen.
Sheila E.: I consider Sheila E. more of a percussionist, but her single “Glamorous Life” is percussive genius.
Bonus- Overrated Drummers:
Proving that you can still have an amazing band with an average drummer.
Ringo Starr / Beatles
Meg White / The White Stripes