My 5 Favorite Drummers in Rock
As a drummer, I listen to a lot of rock music every day, trying to nail one fill after another on my imaginary kit (my lap, my desk, or even the steering wheel) for my personal pleasure, or for the sake of annoying my friends and family, who have told me to stop making noise more than enough times. If you love playing the drums, everything around you becomes a drum without you even realizing it. Isn’t that wonderful? All things aside, a lot of my favorite bands have a drummer that makes the band’s unique sound. Radiohead is probably my favorite band, and while Phil Selway is not on this list, Radiohead has a ton of songs with beautifully complex drums. However, these 5 drummers are the ones I look up to the most.
John Bonham - Led Zeppelin
You’ll find Bonham usually in the top 3 of nearly every list ranking the best rock drummers of all-time because he simply belongs there, every time. When you first start listening to a song like “Good Times Bad Times”, the opener on Zeppelin’s debut album, you understand why he was so talented. For those who have heard of the track, it is so impressive that he only used one bass drum here. Regardless of his tragic death at only 30 years of age, Bonham’s iconic grooves and fills will continue to influence drummers until rock music ceases to exist, which will hopefully never happen.
Bryan Devendorf - The National
When you think of the all-time greats, Bryan Devendorf definitely does not come to mind, but his drumming style complements frontman Matt Berninger’s baritone voice perfectly. He’s not one to play as loudly as he can, as the National’s music is far from what many call “arena rock”, but he has remarkable hand speed that looks effortless from the perspective of the audience. The National’s evolution has been so noteworthy due to Devendorf’s outstanding versatility and creativity behind the kit.
Dave Grohl - Nirvana
The current frontman of the Foo Fighters learned how to play the drums using pillows and heavy, thick sticks, so his hard-hitting style was no surprise to Kurt Cobain when he first joined Nirvana, one of the most influential bands ever. The release of Nevermind significantly boosted the popularity of grunge music in the early ‘90s, and Grohl’s drumming is a big reason why it is still considered one of the best records ever produced. He has stated in an interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes that he misses being in the middle of all the noise with the Foo Fighters, but who doesn’t like what Taylor Hawkins has done for the group? Regardless, the energy he creates on the drums is what makes him one of my favorites.
Glenn Kotche - Wilco
Kotche’s experimental and orchestra-like approach is arguably the main reason why Wilco is so different from any other alternative rock band. His experience as a composer gives him the ability to navigate himself around the kit beautifully and create astonishingly unique sounds. He may not wow you so much when you listen to Wilco’s studio albums, as he does not intend to be flashy even when he’s performing live, but his unique grooves and incorporation of dynamics makes him a one-of-a-kind drummer.
Neil Peart - Rush
On the Rush fandom spectrum, there are two polar opposites with nothing in the middle. You either love them or hate them with a burning passion. I’ve seen Rush in concert three times, once while they were on their 40th Anniversary tour, and sure, Geddy Lee can’t reach as many high notes as he used to, but watching Neil Peart perform was a real treat. No one, not even Paul Rudd’s or Jason Segel’s characters from the 2009 romantic comedy I Love You, Man, knows how he plays those unbelievable fills, but when we air-drum along with him, we like to think that we nail them.
In my opinion, a drummer can make or break a band, and these five without a doubt have brought their bands to the rock-legend status they enjoy today.