Few instruments in music have quite the same raw and visceral atmosphere to them as the drums. More than just being a timekeeper, a drummer is the backbone of any good band, the metronome from which every other sound is born. The role of the drummer has developed in kind with the evolution of popular music, from the great jazz drummers of the 1950's, to the pop drummers of the 60's. If the 1970's was the first real decade of rock and roll excess and debauchery, this idea was also transmitted to the drummers of the era like Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, a drummer who bridged a gap between jazz and rock and roll, demonstrating sheer, unadulterated power along the way.
Below are just five of the most influential sticksmen of recent times.
The greatest jazz drummer of all time. Known for his outstanding technique and blistering quick speed, Buddy Rich played alongside the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong during his time, Rich was described by fellow drumming great (and occasional rival) Gene Krupa as "the greatest drummer to have ever drawn breath." High praise indeed.
KEITH MOON - THE WHO
One of the more unique drummers in music history, The Who's Keith Moon has a style all to his own. The immovable force at the centre of his band, Moon stood out alongside the other bands of his era like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, bands whose drumming identities were slightly more muted, and became the centrifugal force which held his band together. Moon's personal life was as tumultuous as his style was irrepressible and he was dead before he reached his 33rd birthday but his influence on the craft can never be overstated.
NEIL PEART - RUSH
Neil Peart is a force of nature. Creatively speaking, few drummers in music history can top Peart for sheer creativity and drumming ingenuity - not to mention the size of his gargantuan kit. Peart is a drummer's drummer which, by that we mean, few drummers are held in as high a regard by their peers as Peart. Oh, and he also writes a lot of Rush's lyrics which should give you some idea about how obscenely talented this man is.
JOHN BONHAM - LED ZEPPELIN
If there is one drummer who can be seen as the great, most influential rock drummer of all time it's Led Zeppelin's force of nature John Bonham. Drumming students will tell you that John Bonham's drum game was hugely influenced by jazz players like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich but what he added to his style that lacked from theirs was an element of sheer brute force. Countless sticksmen like Chad Smith, Dave Grohl and many others have cited Bonham as a primary influence and you can see many staples of his drum technique repeated today, some thirty years after his death. Sheer, raw, beautiful power.
DAVE GROHL - SCREAM, NIRVANA, FOO FIGHTERS, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, THEM CROOKED VULTURES
When Kurt Cobain first heard then 20-year-old Dave Grohl drum he thought he had stumbled across one of rock music's great performers. Now, some 25 years later, Cobain's words ring as true as ever. Dave Grohl is probably the most famous drummer in the world, an interesting fact when you consider he hasn't been a full-time drummer in a band since 1994. Grohl was the perfect storm between John Bonham and Keith Moon, harnessing the latter's precision while maintaining the former's sheer brute force. As a teenager, Grohl would lock himself away in his bedroom and attempt to emulate John Bonham's sound, technique and relentless presence - and it certainly paid off.