Drumming might look ordinary to the layman but to the music mind, it is a sacred art. The technicality involved in handling those sticks to produce melodious sounds can only be achieved with great tenacity and love for the art of drumming. We have compiled a list of 10 greatest drummers of all time to show the heights of success this art of drumming can take its dedicated and skilled players.
10 Greatest Drummers Of All Time
1. Buddy Rich
Top on this list of 10 greatest drummers of all time is the prominent American drummer Bernard Rich popularly known as Buddy Rich. The skilled drummer was born on the 30th September 1917 in Brooklyn, New York City. Buddy picked up interest right from his childhood days when he would usually use forks and knives as drumsticks. As he grew up, he mastered the art of drumming and started his career in 1937 working with Joe Marsala.
Furthermore, he worked with several other bands like Bunny Berigan and Artie Shaw, Dorsey band, and has collaborated with artists like Harry James, Benny Carter, Led Brown, Charlie packer, and so many others.
During the course of his career, Buddy was considered as one of the best drummers around because of his prowess, vigor, and speed while drumming. However, he died on April 2, 1987, at the age of 69 after he suffered from a brain tumor and heart failure. In September 2017, Buddy was posthumously awarded a star on Palm Springs Walk of Stars. Prior to that, the drum legend has also been honored with several concerts and two albums have been produced as a tribute to him in 1994 and in 1997.
2. John Bonham
One of the greatest drummers ever in history is John Bonham who was born with the full name John Henry Bonham on the 31st day of May 1948, in Redditch, Worcestershire, England. John began drumming at the young age of five with local kits he made for himself with containers and tins. When his mother saw his passion for drumming she decided to get a snare drum for him at age ten and when he turned fifteen, he received his first complete band set as a surprise gift from his father.
Early in his career, John worked with several bands and movements like Terry Webb and the Spiders, The Nicky James Movement, The Senators, Crawling King Snakes, among others and his professional drumming was with the prominent band crew Led Zeppelin. Rated as the greatest rock drummer in history John Bonham was notable for his high-velocity bass drumming, his acceleration and speed while drumming.
Although his drumming career was cut short when he died at the age of thirty-two due to excessive consumption of alcohol, his legacy lives on as a great drummer and he has been a role model to top drummers like Mike Portnoy, Joey Kramer, Lee Kerslake, Tony Thompson, , , and . Furthermore, his loss was a huge blow to his group the Led Zeppelin and they decided to disintegrate as they could not continue without him.
3. Gene Krupa
Another guru who is on our list of greatest drummers is the American drummer Gene Krupa. He was born Eugene Bertram Krupa in 1909, on the 15th of January to be precise. He was born and raised in Chicago although his heritage can be traced down to Poland.
The American drummer began playing the drums like a pro in the 1920s and was employed by MCA, to be a member of the well known American band Thelma Terry and Her Playboys. More so, he was the member of Benny Goodman band crew. His drum solo in the song “Sing Sing Sing” made him very famous nationally.
Apart from being a professional drummer, Gene has made several appearances as an actor in Hollywood movies like The Benny Goodman Story, The Gene Krupa film biography and Glenn Miller story.
The light of this shining star was permanently dimmed in 1973 after he passed on when he suffered from leukemia, emphysema and cardiac failure.
4. Neil Peart
The famous Neil Peart whose full name is Neil Ellwood Peart has not only fared well as a drummer but also as a musician lyricist and a writer. Neil was born on the 12th of September 1952, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. At the beginning of his career, his style of play was hard rock but as he grew and advanced, he ventured into big band and jazz, learning from the likes of Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa.
As a result of his skill and talent in the field, the Canadian born drummer has several awards and recognitions which include the formal introduction into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1983, becoming the very first young lad to be given such an honor. He has been named Drummer of the year for four consecutive times by Drum! magazine between 2007 to 2010. However, in 2015, Neil made it know that he was officially retiring as musicians because of health challenges.
5. Stewart Copeland
Born on the 16th of July 1952, Stewart Armstrong Copeland is an American drummer and songwriter. Stewart is among the few musicians known to be well educated, as he is a proud graduate of the University of California at Berkeley as well as the United States International University. His initial work on record was as a manager for the band Cured Air after which he joined the band officially as a drummer between 1975 and 1976.
