They’re the steady time-keepers of the band, the raucous forces behind the kit, but so often, the skills and talents of rock drummers are largely overlooked.
However, there are drummers in rock who have broken through the mold of just providing the beats in the back of the stage by bringing their talents to the forefront as the lead singer. Not only does it take incredible focus and multitask mastering to maneuver behind the kit, but throw in singing (good singing at that) in the mix, and you have an unforgettable double threat on your hands.
Here are a few well-known drummers of classic rock (in no particular order) who we think are not only masters of rhythm, but who are also extraordinary singers in their own right.
Don Henley (The Eagles) — From 1971-80, Henley pulled double duty as both The Eagles’ drummer and lead vocalist. His voice can be heard on hits including “Best Of My Love,” “Life In The Fast Lane” and the timeless classic “Hotel California.” Henley later moved out from behind the kit to a launch a successful solo career in the 80s, which produced hits like “The Boys Of Summer” and “All She Wants To Do Is Dance.” Watch here.
Phil Collins (Genesis) — Collins took over as Genesis’ time keeper in 1970 after the group lost three drummers over two albums. Collins regularly provided backing vocals for lead singer Peter Gabriel before getting the ultimate promotion as the new frontman when Gabriel infamously left the band in 1974. When Genesis eventually dissipated, Collins flourished in the mid-80s with a hit-making solo career that produced seven No.1 singles like “Against All Odds” and “Sussudio.” Watch here.
Ringo Starr (The Beatles) — There’s no question Ringo had some stiff competition amongst his band mates when it came to singing, but Ringo held his own as the charming lead voice on Beatles hits like “Yellow Submarine” and “With a Little Help from My Friends.” He proved he was more than just the drummer when The Beatles broke up by launching a successful solo career that charted several hits like “It Don’t Come Easy” and the No.1 single “Photograph.” Watch here.
Karen Carpenter (The Carpenters) — Regarded as one of the first women in rock who could not only play the drums with precision, but also sing like an angel, Karen Carpenter’s talents behind the kit and mic are hailed by fans and peers alike. Along with her brother, Richard, the Carpenters produced 14 studio albums spawning three No.1 singles including “Close To You” and a cover of “Please Mr. Postman.” However, Karen’s life was cut short after her untimely death from heart failure following complications of anorexia in 1983. Watch here.
Levon Helm (The Band) — Though he was a multi-instrumentalist, Helm was behind the kit for much of The Band’s material and frequently served as the lead vocalist on songs. Helm’s deep, southern voice was a distinctive feature on The Band’s hits like “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Watch here.
Micky Dolenz (The Monkees) — Micky was the fun-loving personality in the made for TV group who was also a gifted musician, vocalist and songwriter. He provided lead vocals on several of The Monkees’ hits including “I’m a Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville.” Also, according to fellow band mate Michael Nesmith, it was Micky’s voice that made their sound distinctive. Watch here.
Sheila E. (Prince/solo) — Hailing from a family of percussionists, rhythm was in the blood from the start for Sheila E., who rose to fame in the ’80s after Prince took her under his wing and featured her on his Purple Rain recordings. She later broke out on her own to become an acclaimed solo artist and scored hits of her own with “The Glamorous Life,” “The Belle of St. Mark” and “A Love Bizarre.” Watch here.
Roger Taylor (Queen) — More than just a powerful force behind the drums, Roger Taylor provided many backing vocals to Freddie Mercury’s lead. That falsetto voice you hear on Queen’s classic “Bohemian Rhapsody”? That’s all thanks to Roger Taylor. Watch here.