The best bassists of all time: the Top 15
The well-known Rolling Stone magazine has compiled several rankings relating to music, from the best debut albums to the best songs: among these rankings, it could not miss the one relating to the best bass players.
Sometimes the role of the bass guitar ends up being underestimated, despite the fact that it is fundamental along with the drums in creating the rhythm. And some bass riffs have remained in history by defining the character of some historic songs like 'Come Together'.
Rolling Stone did not rely solely on technical and objective ability to make their rankings, but took into account the impact of bass players on musical culture and the evolution of this instrument: we always repeat, there is nothing more subjective than music and everyone has their own tastes and preferences.
Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons
The best bass players ever: the Top 15
Rolling Stone has compiled many rankings, from the best albums to the best songs: among them, it could not miss the one concerning the best bass players. Sometimes the role of the bass guitar is at risk of being underestimated, despite the fact that it is crucial along with the drums in creating the rhythm. In making the ranking, Rolling Stone did not rely solely on technical and objective skill, but took into account the impact of bassists on musical culture and the influence they have had on the evolution of this instrument. We always repeat, there is nothing more subjective than music and everyone has their own tastes and preferences!
15. Donald “Duck” Dunn (1941-2012)
A member of the band Booker T. & the MG's and later also of the Blues Brothers Band, Donald Dunn also appears in the famous film 'The Blues Brothers' and the sequel filmed 18 years later. His performance at Live Aid where he played 'Layla' with Eric Clapton and Phil Collins also remains famous.
14. John Paul Jones (1946)
John Paul Jones was the historic bassist and keyboardist of Led Zeppelin, but due to his acclaimed skills he was also sought after as a session player and arranger from an early age. Jones met Jimmy Page during the recording of Jeff Beck's debut album, 'Truth'.
13. Stanley Clarke (1951)
One of the most influential bassists of the 1970s and beyond, Clarke has won five Grammy Awards, three as a solo artist, one with the Stanley Clarke Band and one with Return to Forever.
12. Willie Dixon (1915-1992)
A well-known musician on the legendary Chess Records label, Willie Dixon was one of the key figures in the birth of the Chicago Blues. With his songs, Dixon inspired so many future rock and hard rock artists that in 1994 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the Early influences category for the influence his work had on later music.
11. Phil Lesh (1940)
Just outside the Top 10 is Phil Lesh, the historic bass player of the Grateful Dead, one of the bands that most reshaped the sound of rock bands. At school, Phil Lesh played trumpet and violin and was fond of classical music, but then took up the bass after joining the Warlocks, the band that preceded the Grateful Dead.
10. Ron Carter (1937)
Ron Carter is an eclectic double bassist who has experimented with different musical genres throughout his very long career, while remaining strongly associated with jazz. Carter has also won a Guinness World Record as the most recorded bassist in the history of jazz.
9. Paul McCartney (1942)
In the second half of the 1960s, Paul McCartney began to consistently master the bass guitar, enhancing several of The Beatles' masterpieces such as 'Come Together', 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds' and 'A Day in the Life'. Yet, McCartney later revealed that he did not want to play the instrument in the Fab Four's time: 'Nobody wanted to play the bass. At least, nobody wanted to back in the day,' Paul said in an interview.
Chris Hakkens, Wikimedia Commons
8. Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987)
Jaco Pastorius' career was very short, but this did not prevent him from being considered a revolutionary in the world of bass guitar and in the universe of music in general, especially in the fusion genre. Thanks to his particular style, he redefined the concept of the electric bass, taking it from the background to the leading role in his compositions.
blu-news.org, Wikimedia Commons
7. Larry Graham (1946)
A historic member of the funk band Sly & the Family Stone, Larry Graham is considered one of the pioneers of the slapping technique (some believe he was the first to use slapping). Music and rhythm are an innate talent in the Graham family: Larry is the paternal uncle of Aubrey Graham, the famous rapper Drake.
6. Jack Bruce (1943-2014)
Jack Bruce was one of the three historic members of Cream along with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker. Jake Bruce was also considered to be a revolutionary in the use of the bass guitar, emphasising its use as a comprimary instrument.
5. Carol Kaye (1935)
In history, few bass players have been more prolific than Carol Kaye, who as a session player has played on around ten thousand recording sessions. Whichever song you listen to, the chance of coming across a track played by Carol is very high: from Frank and Nancy Sinatra's 'Somethin' Stupid' to Ritchie Valens' 'La Bamba' (in which she plays acoustic guitar), she has also collaborated on many soundtracks including 'Mission Impossible'. Carol Kaye also appears in the credits of many Simon & Garfunkel songs, as well as on the Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds' and Frank Zappa's 'Freak Out!' albums.
4. Bootsy Collins (1951)
Collins' musical abilities and eccentric style were instrumental in contributing to a significant evolution of the funk genre. Indeed, Bootsy Collins is considered a role model for many other bassists of the new generation.
3. John Entwistle (1944-2002)
With his solo in 'My Generation', the historic bassist of The Who caught the attention of many young people and from that moment on, John Entwistle became one of the role models for anyone who wanted to try and learn to play the bass. John was also instrumental in making the bass a solo instrument and not just an accompaniment.
2. Charles Mingus (1922-1979)
Charles Mingus is considered one of the greatest musicians of all time, having collaborated with the most talented jazz musicians of his era, such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Herbie Hancock. Charles liked to describe himself as a 'mad, angry genius' and these characteristics are perfectly reflected in his music.
Experimento69, Wikimedia Commons
1. James Jamerson (1936-1983)
At the top of Rolling Stone's list of the best bassists of all time is James Jamerson, a musician who contributed to the success of the Motown label. As a session player, Jamerson recorded many hits for Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5 and The Supremes. Thanks to his innovative techniques, the electric bass has also firmly established itself in the world of pop music.
The well-known US magazine Rolling Stone in 2021 has updated the list of the 500 most beautiful songs of all time.
The ranking was first published on December 11, 2003 and was compiled by a jury chosen by the editorial staff, composed of 172 musicians, music critics and experts in the recording industry. Subsequently, the ranking was changed twice: the first in 2010, the second in 2021, when 254 songs that were previously not present were added.
Obviously, there is nothing more subjective than music: these songs are considered the best according to the criteria defined by Rolling Stonemagazine, but each of us has his own personal ranking of the best songs ever. Here, however, is the Top 20 of Rolling Stone.
In 2008, 'Rolling Stone' compiled a list of the 100 best singers of all time.
This ranking was compiled 15 years ago by 180 people, including several musicians (e.g. Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Justin Timberlake, George Michael, Keith Richards), journalists and music experts.
On 1 January 2023, however, 'Rolling Stone' published an update of the ranking that revolutionised the list, especially with regard to the Top Ten. As the well-known US magazine was keen to point out, this ranking does not only take into account technical and vocal abilities (it is not a list of the best voices of all time), but also the originality of the vocal timbre, the record catalogue, the writing ability and the musical legacy of the singers in question. Here are the top 20 positions.