Great bass line, whether Paul McCartney’s hypnotic riff “Come Together”, Bootsy Collins’s sneaky vampire from James Brown’s “Sex Machine” or Tina Weymouth’s minimal heartbeat in Talking Heads “Psycho Killer” is like a mantra: it seems that it can last forever and it seems deeper the more you hear it. Guitarists, vocalists and trumpeters tend to claim the highlights of any song, while drummers channel most of the kinetic energy, but what the bass player brings is something basic. : the part that keeps repeating in your head. long after the song ended.
Bass players are often overlooked and undervalued, even within their own bands. “It wasn’t job number one,” McCartney once said, reflecting on the fateful moment when he took over the four strings after Stu Sutcliffe left the Beatles. “Nobody wanted to play bass, they wanted to be in the front.”
And yet, the instrument has its own tradition in popular music, from Jimmy Blanton’s powerful work in the Duke Ellington orchestra and bebop pioneers like Oscar Pettiford to other jazz geniuses like Charles Mingus and Ron Carter; studio champions like Kaye and James Jamerson; rock warriors like Jack Bruce, from Cream, and John Entwistle, from Who; funk masters like Bootsy and Sly and Larry Graham, from Family Stone; prog prodigies like Chris Squire and Geddy Lee from Rush; fusion gods, like Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius; and punk and post-punk masters, like Weymouth and Mike Watt, from Minutemen. The Alternative Era brought new heroes to the instrument, from Sonic Youth’s intuitive Kim Gordon to Primus’ extravagant Les Claypools, and, more recently, a new generation of bass icons, including Esperanza Spalding and the ubiquitous Thundercat, ended. down in the center of their musical worlds.
As with our list of the top 100 drummers, this summary of the top 50 bass players of all time celebrates that spectrum. It is not categorically conceived as an objective classification of skills; does not assign any set of criteria as a measure of magnitude. Instead, it is an inventory of bassists who had the most direct and visible impact on creation, borrowing Kaye’s term, the basis of popular music, from rock to funk, by the way. across the country, R&B, disco and hip-hop and beyond, for about half a century. Here you will find obvious virtuosos, but also musicians whose lesser conception of the role of their instrument elevated everything that was happening around them.
“You grab, slide and feel with your hands,” said the Red Hot Chili Peppers chip over his signature instrument. “You slap, play, hit, tear and explode, and put yourself in that hypnotic state, if you’re lucky, beyond thinking, in which you don’t think because it’s just a channel. For that rhythm, where does it come from, from God to you and this instrument, through a cable and a speaker “.
Here we pay tribute to 50 musicians who found the same exalted status through the bass and changed the world in the process.