32 of the best drummers to grace rock ‘n’ roll

As Red Hot Chili Peppers’ mischievous sticksman turns 56 years old, we look at the other drummers that join Chad Smith in the percussion hall of fame.

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1Chad Smith

Before he became a pop culture hero by participating in a drum-off with celeb lookalike Will Ferrell, Red Hot Chilli Peppers' man Chad Smith had already cemented his place as one half of music's most elastic rhythm section. Getty
Before he became a pop culture hero by participating in a drum-off with celeb lookalike Will Ferrell, Red Hot Chilli Peppers' man Chad Smith had already cemented his place as one half of music's most elastic rhythm section.

2Ringo Starr

Though it's easy to have a friendly dig at some of his lyrical contributions to The Beatles' canon ('Octopus' Garden' anyone?), when it came to the sticks, Richard Starkey was - and indeed, is still - a tour de force of swinging, effortless rhythms. Getty
Though it's easy to have a friendly dig at some of his lyrical contributions to The Beatles' canon ('Octopus' Garden' anyone?), when it came to the sticks, Richard Starkey was - and indeed, is still - a tour de force of swinging, effortless rhythms.

3Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen
His little bro Eddie may be the more well-known of the Van Halen brothers, but it was Alex that provided the hard-hitting backbone of the band's heavy rock sound. 'Jump' ain't nothing without Alex. Getty
His little bro Eddie may be the more well-known of the Van Halen brothers, but it was Alex that provided the hard-hitting backbone of the band's heavy rock sound. 'Jump' ain't nothing without Alex.

4Dave Grohl

Dave who? Only kidding! Before becoming our favourite rock and roll soldier at the helm of Foo Fighters, Dave was – OF COURSE – chief sticksman in a little known band called Nirvana. Some people get all the good genes. Getty
Dave who? Only kidding! Before becoming our favourite rock and roll soldier at the helm of Foo Fighters, Dave was – OF COURSE – chief sticksman in a little known band called Nirvana. Some people get all the good genes.

5Taylor Hawkins

Speaking of Foo Fighters – their current sticksman Taylor Hawkins has been with them since 1997, and if Dave Grohl couldn't do it himself, there's no better man. He's multitalented, too – in his side-project Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, he drums and sings. Getty Images
Speaking of Foo Fighters – their current sticksman Taylor Hawkins has been with them since 1997, and if Dave Grohl couldn't do it himself, there's no better man. He's multitalented, too – in his side-project Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, he drums and sings.

6Travis Barker

Say what you like about Blink-182, but beneath all the crude banter and dick jokes, they've got a genuine powerhouse behind the kit. It's easy to overlook Travis at the back, hammering like there's no tomorrow, but that's where the real magic lies in Blink. Getty
Say what you like about Blink-182, but beneath all the crude banter and dick jokes, they've got a genuine powerhouse behind the kit. It's easy to overlook Travis at the back, hammering like there's no tomorrow, but that's where the real magic lies in Blink.

7Neil Peart

Neil Peart
Neil Peart, drummer for Canadian rock types Rush, might just be the most well-regarded of them all. Regularly topping 'Best Drummer' polls throughout the musical spectrum, his super-size kit and elaborate drum fills have been celebrated across the land. Getty
Neil Peart, drummer for Canadian rock types Rush, might just be the most well-regarded of them all. Regularly topping 'Best Drummer' polls throughout the musical spectrum, his super-size kit and elaborate drum fills have been celebrated across the land.

8Mick Fleetwood

Mick Fleetwood
Rock 'n' roll stalwart Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac fame has contributed more than his fair share of hits to music's top tier. While the likes of 'Dreams' or 'Songbird' might seem like gauzy, floaty affairs, they'd be nothing without their central grounding rhythmic force. Getty
Rock 'n' roll stalwart Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac fame has contributed more than his fair share of hits to music's top tier. While the likes of 'Dreams' or 'Songbird' might seem like gauzy, floaty affairs, they'd be nothing without their central grounding rhythmic force.

