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9 Drummers That Became Lead Singers

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Dave Grohl then and now image
Roswell Records

It’s widely regarded that drummers are the most important members of a band. That’s what a drummer will tell you anyway. Sometimes though, they move from the drum stool to the front of the stage. Here are nine drummers that became lead singers.

9. Dave Grohl

The often labelled ‘nicest man in rock’ is the first on our list. Starting life as a drummer in hardcore bands he then joined Nirvana and changed music history. His drumming with them was solid, and perfectly complemented the chaos of Kurt Cobain’s manic guitars. You’d think the legacy he left with Nirvana would be enough. But after Kurt’s tragic suicide, he set up Foo Fighters and departed the drum stool for lead vocals and guitars. And what a fine job he does as the Foo’s are one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. Imagine being that talented and nice. We’re not jealous. Ok, maybe a little.

8. Don Henley

Not content with being a founding member of one of America’s greatest bands, The Eagles, Don decided to go solo in 1980 after the band split. Ok, this one is a bit tenuous as Don shared vocal duties with fellow Eagle Glenn Frey, but bear with me. In 1980 he went out front into the bright lights of a solo artist and released a slew of cracking songs. Boys of Summer being his most well-known, and what a gem that was. It was a wise choice to leave those sticks behind.

7. Phil Collins

Perhaps one of the most famous names on our list, Phillip David Charles Collins started life behind the kit with prog-rockers Genesis. Although he did lead vocal duties whilst drumming after the departure of Peter Gabriel in 1976, it’s his solo career that really took off. Genesis had some big hits throughout the 80s with Collins’s drumming and singing. But the bigger hits came with his solo career from 1981 onwards. There’s no denying he has some great chops behind the kit, but his voice is as familiar as your favourite shoes. And so are his hits. ‘In the Air Tonight’ was his debut solo single. It doesn’t get much better than that.

6. Roger Taylor

The legendary Queen drummer is known for his ability to hit those falsetto notes on many a Queen hit throughout their career. But he also had a string of solo albums don’t you know? Since 1981 he has released five solo albums. His last being from 2013, so maybe there are more to come? He sang and played most of the instruments on the albums as well. That’s impressive. They are also pretty good albums too. Although he still performs behind the kit with Queen and Adam Lambert, he’s shown he can be centre stage as a lead singer.

5. Todd La Torre

If you’re not a fan of progressive metal, then this one may have passed you by. Todd La Torre is the current singer for the progressive metal band Queensryche. But it wasn’t always that way as he started off in his career behind the kit. Having started playing at fourteen, he spent the next twenty-four years playing in a variety of local original and cover bands. It was only in 2010 when he joined Florida-based metal band, Crimson Glory, as their lead singer. He then replaced Geoff Tate as the frontman of Queensryche in 2012, continuing to this day. Although he’s been at the front of the stage for twelve years, he says that he still feels like a drummer who likes to sing. You can take the drummer away from the kit, but he’ll always be a drummer.

4. Karen Carpenter

Although Karen sadly passed away at aged thirty-two, she managed to achieve a lot of success in such a short space of time. There had been various musical iterations with her brother Richard, but success came when they settled on The Carpenters. Karen was a very accomplished drummer and played live during the early years of the band. It was the success of her vocal abilities that ultimately took away from the kit and to the front of the stage. Not to mention the fact her small stature made it hard for fans to see her behind the kit on stage. If you want to be reminded of her drumming prowess, just have a look on YouTube. An incredible talent taken too soon.

3. Taylor Hawkins

Most famous for being the man behind the kit for the Foo Fighters, Taylor Hawkins has recently gone to the front. I wonder where he got that idea from? He’s released solo efforts with his own band Coattail Riders, and more recently, The Birds of Satan. There’s no denying Hawkins’ love of Queen and Roger Taylor, and his solo albums reflect that. He has a rather good voice and is certainly a showman. That is obvious from his energy behind the kind. I guess the natural progression is to take that to the front. I’m sure Mr Grohl gave him plenty of advice about going solo.

2. Ringo Starr

Ok, so John Lennon once said that Ringo wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles, but that’s a bit unfair. Ringo was great at what he did, holding the beat and keeping that groove. Serving the song is one of the most important things a drummer can do. And Ringo did that perfectly. He’s also gone on to release an astounding sixteen solo albums. Yes, his vocal range is limited, but a discography that big is impressive. He also secured two back-to-back number one hits in the US. Go Ringo!

1. Levon Helm

Levon Helm was the drummer in the critically acclaimed American roots rock band The Band. They backed Bob Dylan in the 60s but went on to have success under their own name. An innovative and creative drummer, Levon also had a deeply soulful and country-tinged voice. He used that voice to good use with six solo albums through the ’70s, ’80s and 2000s. He won not one, but two Grammy awards for his albums and was also a film actor. Sadly, he died in 2012, but what a musical legacy he leaves behind.


