Occasionally we break from humorous themes in our Top 10 feature to provide a subjective take on pop culture, movies, books and more. This week the world lost an icon when Charlie Watts, longtime drummer for The Rolling Stones, died peacefully at the age of 80. While the Stones are arguably the greatest rock band ever, Watts paved the way for future drummers, setting a high standard for those dreaming of banging the sticks in front of thousands of fans. Yet even today, lead singers and guitarists often steal the spotlight in most bands, so to honor the late and great Charlie Watts, we subjectively offer our:
TOP 10 ICONIC ROCK DRUMMERS OF ALL TIME
10. Dave Grohl — Grohl might very well be responsible for moving the grunge movement into mainstream, as he created many of the sounds (beyond just the drums) for Nirvana before becoming the frontman for the Foo Fighters. The D.C. native grew his legend playing drums from street corners to clubs in the nation’s capital, giving him incredible “street cred” as one of the best ever.
9. D.J. Fontana — Elvis might simply be known as a great country musician if it wasn’t for Fontana. His artistry and beats added the rhythm and soul that Elvis needed to transform his sounds and moves into rock ’n’ roll. Fontana likely changed modern music more than we will ever know.
8. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson — not only is Questlove one of the most iconic drummers ever, he’s also one of the coolest. Who else can say they defined a late show (OK, maybe Max can, too) and began one of the most celebrated funk/hip hop bands with The Roots out of his native Philadelphia. If anyone has ever seen The Roots live, you know why he belongs among the greatest artists to ever step on stage.
7. Clifton James — Race will unfortunately always play a role in the historical notoriety of American music pioneers. And many African-American musicians, particularly drummers, were never afforded the commercial success of their white peers. Clifton James represents a long list of black drummers who could fill any list of icons. And his influence on American music is undeniable. James played with Bo Diddley for almost two decades and created the beats and rhythms that would change music forever.
6. Sheila E — came to prominence with Prince, not just as the sex symbol she was so often marketed as, but for her ability to stand alongside one of music’s most celebrated royalty. Sheila E stood apart during a male-dominated era and deserves the label of “drummer icon” as much as any of her male counterparts.
5. Keith Moon — possesses everything a rock drumming icon should, the good and the bad. The drummer for The Who partied hard and played with reckless precision. Even Animal (from The Muppets) was created in his image. Eventually, his lifestyle caught up to him in his early 30s after a drug overdose.
4. Ringo Starr — If you play in a band with John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison — and your name is just as recognizable as the rest of the band — you are a legend. Starr was the drummer for the Beatles. Need we say more?
3. Levon Helm — When referencing the words “icon” and “drummer,’ Levon Helm’s name is coming up every time. Very few drummers had the vocal skills to match their genius with the sticks (yes, Phil Collins comes to mind). But Helms transformed The Band into one of the most respected bands to ever play. From Bob Dylan to Joni Mitchell, everyone wanted to perform with Helm.
2. Charlie Watts — no one will ever sit behind the drums like Watts again. He had the looks of a sophisticated dignitary and the sounds of the most talented badass to ever bang the sticks. It was never just one Stone. And even with Mick, Keith, Ronnie and others … the Rolling Stones owe much of their identity to the greatness of Charlie Watts.
1. John Bonham — You can’t say the word drummer without saying John Bonham’s name. The Led Zeppelin drummer immortalized the art of percussion in Moby Dick. John Bonham is to drumming what Shakespeare is to literature. There is no equal.
TOO CLOSE TO CALL!
We realize many others could make this list and we want to hear from you. Check out our Facebook page (@The Weekly Newspapers) to weigh in on your favorites. Here are some we know you will troll us with (deservingly so), so let the debate begin: Meg White, Richard Allen, Tommy Lee, Neil Peart, Stewart Copeland, Danny Carey, Phil Collins ….. let us know!