Subsequently, he formed his own band which he named The Police and they were known to have caused waves in the music industry between 1977 up until their split in 1986. Stewart is also credited for releasing several hit singles like Don’t Care although he used the name Klark Kent to release the song. He has also done numerous soundtracks for several film and TV series over the years.
The legendary drummer was inducted into he Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame and the Classic Drummer Hall of Fame in 2005 and 2013 respectively.
6. Tony Williams
Tony is an American drummer born on the 12th day of December 1945 in Chicago, Illinois, United States of America. He is of mixed ethnicity of Chinese, Africa, and Portuguese heritage.
Tony is said to have started his experiment in the art of drumming when he was still a little boy and turned pro at age thirteen. At 17, he joined the group Miles David Band Crew where he was launched into the limelight. Later, he founded the band crew The New Tony William Lifetime and he was inducted as a member of the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1986. Sadly, Tony died in California, USA, on the 23rd of February 1997 at the age of fifty-one after he suffered from a chronic cardiac arrest.
7. Steve Gadd
Born Stephen Kendall Gadd on the 9th of April 1945, Steve Gadd is well known American drummer cum musician whose career has spanned over decades. During his growing years, this great drummer cited that he was influenced by drummers like Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, and Rick Marotta. He is also known for his blend of orchestral with his drumming and this has made him a distinct is a drummer.
He was inducted to be the member of Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1984 and in 2005, Berklee College conferred on him an Honorary Doctor of Music degree in recognition of his contributions to the music world.
8. Mitch Mitchell
Next on our list of greatest drummers is John Graham Mitchell who is popularly known as Mitch Mitchell, an English drummer who specialized in rock, psychedelic rock, blues rock, jazz fusion, and hard rock. He was born in Middlesex, England on the 9th of July 1946.
Starting off work with small roles in films as a kid, Mitch did not know that one day he will dominate the music arena as a drummer. As he honed his skills at a music shop, they were further developed on a musical tour he embarked in 1962. Later on, he commenced work the likes of Georgie Fame, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Dirty Mac, Jack Bruce, Larry Coryell, Noel Redding, and the Gypsy Sun Experience.
Mitch was known to have worked tirelessly during his career days going for tours and shows. He retired briefly during the 1970s to 1990s but later returned to active service until his death in 2008 after battling with alcoholism, and he was posthumously inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2009.
9. Billy Cobham
American prominent drummer William Emanuel “Billy” Cobham Jr., commonly known as Billy Cobham was born in Colón, Panama, on the 16th May 1944. His penchant for drumming is traced back to his early childhood days as Billy is said to have started drumming at the age of four, and by the time he clocked 24, he had turned into a professional in handling the instrument.
All through his career, Billy is known to have specialized in Jazz Fusion, Jazz Funk and Progressive Rock. He is also notable for his steady work with musicians and bands like Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jack Bruce, New York Jazz Quartet, Jazz Is Dead, Bobby, and the Midnite as well as Mark-Almond. He has also been signed by top labels like Atlantic, Columbia, CTI, Elektra, and GRP.
Tagged one the greatest drummers, Billy has received high praises from fans as well as fellow musicians. From the onset of his career when he released his first album Spectrum, the drummer has continually shown great skill, passion, and expertise. He even owns an online school where he lectures the art of drumming and till date, Billy Cobham is still a high flyer in his profession.
10. Keith Moon
Our list of greatest drummers cannot be complete without Keith Moon having a spot. Keith John Moon is a British drummer who hails from Westminster, London, England and was born on the 23rd of August 1946. This talented was renowned for his wild way of drumming but all the same, he was a widely acclaimed drummer whose talent cannot be suppressed. He is noted for his work with The Who, Plastic Ono Band, and the Jeff Beck Group. Furthermore, he was known to have sung a couple of times as well as being featured in films.
Though it was highly debated whether to honor the drummer given his unruly character, he was finally awarded a Blue Plaque as his contribution to the music world cannot be overlooked irrespective of his personal life. Moon’s influence on present-day music icons like Dave Grohl further shows that the man was ace in his field.