The bassist is never given enough credit. Everyone always talks about the lead singer and the lead guitarist, but few people ever care about the person playing the bass. This is unfortunate considering how important the bass is in any band. The bass plays a duel role in music. It acts as a rhythm instrument, like drums, however it also helps with the chord structure of the band. Because of this, every single member of the band has to play special attention to what the bassist is doing, otherwise everything falls apart.
In the past few years, many different media outlets have released lists of the greatest guitarists or greatest bands of all time, however very few prominent magazines or websites have ever released a list of the greatest bassists. This can be attributed to the media’s focus on the lead singer or guitarist. Since it seems that very few people care about the bassist, it makes perfect sense that the media would not waste their time with such a list.
This is completely unfair. Every member of a band is important. Every single member adds a very special attribute that helps create the band’s music. Without that specific member, the band would not sound the same.
This list is comprised of some of the most influential and most talented bassists in modern music. In order to make the list, the player must have not only been a great musician, but must also have added something extremely different to their band. Because of these players, their bands were able to create something different than anything that other bands had done. Some of these players have also made very important contributions to the way the instrument was played and used in their respective styles of music.
15 Mike Gordon
Phish’s Mike Gordon is everything a bassist should be. He allows the band to delve into new and different styles of music that they normally would not be able to venture into or even think of experimenting with. Styles covered by Gordon that would otherwise not be in Phish’s famed live show include Bluegrass, Calypso, and even traditional Jewish music.
14 Geezer Butler
Geezer Butler is the bassist and primary lyricist of the band that is often credited as the founders of Heavy Metal, Black Sabbath. Butler grew up playing guitar, but switched to bass after starting the band with Tony Iommi, who refused to play with two guitarists. Butler, like many bassists in the early 1970s, did not simply follow the simplistic style of playing that was typical for rock bassists in the 1960s. He was constantly switching things up and taking on more of a lead role in the band’s music. Butler is also credited as one of the first bassists to make heavy use of wah pedals and other effects. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006 along with the rest of the original members of Black Sabbath.
13 Steve Harris
12 Berry Oakley
11 Jack Bruce
10 Aston “Family Man” Barrett
9 John Entwistle
John Entwistle was the pioneering bassist for The Who. He is noted as one of the first bassists in Rock and Roll to use lead lines in his playing. In the early 1960s, the bass in rock and roll was solely a rhythm section instrument. It followed the chord structure of the songs and kept the beat along with the drummer. However, once psychedelic rock rose to prominence in the mid to late 1960s, the role of the bassist changed and became more open to allow the player to take on more of a lead role in the music.
8 Bootsy Collins
7 Geddy Lee
6 John Paul Jones
5 Phil Lesh
3 Charles Mingus
2 Victor Wooten
1 Les Claypool
Les Claypool is the bassist and lead singer of Primus. Primus began in the late 1980s and they quickly became considered one of the strangest bands to ever achieve mainstream success. Part of this strangeness comes from their ability to combine so many different styles of music within a single song. Claypool has become a well-known solo artist and even started a band with Phish’s Trey Anastasio, Oysterhead. His style features an extensive use of tapping, whammy bar, and Flamenco-like strumming. Many bassists attempt to copy his playing style, but very few can because of his virtuoso-like technique and ability to play so many different genres of music, sometimes simultaneously.
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