9Charlie Watts

While Mick and Keef took the spotlight, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts sat in the background, providing the loose, relaxed tempos that gave the band their groove. "He is one big feelmonger," says Mick Fleetwood of his peer. That's definitely a compliment. Getty
While Mick and Keef took the spotlight, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts sat in the background, providing the loose, relaxed tempos that gave the band their groove. "He is one big feelmonger," says Mick Fleetwood of his peer. That's definitely a compliment.

10Stephen Morris

Stephen Morris
He may have been usurped by a drum machine on the notorious introduction of New Order's biggest hit 'Blue Monday', but Stephen Morris is still a hero. As drummer for both Joy Division and New Order, his style adapted from doomy post-punk to danceable new wave, keeping both in the realms of the dancefloor. Getty
He may have been usurped by a drum machine on the notorious introduction of New Order's biggest hit 'Blue Monday', but Stephen Morris is still a hero. As drummer for both Joy Division and New Order, his style adapted from doomy post-punk to danceable new wave, keeping both in the realms of the dancefloor.

11Phil Collins

Phil Collins
Now forever sadly immortalised as a Cadbury's-sponsored drumming gorilla, Phil Collins can at least be thankful that his powerhouse style and status as one of very few singing sticksman who was individual enough to parody. Even if it is by a monkey. Getty
Now forever sadly immortalised as a Cadbury's-sponsored drumming gorilla, Phil Collins can at least be thankful that his powerhouse style and status as one of very few singing sticksman who was individual enough to parody. Even if it is by a monkey.

12Meg White

This one might divide opinion, but while Meg was often seen as the less talented foil to Jack's virtuoso musicianship, the magic of The White Stripes lay between the interplay of the two. Pared back to as minimal a style as you can get, Meg was the nonchalant yin to her ex-hubby's frenetic yang. Getty
This one might divide opinion, but while Meg was often seen as the less talented foil to Jack's virtuoso musicianship, the magic of The White Stripes lay between the interplay of the two. Pared back to as minimal a style as you can get, Meg was the nonchalant yin to her ex-hubby's frenetic yang.

13Topper Headon

Topper Headon
Dubbed 'the human drum machine', The Clash's Topper Headon was meticulous. Simple but precise, his contribution to hits from 'Train In Vain' to 'Rock The Casbah' made up some of British punk's core canon. Getty
Dubbed 'the human drum machine', The Clash's Topper Headon was meticulous. Simple but precise, his contribution to hits from 'Train In Vain' to 'Rock The Casbah' made up some of British punk's core canon.

14Moe Tucker

Moe Tucker
Maureen 'Moe' Tucker was a one-off even within the unconventional realms of her band The Velvet Underground. Sometimes reducing the kit down to the bare minimum, she'd also play with a mallet instead of a stick in her right hand to create a true primal sound. Getty
Maureen 'Moe' Tucker was a one-off even within the unconventional realms of her band The Velvet Underground. Sometimes reducing the kit down to the bare minimum, she'd also play with a mallet instead of a stick in her right hand to create a true primal sound.

15Dominic Howard

Dominic Howard
You can't really be a wallflower when you're a part of space-loving, futuristic rock oddballs Muse, so it's no surprise that drummer Dom Howard is both one of the most enthusiastic and one of the most creative modern drummers out there. With only three of them making enough of a racket to fill stadiums, his role is huge. Getty
You can't really be a wallflower when you're a part of space-loving, futuristic rock oddballs Muse, so it's no surprise that drummer Dom Howard is both one of the most enthusiastic and one of the most creative modern drummers out there. With only three of them making enough of a racket to fill stadiums, his role is huge.

16Regine Chassagne

OK, so multi-talented Arcade Fire centre-pin Regine isn't technically the band's full-time drummer, but as one of the best all-rounders out there, she still deserves a nod. Frequently hopping onto a kit, before moving onto percussion and then singing lead, Regine's ability to give the song whatever it needs at that point is exquisite. Jenn Five/NME
OK, so multi-talented Arcade Fire centre-pin Regine isn't technically the band's full-time drummer, but as one of the best all-rounders out there, she still deserves a nod. Frequently hopping onto a kit, before moving onto percussion and then singing lead, Regine's ability to give the song whatever it needs at that point is exquisite.

