The legendary bassists of rock and metal
Guitars have always been considered the primary instruments in rock. Indeed, guitars have shaped the sound of the genre since the very beginning. But some of the most innovative musicians have been found with a four-string strapped around their shoulders. Here, we pay tribute to some genuinely innovative bassists in the world of rock music.
No discussion of rock bass is complete without mentioning the Ox. The late John Entwistle handled bass duties with The Who from the band’s inception in 1964 through his passing in 2002. He was famous for standing stock still onstage and letting his fingers do all the talking. His famous bass solo on My Generation was just the beginning of a long series of powerful and innovative bass lines. He was also a talented songwriter and a gifted singer.
Ian Kilmister, known better by his stage name Lemmy, saw the Beatles perform at The Cavern Club in Liverpool when he was just 16. Inspired, he became a member of several bands over the years, playing guitar and singing. He switched to bass after joining Hawkwind in 1972. After being fired from that group, he formed the legendary Mötorhead, where he serves as the leader and only constant member of the band. For over 40 years, his unique, hard-driving bass and gravelly singing has earned him legions of fans.
This legendary bassist was the only constant member of Yes until his passing in 2015. In a band known for its revolving-door membership, Squire could always be counted on to provide stability and innovative bass lines that served as a “second lead guitar,” weaving intricately with the numerous guitarists that have played with the band. He also contributed greatly to the songwriting of the group and served as the background vocalist for most of the band’s songs.
We couldn’t very well let this man go unmentioned, could we? Aside from having one of the most beautiful and recognizable voices in music, he is a composer on a level few can surpass and has played in every genre imaginable, from big-band jazz to hip-hop to electronica. What sometimes gets overlooked in the hype over the Beatles, even 50 years on, is just how innovative his bass-playing is. Much like his mate, Ringo, Paul has always played for the song itself. Tasteful and elegant basslines are Paul’s bread and butter. He has earned his place in a history he is still making.
The vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist for Rush makes it at or near the top of most every Best Rock Bassist list, and there is a reason. Much like Chris Squire, his progressive bass lines serve as a sort of “second lead” instrument alongside guitarist Alex Lifeson. Along with drummer/lyricist Neal Peart, Geddy has written some of the most profound and arty songs in rock.
The Other Ones
Among the other bass players worthy of mentioning include Gene Simmons of KISS, Les Claypool of Primus, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and Jack Bruce of Cream. Who else can you think of?