7 Most Influential Drummers of All Time

Anytime you draw up a list of the “greatest” drummers of all time—or in this case “most influential”—passions are bound to be ignited one way or the other.

After all, we each have our own favorites, whether it be a particular player, style or era. However, that doesn’t mean such a list can’t be based on some element of objective reasoning. To some extent, the proof is in all of us: anyone who picks up the instrument borrows at least a handful of techniques and stylistic tendencies that someone else brought to the table. The key is determining which drummer have had the most impact on the larger number of players—in other words, who has contributed most across the board to the way we approach the instrument.

One thing is for certain: if the following musicians are not the 7 most influential drummers of all time, they are certainly 7 of the most influential.

Regardless of their respective styles, all are players who have excited the imagination and kindled the flame to pick up the instrument in countless individuals. By singling them out, we honor their contributions and, at the same time, bring to mind great guitar music we have treasured.

1. Buddy Rich

Bernard “Buddy” Rich (September 30, 1917 – April 2, 1987) was an American jazz drummer and bandleader. Widely considered one of the most influential drummers of all time and known for his virtuoso technique, power, and speed, Rich was billed as “the world’s greatest drummer” during his career.

2. John Bonham

John Henry Bonham (31 May 1948 – 25 September 1980) was an English musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer for the British rock band Led Zeppelin. Bonham was esteemed for his speed, power, fast bass-drumming, distinctive sound, and “feel” for the groove

3. Gene Krupa

Eugene Bertram Krupa (January 15, 1909 – October 16, 1973) was an American jazz and big-band drummer, band leader, actor, and composer. Known for his highly energetic, flamboyant style and for his showmanship, Krupa was important for his musical contribution to jazz music and his influence extends to this day.

4. Ringo Starr

Richard Starkey, MBE (born 7 July 1940), known professionally as Ringo Starr, is an English drummer, singer, songwriter, and actor who gained worldwide fame as the drummer for the Beatles. He occasionally sang lead vocals, usually for one song on an album, including “With a Little Help from My Friends”, “Yellow Submarine”, “Good Night”, and their cover of “Act Naturally”. He also wrote the Beatles’ songs “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Octopus’s Garden”, and is credited as a co-writer of others, including “What Goes On” and “Flying“.

5. Steve Gadd

Stephen Kendall Gadd (born April 9, 1945) is an American drummer, percussionist, and session musician. Gadd is one of the most well-known and highly regarded session and studio drummers in the industry, recognized by his induction into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1984.

6. Stewart Copeland

Stewart Armstrong Copeland (born July 16, 1952) is an American musician and composer, best known as the former drummer for the English rock band the Police, and for his film and video-game soundtracks. Copeland has also written various pieces of music for ballet, opera, and orchestra.

7. Tony Williams

Anthony Tillmon Williams (December 12, 1945 – February 23, 1997) was an American jazz drummer. Williams first gained fame in the band of trumpeter Miles Davis and was a pioneer of jazz fusion. He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1986.

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