10 of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest bass players: from Paul McCartney to Flea


It’s hard to ignore an incredible moaning guitar solo or poignant lyrics accompanied by heartbreaking vocals, but one aspect of music that’s deeply integral to the crafting of a great song and yet is often understated. estimated is the bass.

Whether it’s Paul McCartney’s hypnotic riff on “Come Together” or Bootsy Collins’ grooving line on James Brown’s “Sex Machine,” a great bass line can not only anchor the song, but also make it reach new heights. Below, in no particular order, we review 10 bass players who excelled far beyond their rhythm section duties and became icons alongside the flashy frontman or enigmatic drummers of their bands.

1. Jack Bruce – Cream

Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker often draw attention to Cream, but it was Jack Bruce’s bass riffs that gave the band enough power to complete the power trio. As Clapton moved wildly up and down the fretboard and Baker launched into a jazzy exploration on drums, Bruce grounded the band with heavy basslines that kept things on track.

2. Paul McCartney – The Beatles

Paul McCartney receives so much attention (and deservedly so) for his writing in The Beatles, that his bass prowess can often be overlooked. But if you listen to any Beatles record, you’ll find it hard to dismiss the melodic bass parts that McCartney delivered.

He took on the role somewhat reluctantly after the band’s original bassist, Stuart Sutcliffe, left the band and no one was quick to raise their hand. Despite all the reservations, he quickly mastered it by adding another instrument to his repertoire.

3. Tina Weymouth – Talking Heads

The Talking Heads’ breakthrough single, “Psycho Killer,” sets an ominous vibe before frontman David Byrne even gets to the lyrics. It was Tina Weymouth’s haunting bassline that first introduced one of the most experimental and influential rock bands in history.

In addition to bass duties, Weymouth played a vital role in the band’s songwriting. According to Weymouth drummer and husband Chris Frantz, “If it hadn’t been for Tina Weymouth in Talking Heads, we’d just be another band.”

4. Bootsy Collins – James Brown, Parliament, Funkadelic

Bootsy Collins goes by many names, including “Bootzilla,” “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” or “The World’s Only Rhinestone Rock Star Doll, Baba” (quite mouthful). All the nicknames add up to one notion: the bass playing that redefined soul and funk for an entire era.

Collins first made waves as part of James Brown’s backing band. He later stretched his legs playing trippy bass wah-wah in Parliament and Funkadelic before becoming a solo star in his own Rubber Band. His star-studded playing was paired with star-shaped sunglasses and a signature matching bass from this iconic musician.

5. Carole Kaye – Sam Cooke, The Beach Boys, The Wrecking Crew

Carole Kaye cut her teeth in the jazz clubs of the 50s, exploding as a studio guitarist for hitmakers like Sam Cooke. After finding her place on the music scene, she became one of the most recorded bass players of all time, with over 10,000 tracks to her name.

From the scintillating swing of The Beach Boys’ “Help Me, Rhonda” to the classic version of Richie Valens’ “La Bamba” to the rendition of Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s “Somethin’ Stupid” in 1967, Kaye has left her mark in a wide range of music. .

6. John Entwistle – The Who

John Entwistle was trained in piano and French horn before moving into bass. He played it as a lead instrument, often matching the intensity of Pete Townshend’s guitar playing. His solo on “My Generation” is arguably one of the most iconic bass solos in all of rock history. Although The Who continued in his absence after his death in 2002, Entwistle’s lack of contribution is felt.

7. Cliff Burton – Metallica

Early Metallica albums inspired legions of metal bands, with Cliff Burton’s bass parts considered songwriting. Although his catalog with the group is thin – Kill them all, ride the lightning, and Puppeteer — he’s influential enough to secure his place in the annals of rock history.

Burton tragically died in 1986 when the band’s tour bus overturned in Sweden. The group achieved great success, but there are still many mainstays of Burton.

8. John Paul Jones – Led Zeppelin

Even before John Paul Jones joined the ranks of Led Zeppelin, he had established a reputation as one of the finest session bassists in England. He played on tracks by Jeff Beck, Cat Stevens and many other classics of the time.

When he formed Zeppelin with frontman Robert Plant, drummer John Bonham and guitarist Jimmy Page, they became one of the most powerful rock bands in history. Although Jones often stayed in the background (like many bassists), he was undoubtedly the backbone of their sound.

9. Geddy Lee – Rush

Geddy Lee is a solo rhythm section. Playing bass, keyboards, and taking on lead vocal duties (sometimes all at once with pedals), you can’t ignore Lee’s contribution to Rush.

He plagues the bass strings and concentrates on the treble. His playing eventually inspired Fender to release the signature Geddy Lee Jazz Bass model in 1988.

10. Chip – Red Hot Chili Peppers

While many bassists are often the most reserved and quiet of the bunch, Flea takes that stereotype, pushes past it, and keeps walking.

The unnamed bassist was originally inspired by the bassists of the Los Angeles punk scene of the early 80s, but it was Bootsy Collins’ playing that really led Flea to find his signature “slap” style. It’s hard to take your eyes off him as he bounds around the stage, vying with frontman Anthony Kiedis for command of the stage.

Paul McCartney Photo: MJ Kim / Nasty Little Man


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