“Beautiful voice” and “person who hits drums” don’t often get used in the same sentence, but that doesn’t mean it never happens!
We’ve tracked down eight drummers who, when called on, can get out from behind the kit and crack out some impressive vocals. We’re focussing on drummers who sang lead as they played, so sorry Dave Grohl, technically you don’t make it in.
Don Henley, The Eagles
Although they had a lot of different members contributing vocals, drummer Don Henley ended up singing on a lot of the band’s biggest hits like ‘Witchy Woman’, ‘Desperado’, ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ and, of course, ‘Hotel California’ which is regarded by many as one of the greatest songs ever written.
Henley perfectly balanced his duties on these songs, playing but simple but memorable beats in order to prioritise that distinctive voice.
Plus, it’s pretty telling that he went on to have the biggest solo career outside of The Eagles…
Ringo Starr, The Beatles
He may not have been as technically skilled in singing as Paul McCartney and John Lennon, but that didn’t stop Ringo Starr from putting all his passion and energy into songs that sang lead vocals on.
Try to imagine tunes like ‘Yellow Submarine’, ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ and ‘Octopus’ Garden’ without Ringo’s lovably playful style. On the rare occasions he sings Beatles songs without being behind the kit, Ringo can’t help but air-drum along to his iconic fills. After all, he’s only human…
Peter Criss, KISS
Legend has it that Peter Criss made it into KISS by impressing Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons at an Italian club in Brooklyn, by singing to them in a ‘Wilson Pickett’ style.
He may not have sung as many songs as others on this list, but he still contributed to big hits like ‘Black Diamond’, ‘Hard Luck Woman’ and ‘Beth’.
Roger Taylor, Queen
Surely there’s nothing scarier than singing alongside Freddie Mercury, yet somehow the drummer managed to pull it off, and consistently hit crazy high falsetto notes.
Would ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ have become the classic it is without those screams from Taylor? Probably, but it’d be a hell of a lot less fun to singalong to.
He also sang lead on favourites like ‘Modern Times Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘Fun It’ (shared with Mercury) and ‘I’m In Love With My Car’.
Levon Helm, The Band
Helm’s deeply soulful/Americana voice and his shuffle-style of drumming helped make The Band one of American and Canada’s most loved roots/folk rock bands. Most of the band’s members tried their hand at singing, but with tracks like ‘The Weight’, ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ under his belt, it’s safe to say that Helm gave the band their distinctive vocal sound.
For their last performance, The Last Waltz, Helm was joined by a few very special guests to recreate the song. See how many you can recognise…
Sorry for the obvious choice, but surely his is the first name that comes to mind when you think ‘singing drummer’.
His catalogue extends so much further than just ‘In The Air Tonight’, and he’s taken on seemingly every style from pop to prog-rock to jazz-fusion to soundtracks. Whatever you say about Phil Collins (and plenty has been said, good and bad), you can’t argue that he’s one of the most well-known drummers in the world, thanks largely to his vocal efforts.
Having said all that, we know what you’re here for, and it happens at 5:29.
Mickey Dolenz, The Monkees
Forming a fake band out of actors for a sitcom may not sound like the best way to create music, but somehow The Monkees pulled it off, and continued to perform and write even after the show (aptly titled The Monkees) was cancelled in 1968.
Funnily enough, ‘drummer’ Mickey Dolenz began with the least musical experience yet went on to become, arguably, the band’s most recognisable member. He often took over lead vocals and came to sing on many of their most well-known tracks, including ‘I’m a Believer’, ‘Last Train to Clarksville’ and ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’.
Karen Carpenter, The Carpenters
When you hear “drummer”, words like “intimate” and “gentle” and “smooth” don’t exactly spring to mind, but that’s exactly what Karen Carpenter’s singing was.
Her beautiful, soothing voice helped give The Carpenters their distinctively easy listening and emotive sound.