17John Bonham

John Bonham
Dave Grohl thinks Bonham's the best. So does the Stones' Charlie Watts. So does Queen's Roger Taylor. Need we continue? Regularly awarded the title of Best Ever, Led Zeppelin's powerhouse force revved up the engine on their rock 'n' roll machine, but also gave them their loose, sensual groove. Perfect. Getty
Dave Grohl thinks Bonham's the best. So does the Stones' Charlie Watts. So does Queen's Roger Taylor. Need we continue? Regularly awarded the title of Best Ever, Led Zeppelin's powerhouse force revved up the engine on their rock 'n' roll machine, but also gave them their loose, sensual groove. Perfect.

18Keith Moon

Keith Moon
The mad-eyed wildcard who inspired The Muppets' maniacal drummer Animal, Keith Moon was a true one-off. Though his slightly unhinged, self-destructive side would ultimately prove his undoing, at his prime, it was also the spark that set him apart. Getty
The mad-eyed wildcard who inspired The Muppets' maniacal drummer Animal, Keith Moon was a true one-off. Though his slightly unhinged, self-destructive side would ultimately prove his undoing, at his prime, it was also the spark that set him apart.

19Terry Bozzio

Terry Bozzio
Once hitting headlines for touring the world's largest tuned drumkit, which looked a bit like something out of Transformers, Terry 'Ted' Bozzio has never played it safe. Recording 26 albums with legendary eccentric Frank Zappa, his is a style that colours outside of the lines. Getty
Once hitting headlines for touring the world's largest tuned drumkit, which looked a bit like something out of Transformers, Terry 'Ted' Bozzio has never played it safe. Recording 26 albums with legendary eccentric Frank Zappa, his is a style that colours outside of the lines.

20Tommy Aldridge

Tommy Aldridge
Playing with everyone from Thin Lizzy to Ozzy Osbourne to Whitesnake, Tommy Aldridge has basically been the go-to heavy rock drummer of choice for decades. Powerful yet adaptable, Aldridge proves that being a drummer for hire (or sorts) needn't show lack of personality. Getty
Playing with everyone from Thin Lizzy to Ozzy Osbourne to Whitesnake, Tommy Aldridge has basically been the go-to heavy rock drummer of choice for decades. Powerful yet adaptable, Aldridge proves that being a drummer for hire (or sorts) needn't show lack of personality.

21B.J Wilson

B.J Wilson
Having played with 70s prog types Procul Harum and not-very-proggy former Clash singer Joe Strummer, B.J.Wilson's drumming was put to some diverse use. Light of touch and a whizz with a drum fill, however, he adapted to the challenge. Getty
Having played with 70s prog types Procul Harum and not-very-proggy former Clash singer Joe Strummer, B.J.Wilson's drumming was put to some diverse use. Light of touch and a whizz with a drum fill, however, he adapted to the challenge.

22Alan White

Alan White
The battle of the drumming Alan Whites may be terse (Oasis' former stick-wielder also went by the same name), but Yes' contender wins out this time. As well as playing with the prog outfit, White also recorded with Lennon, Harrison, Joe Cocker and Yoko Ono over the years. Not too shabby. Getty
The battle of the drumming Alan Whites may be terse (Oasis' former stick-wielder also went by the same name), but Yes' contender wins out this time. As well as playing with the prog outfit, White also recorded with Lennon, Harrison, Joe Cocker and Yoko Ono over the years. Not too shabby.

23Jack White

Ol' Jacky boy might be more highly regarded as a virtuoso guitarist and adamant technology-refuser, but let's not forget about his drumming skills. The musical polymath sits behind the kit in The Dead Weather and also started off in his first band as drummer for Detroit cow-punk combo Goober & the Peas. Andy Whitton/NME
Ol' Jacky boy might be more highly regarded as a virtuoso guitarist and adamant technology-refuser, but let's not forget about his drumming skills. The musical polymath sits behind the kit in The Dead Weather and also started off in his first band as drummer for Detroit cow-punk combo Goober & the Peas.

