Rock music has always been a fascinating genre. Those distortions, leads and idiosyncratic singing are something that is intrinsic to Rock genre. While a vocalist becomes the face of rock music bands, the lead guitarist takes the cake by rendering euphonious solos and drummer beats it up by giving songs the much-needed tempo and crescendo. However, it is the role of bassist, which is very obscure and dwarfed by other important and more enticing stars in the band, but a bassist plays an instrumental part in creating the aura in rock songs. It is that undercurrent stream that gives the river its flow. Bass guitar provides that perpetual guitar notes that create the overtone of Rock songs.
World of rock music has seen numerous of bassists that have contributed to their respective bands by playing a key role. Here’s the list of 10 best bassists in Rock Music –
1. Paul McCartney – The Beatles
Paul McCartney has sung and written many songs for his rock band, ‘The Beatles’. However, it is his bass guitar playing that gets less attention. It was only after the original bassist Stuart Sutcliff left the rock band, he took on the role. The melodious undercurrent bass element in all the songs of The Beatles is evident of the fact that the McCartney had mastered the art of bass guitar playing. His soothing acoustic bass compositions make him one of the best bassists in Rock music.
2. Flea – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Flea is the most aggressive bassist of all times. The heavy style of hitting the strings and creating a background tempo with his bass guitar playing can be easily observed in the cover of Stevie Wonder’s “High Ground” (1989). He also reinvented his style of bass guitar playing in 1991 and immersed into creating melodious compositions which are equally good. Post 90’s, he is one of the best bassists in Rock music.
3. Duff McKagan – Guns ‘N’ Roses
Duff McKagan is that one gem of a musician that every band would love to have as a part of it. If Slash is the heart and Axl Rose is the face of Guns ‘N’ Roses, it is Duff who is the soul of the band. His impeccable forte at bass guitar playing can be best observed in 1992’s November Rain. He is also one of the rare bass guitar playing artistes whose notes can be identified by one and all. His terrific sense of timing and how he hits the strings in harmony with other instruments but still leave his signature on the whole composition, is what makes him one of the best bass guitarists of all times in Rock music.
4. Cliff Burton – Metallica
Even though Cliff Burton was a part of Metallica for a very short period of time, but his bass guitar playing style has spawned generations of Bassists. The genius of Cliff Burton can be best observed in ‘Kill ‘Em All’ and ‘Ride the Lightning’. The fast fingerstyle in ‘Master of Puppet’ is also something that has remained unrivaled to this date. Unfortunately, Cliff Burton died too soon at the age of 24, but he indeed is one of the best bassists in Rock Music.
5. Shavo Odadjian – System of a Dawn
This name may come as a surprise to many in this list of best bassists in Rock music, but the choice has roots in personal appreciation. Shavo Odadjian may be more famous for System of A Dawn’s album ‘Toxicity’, but his bass guitar playing style is even better than songs prior to the mentioned album. That soothing riffs intertwined between rather raucous lead and rhythm do add up to the overall tempo of their songs. He may not be as skilled as other bass guitar legends we all know, but the way he has filled the position of bassist in his band is commendable.
6. Cliff Williams – AC/DC
If there is bassist who has been entirely dwarfed by the flamboyance of his band’s lead guitarist, it is Cliff Williams from AC/DC. His bass guitar playing style is soothingly simple and refreshingly harmonious with beats. For most of the time during on-stage performance, he directs the spotlight to the lead vocalist and lead guitarist. He only chips in at the time of backing vocals. In the original recorded versions of the songs, you can also identify his bass guitar playing which is conventional and apt to back the lead guitarist who hits it hard.
7. Geddy Lee – Rush
Geddy Lee is one magician of a musician. What’s so unique about his bass guitar playing is that he does it while singing and also playing the keyboard. The way he plays guitar by flicking his fingers back and forth is also an idiosyncratic way of bass guitar playing. Geddy was also going to be replaced by another bassist to ease his role in the band. However, audiences always want him to be the bassist and he also kept delivering by playing bass those resonating bass pedals during keyboard parts.
8. John Entwistle – The Who
John Entwistle had invented a very unique style of bass guitar playing, which sounds more like lead. While other bassists indulge in plucking, he hits the strings downwards, which is a very different way of bass guitar playing. You can also observe his bass guitar playing prowess and why he is one of the best bassists in rock music in the songs Baba O’ Riley, My Generation and Behind Blue Eyes.
9. Jack Bruce – Cream
Jack Bruce’s bass guitar playing style is an amalgamation of the elements of blues, western classical, and jazz, also with the essence of rock ‘n’ roll. With stars like Eric Clapton and also Ginger Baker, it’s tough for a musician to gain prominence as a bassist; however, Bruce still managed to have a distinguished role in the band. What’s the best aspect about Jack Bruce’s bass guitar playing is that he plays a functional role and doesn’t try to outshine the lead guitarist and the vocalist of the band. This understanding and how he manages to harmonize with the rest is what makes him one of the best bassists in rock music.
10. Robert Trujillo – Metallica
Even though I have already mentioned Cliff Burton from Metallica, but a list of best bassists in rock music is incomplete without Robert Trujillo. He has been a key member of Metallica since 1978. He is one of those bassists who plays bass guitar with fingers rather than plectrums. Let alone other masterpieces like strangely soothing ‘Turn the page’ and also energetic ‘Fuel’, he dispels all the doubts on his bass guitar playing skills with the philosophical song ‘Nothing else matters’.
Bassists never seem to take over the show, but without them, a rock band is a deciduous tree without leaves. Just like bassists in rock music, there are many bassists who have also adopted the functional role in Blues, Jazz, and, Western Classical.