I occasionally play guitar and sing at the same time in The Falcon Band (as it has come to be known) on Friday nights. It used to be a regular occurrence but then we got a real singer, allowing me to concentrate on playing.  During my tenure as a singing guitar player, I discovered that attempting singing over anything more than  strummed cowboy chords made me realise why there is both a Keith and a Mick.  Drumming and singing at the same time takes matters to a whole other level.

Despite the fact that the dexterity required to practise their craft is akin to that required to fly a helicopter, drummers take all sorts of knocks from other musicians and are the brunt of many a joke (Q: How can you tell  a drummer is at the door? A: The knocking speeds up).   I have attempted to play the drums several times (usually in the darkness of night, with no one around) but have never even flirted with the idea of singing while pounding away. So my hat is off to drummers that sing. Here are my Top Five (not counting, of course, the Falcon Band drummer  John who sings from time to time).

Speaking of hats, here is a tip to Foremost for the topic and one of the links. Guess which one?

Next week:  Special Canada Day Edition:  Top Five Canadian Bands.

1. Levon Helm

Without hesitation, Levon is at the top of my list.  He may have even invented the singing drummer.  What I like about Levon is that both his singing and playing are so distinctive that I can’t envision The Band having done what they did without both of Levon’s voice and sticks.  Here is clip from a Band rehearsal in 1969, that is well worth watching despite the annoying watermark.

2. Karen Carpenter

Karen was not only a singing  drummer, but the double rarity of a female singing drummer.  With her brother Richard, the Carpenters proved to be a highly successful soft rock act in the early 1970’s  when mega bands like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin were at their creative zeniths.  It is I think easy to be dismissive of the Carpenters in general and Karen’s abilities behind the kit in particular.  But watch this compilation. You may change your mind as I did.

3. Ringo Starr

Ringo is frequently dissed by non-drummers but his skills are praised by every drummer I have met,  and by  those who know what they are talking about when it comes to music, whether drummers or not. Ringo really didn’t sing much with The Beatles (about twelve songs plus backing vocals on another four or five) but his contributions stand out.  Here is my favourite.

4. Phil Collins

Phil was a drummer first (who coincidentally says Ringo was his greatest influence) and only started singing when Peter Gabriel left the proggish rock group Genesis to pursue a solo career.  After a hugely successful solo career himself, his latter output was less stellar and he became almost Elton John like in terms of writing pop music for the screen.  Here he is at is finest.  Does everyone remember the “Miami Vice” episode where Crockett and Tubbs were driving off in the Testarossa to get the bad guys, accompanied by this song?  I know, the general plot description really doesn’t narrow it down much does it?

5. Sheila E.

Another double winner, the “E” stands for Escovedo.  Sheila is the niece of Alejandro Escovedo who  I wrote about in my “Top Five Bands You Really Should Listen to if the Last Record You Bought is Led Zeppelin II” (you can find a link on the left).  Sheila is best known for her work with Prince and Ringo Starr, although she has enjoyed considerable success as a solo artist.  Here she is in 1984’s “Glamorous Life”, produced by Prince.

Comments
  1. John Moshonas says:

    Mark, I believe you flatter me by characterizing my occasional forays into vocals as singing.

  2. earthboy011 says:

    Dave Clark deserves to be on this list. He handled the lead vocals and drumming for his band (The Dave Clark Five) and he excelled at both. They were the 2nd band in the British Invasion (right behind the Beatles) and their first single, Glad All Over, knocked I Want To Hold Your Hand out of the number one spot on the UK charts. The Dave Clark Five had 17 Top 40 hits. All were on vinyl. I put him ahead of Sheila E and ahead of Ringo.

    • topfivevinyl says:

      I thought about Dave. I am not sure that I would bump Ringo, but I would hear argument as to why he is ahead of Sheila E. Even though I wouldn’t have the Alejandro tie in.

      • earthboy011 says:

        I goofed. While Dave certainly sang, he is not credited as the lead vocalist for the group. Mike Smith, the organist gets the credit. The thing is, every time I saw the group on TV (I never saw them live) the camera would focus in on Dave Clark and he was always singing. I thought he was carrying the lead, but apparently not.

      • topfivevinyl says:

        Still however Top Five Worthy.

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