This is the Definitive List of the Best Rock Drummers of All Time

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They provide the beat for a band. They are the heart and soul, but often overshadowed by flamboyant lead singers and lead guitar players. They are backbone and without them there would be no groove. In spite of being hidden mostly in the background and pretty much an afterthought to most, those who understand their craft respect them, and those who want to be like them idolize them. Nowhere is this more evident than in rock music, which has produced some of the most legendary drummers of our time. The drummers on this list have carved out such a legacy that each can make a claim for number one. Their pioneering styles will continue to influence drummers for generations to come.

5 Jeff Porcaro – Toto

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Many of you were expecting someone a little more well-known and more distinguished, but Porcaro is both and then some. Before he became the regular drummer for the rock band Toto, Porcaro was regarded as one of the best studio and session drummers in music. He played with everyone from Steely Dan to Sonny and Cher toBozScaggs. Even while playing with Toto, Porcaro was still one of the most sought after drummers in the music business. His resume of artists played with and albums performed on is a who’s who of popular music, includingPaul McCartney, Jackson Brown, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, The Four Tops, Barbara Streisand, The Bee Gees, Pink Floyd and Michael Jackson. As a founding member of Toto, Porcaro worked on such hits as “Hold The Line,” “Rosanna,” and “Africa.” Porcaro passed away in 1992 at the age of 38 as one of the most recorded drummers in history. Having played on four songs on Michael Jackson’s best-selling “Thriller,” Jackson wrote a dedication to Porcaro on his 1995 greatest hits album, “HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I.” A legend, indeed.

4 Carl Palmer – Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Asia

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The songwriter and composer has played with several British bands throughout his career, but he is best known as the one third of the legendary progressive rock trio, Emerson, Lake & Palmer andthe supergroup Asia. As a member of ELP, Palmer was part of one of rock’sfirst power trios that became one of the most successful and popular progressive rock bands of all time. Another disciple of Buddy Rich, Palmer’s technical, aggressive and fluent style of drumming went well with ELP’s blend of hard rock, art rock, electronica, jazz and classical music. Palmer played with ELP until they broke up in 1980, but he wasn’t nearly finished. He then teamed up with Yes guitarist Steve Howe, Yeskeyboardist Geoff Downes, and King Crimson bassist/vocalist John Wetton to form the progressive pop/rock band Asia — the first and one of the best-selling supergroups of the 1980s. Palmer has been with Asia on and off since their debut in 1981 and continues to tour and record albums. To get a feel for some of Palmer’s finest work from both bands, check out “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Black Moon” by ELP, as well as “Wildest Dreams” and “Sole Survivor” by Asia.

3 Keith Moon – The Who

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This late, great drummer’s style was very dramatic compared to his peers and often as eclectic and as spastic as his personality. Early on, Moon and his bandmates were very well-known for their destructive behavior and theatricson stage as they destroyed everything in front of them (including demolishing hotel rooms and wherever else they went, with Moon often leading the charge). That gave Moon the label of one of rock’s bad boys, which added more to his legendary status and gave him the name, “Moon The Loon.”Outside of The Who,Moon worked with some music’s best including, The Beatles, Bo Diddley, Harry Nilsson, and Frank Zappa just to name a few. Before he passed away from a massive drug overdose in 1978, Moon played on every song since the band’s debut in 1964. But even years later after his death, Moon still remains one of the greatest and most influential drummers of all time. Check out some of Moon’s best drumming on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from “Who’s Next,” “Who Are You” from the album of the same name, and “Love Reign O’er Me” from “Quadrophenia.”

2 John Bonham – Led Zeppelin

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Every Led Zeppelin fan will say that Bonham belongs at the top of this list, and they would have a great argument. But Top 5 has made up its mind and there’s no going back. Bonham was best known for having a fast right foot along with speed and power. He was so great and had so much stamina that on live 30-minute epic “Moby Dick” from “Led Zeppelin II,” Bonham often used his bare hands on the drums. Like other great drummers, Bonham was admired by his peers and influenced a plethora of some of today’s greatest such as Dave Grohl of Nirvana/Foo Fighters, Joey Kramer of Aerosmith, Tommy Lee of Motley Crew, Peter Criss of KISS and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Brad Wilkof Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave. Bonham died in September of 1980 at the age of 32, but his legacy still lives on even today through his son, Jason Bonham, who has filled his father’s role in a handful of Led Zeppelin reunions since John’s death. Led Zeppelin fans young and old can recognize John Bonham’s great drumming on such songs as “When The Levee Breaks,” from “Led Zeppelin IV,” “Achilles Last Stand” from “Presence” and “Kashmir” from “Physical Graffiti.”

1 Neil Peart – Rush

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No one on the planet can perform drum solo AND write good songs for an album Peart of the legendary Canadian progressive metal band Rush. His drumming and solos are so intricate and pulsing that you’re exhausted after just watching him play. Not only is Peart the greatest drummer of all time, he is also band’s chief songwriter and a best-selling author. Peart says that he was influenced by great drummers such as Buddy Rich, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Phil Collins of Genesis, Keith Moon of The Who, and Ginger Baker of Cream. But it’s safe to say that after being around since 1969, Peart has influenced his share of great drummers today. Like the band itself, his fans and peers love him and critics, well… criticize him. Several years ago Peart was called the “Worst Lyricist in the History of Music” by a widely read music magazine. Though that magazine is now defunct,Peart is going stronger than ever and he is now a Rock & Roll hall of famer with his other two band mates, so guess who gets the last laugh? Some of Peart’sbest work includes “Tom Sawyer” from “Moving Pictures” and a typically amazing Peartsolo on “YYZ” from the live album, “Exit… Stage Left.”

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