7 Great Drummers Of The 70s

7 Great Drummers Of The 70s

john bonham
John Bonham with Led Zeppelin, 1975. Photo by Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images. 

Often the butt of jokes, drummers are the heart and soul of every successful rock band. Along with being the timekeepers, they provide the backbone for every song, be it through technical ability, simple melodies or bombastic hitting. Throughout music history there have been dozens of incredible stickmen, with the 70s giving birth to some of the most gifted drummers to ever appear on wax. While many deserve a mention, here are seven of the best that became masters of their craft and are rightly hailed as legends by critics and fans alike. 

John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)

It’s only fitting the greatest rock band on the planet should also count the world’s finest hard rock drummer amongst its line-up. John Henry Bonham was a god amongst men. Nobody hit the skins as hard and fast as the wild Led Zeppelin drummer who would go on to influence everyone from Dave Grohl to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith. His powerful strikes had a groovy undercurrent that created the foundation for Zeppelin’s iconic sound. Be it his hypotonic pummelling on “Immigrant Song,” the often-sampled backbeat of “When The Levee Breaks” or his epic 20-minute solo on live versions of “Moby Dick,” Bonzo could always be counted on to deliver something special.

Roger Taylor (Queen)

Freddie Mercury and Brian May are the two names that generally spring to mind when someone mentions Queen, but drummer Roger Taylor deserves just as much credit for the band’s tremendous success. Like many of his era, Taylor fused jazz techniques with a more commercial operatic rock sound. Not only is Taylor a skilled drummer, but he helped write some of Queen’s biggest hits, including “A Kind Of Magic,” “Radio Ga Ga” and “Heaven For Everyone.”

Keith Moon (The Who)

Leaving a path of smashed hotels and destroyed drum kits in his wake, Keith Moon’s wild lifestyle was in stark contrast to his unique playing style. While he would often let loose with rambunctious glee, Moon was technically gifted and always in control of the beat, no matter how off-script things appeared. Never one to conform to the norm, he hated playing solos and would incorporate mesmerising drum fills into arrangements that should never work, but somehow he made it all fit together seamlessly. A key figure in The Who’s success, Moon’s life, like fellow drummer Bonham, was tragically cut short at the age of 32, but his legacy lives on. 

Ian Paice (Deep Purple)

Throughout Deep Purple’s long and illustrious career there’s been one constant, Ian Paice. Taking inspiration from the hard and fast school of drumming, the last original member of Purple is cited by many as the grandfather of heavy metal drumming and is a huge influence on a long list of modern players. The left-handed Paice not only helped turn Deep Purple into one of the biggest bands of the 70s, but he also spent time behind the kit for Whitesnake, the Velvet Underground and the Gary Moore Band. A master of the one-handed roll, Paice is a dead set rock legend that’s still out there getting it done at the ripe old age of 72.

Charlie Watts (The Rolling Stones)

Charlie Watts life got turned upside down went he from graphic designer to rockstar after joining fledgling group The Rolling Stones in 1963. His understated jazz style meshed well with the band’s blues-rock sound and helped push the band towards chart success. Watts really hit his stride during the 70s, with his subdued style of play evident on hits such as “Beasts Of Burden,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Brown Sugar.” Watts career is a masterclass in substance over style. 

Steve Gadd (Steely Dan)

Session drummers don’t get much better than Steve Gadd. The highly sort after performer helped reinvent jazz-pop drumming and has a resume that reads like a greatest hits album. Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon and Michael McDonald are just some of the big names Gadd’s worked with over his distinguished career, but it’s his collaboration with Steely Dan he’s best known for. Gadd’s solo on the title track, “Aja,” is the stuff of legend. Recorded in just two takes, Gadd’s rollicking contribution is widely regarded by the rock fraternity as one of the greatest drum solos of all time, helping transform “Aja” into an eight-minute yacht rock spectacular. 

Neil Peart (Rush)

No list about rocks greatest drummers is complete without mentioning the late, great Neil Peart. Rush’s gifted man with the sticks was not only technically sound but played “butt-end out” and could perform using either matched grip or traditional style. Along with being Rush’s drummer, Peart wrote the majority of the band’s songs, really coming into his own during the 70s when he began writing sci-fi themed lyrics and incorporating a wide range of percussion instruments into his kit, including orchestra bells, wind chimes and temple blocks. His meticulous attention to detail and willingness to push the boundaries of rock helped Rush become one of the pioneering bands of prog-rock and cemented Peart’s position in the drummer’s hall of fame. 

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