24Stella Mozgawa

More than almost any other current band, Warpaint's mysterious alchemy relies equally on each band member and the interplay between them. Drummer Stella Mozgawa is crucial to this: slipping seamlessly into the band's extended jams but always reigning it in from mere noodling, she's one of the best modern players around. Dan Dennison/NME
More than almost any other current band, Warpaint's mysterious alchemy relies equally on each band member and the interplay between them. Drummer Stella Mozgawa is crucial to this: slipping seamlessly into the band's extended jams but always reigning it in from mere noodling, she's one of the best modern players around.

25Janet Weiss

Janet Weiss
Her Sleater-Kinney band mates once deemed her beats so solid "you could practically bang your head against them", but it's not just her gutsy, full-throttle playing that makes Weiss one of the best. Playing with everyone from Stephen Malkmus to The Shins, Weiss knows when to rein it in, too. Getty
Her Sleater-Kinney band mates once deemed her beats so solid "you could practically bang your head against them", but it's not just her gutsy, full-throttle playing that makes Weiss one of the best. Playing with everyone from Stephen Malkmus to The Shins, Weiss knows when to rein it in, too.

26Matt Helders

Helders memorably first came to the drums as "that was the only thing left" when they formed Arctic Monkeys, but has since gone on to become the band's unassuming powerhouse (and next level backing vocalist). Drawing influence equally from rock and hip-hop, Helders is a melting pot that works perfectly. Andy Willsher
Helders memorably first came to the drums as "that was the only thing left" when they formed Arctic Monkeys, but has since gone on to become the band's unassuming powerhouse (and next level backing vocalist). Drawing influence equally from rock and hip-hop, Helders is a melting pot that works perfectly.

27Lars Ulrich

Lars may have been criticised in the past for his drumming skills, but let's put things in perspective here – without Ulrich's direction, arrangements and general leadership, there would be no Metallica. He may be here more for his overall contribution, but what a contribution that is. Ed Miles /NME
Lars may have been criticised in the past for his drumming skills, but let's put things in perspective here – without Ulrich's direction, arrangements and general leadership, there would be no Metallica. He may be here more for his overall contribution, but what a contribution that is.

28Roger Taylor

Roger Taylor
One of the most adaptable players there is, Queen's Roger Taylor not only managed to veer between the band's eclectic styles with ease, but also live up to some of the most theatrical songs of the era. If you can provide a solid foil to Freddie Mercury, then you must be doing something right. Getty
One of the most adaptable players there is, Queen's Roger Taylor not only managed to veer between the band's eclectic styles with ease, but also live up to some of the most theatrical songs of the era. If you can provide a solid foil to Freddie Mercury, then you must be doing something right.

29Stewart Copeland

Stewart Copeland
While The Police may not be the coolest band on the list, there's no doubt that Stewart Copeland's jazz-influenced beats were a key factor in their massive success. Getty
While The Police may not be the coolest band on the list, there's no doubt that Stewart Copeland's jazz-influenced beats were a key factor in their massive success.

30Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker
Mid 1960s power trio Cream were fronted by the famous face of Eric Clapton, but drummer Ginger Baker was no less of an influential force within the group. Essentially inventing the drum solo, he was one of the first real drumming superstars. Getty
Mid 1960s power trio Cream were fronted by the famous face of Eric Clapton, but drummer Ginger Baker was no less of an influential force within the group. Essentially inventing the drum solo, he was one of the first real drumming superstars.

31Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich
Starting out in the jazz world Buddy Rich's career (which began in the 1930s) has been credited as one of the most important of them all. Perfecting a technique that prioritised speed and precision, his influence has spread into the rock world and beyond. Getty
Starting out in the jazz world Buddy Rich's career (which began in the 1930s) has been credited as one of the most important of them all. Perfecting a technique that prioritised speed and precision, his influence has spread into the rock world and beyond.

32Sheila E

Sheila E
Sheila E's most notable work might be on Prince's 'Purple Rain', but her drumming skills have also appeared on tracks by everyone from Marvin Gaye to Diana Ross. Add to that an impressive solo career and you've got an insatiable talent. Getty
Sheila E's most notable work might be on Prince's 'Purple Rain', but her drumming skills have also appeared on tracks by everyone from Marvin Gaye to Diana Ross. Add to that an impressive solo career and you've got an insatiable talent.
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