Far from disappearing into the background as the lead guitarist steals the spotlight, the best drummers have often played a vital role throughout music history. From jazz and rock’n’roll all the way through to prog-metal, the men and women behind the kit revel in giving metronomic support just as much as they embellish the rhythm with ornate fills and explosive hi-hat outbursts. Here, then, is our list of the best drummers of all time…
20: Sheila E
Known for playing in stilettos, Sheila E is a fierce and ferocious female drummer who worked as musical director for Prince in the late 80s. As a solo artist in her own right, her musical prodigiousness knows no bounds. “There’s not a lot of female drummers out there,” she once said, “and I guess I appreciate being able to maybe help and encourage other girls to do it.”
Following hot on the heels of Prince’s collaboration with The Revolution, the Purple One’s close association with Sheila E allowed her to experiment with clean-sounding polyrhythms that bridged the sonic gap between mid-80s hip-hop beats and early-90s New Jack Swing-style R&B. Breaking into mesmerising drum solos and often mixing live percussion with drum machines, Sheila E paved the way for other female drummers, such as Cindy Blackman, to forge their own path.
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