10 Drummers You Didn’t Know Were Also Lead Singers

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

For most drummers, life behind the kit means a musical life behind the rest of the band.

Drummers are usually positioned at the back of the stage behind their scaffolding of cymbals, kick drums, floor toms, and other rhythmic accoutrements.

However, for the rare few, to be a drummer means also to be a front person, a singer: the Voice of the Band.

But which drummers were able to lead these kinds of dualistic musical lives? Which drummers were also capable, talented, beloved lead singers? That’s what we’ll dive into today.

1. Levon Helm

Born on May 26, 1940, Levon Helm was an American musician. A drummer and one of three lead vocalists for The Band, Helm had a soulful voice that was capable of performing rock and folk. He’s perhaps most known for his songs, “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Helm died on April 19, 2012.

2. Taylor Hawkins

Taylor Hawkins was born on February 17, 1972. He was the touring drummer for Alanis Morissette and later became a full-time band member with the Foo Fighters. As a lead singer, he drummed and sang for the up-and-coming rock band, NHC. Sadly Hawkins passed away earlier this year on March 25. His voice was immediately recognizable and solid.

3. Phil Collins

Born on January 30, 1951, Collins was an English drummer, singer, and songwriter. He’s best known for his time with the band Genesis, which just underwent its final tour. Collins also started a solo career in 1981. He is best known for his seminal track, “In the Air Tonight,” which you can check out below.

4. Don Henley

Born on July 22, 1947, Don Henley is an American musician and founding member of the seminal band Eagles. He was the group’s drummer and co-lead vocalist from 1971 until the group broke up nine years later in 1980. Henley sang on the band’s hits like “Witchy Woman,” “Desperado,” “Hotel California” and many more.

5. Ringo Starr

Born on July 7, 1940, Sir Richard Starkey, known better by his stage name Ringo Starr, was, of course, the drummer for the band, The Beatles. While Starr only sang on a few of the band’s records, including songs like “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus’s Garden,” Starr later fronted his own solo projects as both a drummer and lead singer.

6. Karen Carpenter

Born on March 2, 1950, Karen Carpenter was an American singer and drummer with her brother, Richard. Together, the duo performed under the band name The Carpenters. Karen, who passed away in 1983 sadly from anorexia, had a three-octave range as a vocalist. As a drummer, she began playing in high school. Initially, she was the Carpenter’s full-time drummer but later she took on the role of frontwoman.

7. Dave Grohl

Born on January 14, 1969, Grohl rose to fame in the early ’90s as the drummer of the grunge band Nirvana. Later, though, when that band disbanded after the death of frontman Kurt Cobain, Grohl started his own popular project, the Foo Fighters, for which he sings, writes songs, and plays guitar. Today, he is one of the most beloved rock musicians on the planet.

8. Anderson .Paak

Born on February 8, 1986, .Paak is a singer, rapper, songwriter, and drummer. Those who watched this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, saw him grinning and drumming on stage with the likes of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. He also sings in the soulful group Silk Sonic these days, providing smooth vocals to the band’s stellar output.

9. Sheila E.

Born on December 12, 1957, Sheila E. is an American drummer and singer. She began her career in the mid-1970s both drummer and singer for The George Duke Band. Today, many know her as “The Queen of Percussion.” Later, Shelia E. met Prince in 1977. The two would later join forces during Prince’s Purple Rain recording sessions for which Sheila E. provided vocals on “Erotic City” in 1984.

10. Chris Cornell

Born on July 20, 1964, Chris Cornell is known today as the screechy frontman for the grunge band, Soundgarden. But while many may be familiar with him and the group, many might not know that Cornell started off as the band’s drummer in its nascent days in the 1980s. Later, Cornell, who passed away on May 18, 2017, was the frontman and lead vocalist for groups like Audioslave and Temple of the Dog.

Photo by Medios y Media/Getty Images

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