July 24, 2021

Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, John Bonham, Stewart Copeland…

The great rock drummers not only were they – some still are – musicians with a spectacular endurance, a sense of time well crafted or good ear, but those who managed to convert their percussive display not only in one more instrument, but in a soloist one with a hallmark of sound.

Annals, critics, and historians agree that the most illustrative examples of these mixtures of physical display, teamwork, and creative ability in the rock field occurred especially in the decades of the seventies and eighties.

Examples that would form a list where the batteries are found John Bonham ( Led Zeppelin ), Keith Moon (The Who), Ginger Baker (Cream, Blind Faith), Stewart Copeland (The Police), Charlie Watts ( Rolling Stones ), Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), Mitch Mitchell (The Jimi Hendrix Experience) o Bill Brudford (Yes, King Crimson).

Pete Townshend, drummer Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle, that is, The Who


A list, too, where women are exceptions in this discipline –the unquestionable fame of rock as a predominantly masculine art in its prodigious decades– and even more unusual when it came to looking at the upper echelons (perhaps in those early days the figure of Mo Tucker and the Velvet Underground).

A Bonham It is associated with beats and percussive developments that have already gone down in history and not just rock (Good times bad times, Stairway to heaven), and his own bandmates recognized that he was the origin that put this unstoppable machine into operation. In this same path you can locate the explosive Keith Moon (like in Won’t get fooled again O Substitute), who became a protagonist in the Who along with Daltrey and Townshend.

18th December 1979: The pop group Police outside the stage door of a Hammersmith venue in west London, with a policeman standing behind them. From left to right, they are Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland. (Photo by Martyn Goddard/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police on the right, alongside Andy Summers and Sting in 1979


A possible third in Olympus should be Ginger Baker, which in early times already showed groundbreaking prominence. When he composed Cream in the 60s with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton, he was already described as “the first superstar of rock drums”, a condition that accompanied him in his Amazonian biography in other genres such as jazz or world music.

The determination can draw with a certain subtlety like those of the Stonian Charlie Watts, the of Stewart Copeland or that of Brudford, a versatile musician who combined classical aromas, improvisation and spontaneity of jazz and rockers, when he participated in the new appearance at the end of the sixties and that followed in 1972 when he joined the even more innovative King Crimson by Robert Fripp.

Later generations

Generationally somewhat later, other forms of forcefulness also emerge, such as that of a Lars Ulrich at the head of the rhythmic piston of the Metallica or, very especially, that of Dave Grohl, a key character in what came to be called grunge (Nirvana) and which years later became one of the few autonomous leading batteries.


Drummer John Bonham, second from left, with his fellow Led Zeppelin LED ZEPPELIN


The very evolution of rock and technical innovations Y technological They have been diminishing in a way that now the leading role of the drummer is seen as unstoppable. Whether it was due to the gradual incorporation of other percussive instruments and, later, due to the advancement of electronic drums and other technological resources and devices (prerecorded bases, effects, etc.), the role of classic drums in rock has become something almost unusual.