Friday, September 29, 2006

Can you chew gum and walk at the same time?

My neck hurts just looking at him

Mrs. Hops and I were watching Tori Amos on Rave HD (my new favorite channel) and she commented on how impressed she always is that Tori can play piano and sing so well at the same time. This sparekd a bit of a debate over which instruments are the hardest to play while singing. I brought this up with my buddy Phil, who plays Bass and Piano. We decided that while Piano is hard it isn’t as hard as playing bass and singing. And the hardest has to be playing drums and singing, because not only do you have to keep the beat, but you’re physically restrained (guitar must be the easiest due to the sheer number of singers who play guitar). So we started naming the all-time great singers who play bass and drums (while singing). We could think of more bass players and less drummers. Some of the ones we cam up with are below, feel free to add yours to the comments section or email me at

Bass Players Who Sing:

Paul McCartney: Macca started playing bass for the Beatles for a simple reason, no one else knew how to once Stuart Sutcliffe left the band. Plus George was such a prodigy on guitar he knew he couldn’t keep up, so he picked up bass. He ended up becoming a real pioneer in the way the bass was played and how it was featured in rock and roll – something he doesn’t really ever get credit for. Not bad for someone who wasn’t supoosed to be the bass player.

On a sidenote Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix experience is another guy who never played bass before (until joining The Experience) and then went on to be a pioneer. Part of his success was due to the fact that he basically played bass like a lead guitar, creating an innovative sound -

Sting: The Police were a pretty amazing trio. I loved the way the merged rock and reggae. Sting would later on add jazz to the mix to create the sound we’re more familiar with today. But in their heyday, The Police were the biggest band around (and quit at the height of their fame). Stuart Copeland is also one of my favorite drummers. If you are interested in The Police get their Live! Album, it really shows why they were so popular.

Les Claypool of Primus: While not my favorite singer in the world he is a pretty amazing bass player, and he does sing. So he has to fall into this category. Plus he wrote and sings the theme song to South Park.

Geddy Lee of Rush: Again, not a favorite band of mine but people absolute are obsessed with them. Funny note from Wikipedia on his name: “Lee grew up as the son of Polish Jewish refugees who had both been survivors of Nazi concentration camps Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. Lee's stage name (and later legal name) "Geddy" was inspired by the heavily-accented pronunciation of his given first name "Gary" by his mother.”

Drummers Who Sing:

Levon Helm: The drummer from the Band also was one of their most prominent singers. While not their sole lead vocalist (a few of them sang – so he wasn’t their only lead) he was probably their most successful as the man behind “The Weight”, “The Night They Drove All Dixie Down”, “Ophelia” and “Up On Cripple Creek”. He still is going strong hosting his Midnight Ramble “revivals” every year in his hometown of Woodstock, New York (home of the Congressional District that is represented by a man who is represented by Jeffrey Lieberson).

Don Henley: When playing with the Eagles he took lead vocals on many songs (they had a setup not unlike The Band) and played drums. Though, once he went solo he seemed to give up the drumming / singing combo. From the Big Lebowski:

The Dude: Jesus, man, could you change the channel?

Cab Driver: Fuck you man. If you don't like my fuckin' music get your own fuckin' cab!

The Dude: I had a rough...

Cab Driver: I pull over and kick your ass out!

The Dude: Come on, man. I had a rough night and I hate the fuckin' Eagles, man!

The Dude was then kicked out of the cab.

Ringo Starr: So he wasn’t a great singer, but he did sing “With a Little Help from My Friends” (thus the line, “what would you do if I sang out of tune”).

Karen Carpenter
: Played the drums… or so I’m told.

Phil Collins: Played the drums in Genesis. Then Peter Gabriel, then the lead singer, left the band. Then the awful era of Phil Collins began. He sucks.

David Grohl: Was the drummer for Nirvana, and is the singer/guitarist for The Foo Fighters. But not both at the same time.

The Guy From the Romantics: What I like about you, is you really know how to dance!

Plenty of drummers sing backup vocals but they shouldn’t count.

That’s all I got!


Tommy Lee said...

I've always read that bass is by far the hardest to play while singing. You left out the drummer from Cowboy Mouth, interesting only because his kit sits at the front of the stage and he is definitely the prominent member of the group. Not a fan personally of their music, but the guy is one hell of a showman.

Andrew said...

What About...

Sheryl Crow has been known to sing and play bass, and the guy from the now defunct Jellyfish, not only sang lead vocals and played drums, but he stood up while doing it!
I've tried most combinations of singing, drumming and strumming (actually, I've never tried strumming and drumming at the same time!). I'd have to go with Bass and lead vocals being the trickiest. Drums is easier now with headset Mics, although you do look a bit of an ass if you're only playing the local bar!