That’s our list of nine drummers who became lead singers, did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.


Read about seven underrated rock albums that defined the 2000’s HERE.

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7 Underrated Rock Albums That Defined the Noughties

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Capitol Records

One thing comes to mind when you think of bands from the first decade of the new millennium. Indie bands that started with ‘The’. But the decade offered more musical delights than just indie. Here are seven underrated rock albums that defined the noughties.

7. At the Drive-in – Relationship of Command (2000)

The noughties rock albums were partly defined by a healthy post-hardcore scene. One of the pioneers of the scene were At the Drive-in. The American quintet saw in the new millennium with their third album, Relationship of Command. Ironically, the band split twelve months after the release of this album. They were riding a wave of success and acclaim, but exhaustion caused them to call it quits. Although they have reformed in recent years, this album was one of the best. Their first two efforts may have defined that aggressive post-hardcore sound they are known for. But this release showed that they were more than a one-trick pony. It was also the album that influenced a slew of post-hardcore bands in their wake.

6. Taking Back Sunday – Where You Want to Be (2004)

Where You Want to Be was the second album from American rockers Taking Back Sunday. Formed in New York in 1999, they have released seven albums to date. Where You Want to Be was the band’s second release from 2004. Their debut two years earlier gained good reviews and created a buzz for the band. This effort brought the band into a more mainstream route, but without losing their edge. It was 2006’s major-label follow-up that propelled them into the stratosphere but forget that. Where You Want to Be is stuffed full of edgy yet melodic anthems that feature vocals from both heaven and hell. Standout tracks such as A Decade Under the Influence and The Union showcase that meeting of styles perfectly. This album defined the alt-rock-hardcore scene of the 2000s. It was also one of the best-selling independent releases of the year.

5. System of a Down – Steal This Album! (2002)

Often considered as a collection of B-sides that never made it on to Toxicity, Steal This Album! is a cracker. It is true that the songs were unfinished works from the Toxicity sessions, but they are musical gems. There’s no doubt that Toxicity transported System of a Down to dizzy heights. And that regular airplay on MTV helped hugely as Chop Suey became a massive hit. But Steal This Album! snuck in the back door a year later and features the band at their best.

There are still political themes running through the songs, as you would expect. But the brilliance of the songwriting really shines through. Innervision and I-E-A-I-E-I-O are beautifully bonkers. It’s like they took Toxicity and raised the crazy factor by a thousand. Yes, the former is more well-known and successful. But Steal This Album! showcases what System of a Down do best – make music that batters, inspires, confuses, but ultimately leaves a huge grin on your face. The album that defined the band.

This was the fifth album from the pop-punk titans. It was 1999’s Enema of the State and 2001’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket that made Blink-182 one of the biggest pop-punk bands on the planet. MTV and radio had played the songs constantly for a few years and the albums influenced many an outfit in their wake. It was 2003’s self-titled effort that really saw the band evolve into mature songwriters. There are so many gems to pick, but Miss You and Always are obvious examples. Gone is the toilet humour, and it is the clever, experimental and mature songwriting. They still have that sharp melodic edge and superb vocal interplays that are inexplicably Blink. Give it another listen and it shows a band at the peak of their creativity.

3. The Hives – Tyrannosaurus Hives (2004)

Tyrannosaurus Hives was the third offering from Swedish garage rockers The Hives. Known for their smart stage suits and glistening hair, their brand of raucous rock hit the big time with 2000’s Veni Vidi Vicious. That album gave us Hate to Say I Told You So and received universal acclaim from critics. This follow-up from 2004 is an even better album in my opinion. It still has that bouncing scratchy sound that the band are known for, but with a constant flow of dance floor anthems. Walk Idiot Walk and A Little More for A Little You are sun-kissed rock gems. This is a noughties offering that rises above all the other indie rock bands albums from this decade. Quality, timeless songs that remind you of the good times.

2. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief (2003)

Radiohead is a band that often divides opinion. Hail to the Thief was the sixth offering from the Oxfordshire-based experimentalists. It was the late 90s that brought the band critical acclaim and success. Mostly due to the success of OK Computer. Hail to the Thief took the bands musical experimentation on to the next leave. Dabbling with orchestral sequences with synths it creates quite the aural experience. Lyrically, Thom Yorke is addressing the so-called war on terror with titles like A Wolf at the Door and We Suck Young Blood. There is a lot of electronic tinkering on this album and any more would probably send it into self-absorbed twaddle. But with this album, they’ve nailed it to perfection.

1. The Black Keys – Attack & Release (2008)

Hailing from Ohio in the US, The Black Keys have been on the scene since 2001. Attack & Release was the band’s fifth album and released in 2008. Interestingly, this was the first album they recorded in a professional studio with an outside producer. It’s certainly has a polish to it that makes it stand out. Not only that, but it also has some rather brilliant garage rock songs on it. I Got Mine in particular makes you want to pour a Jack Daniels. In a decade that was littered with sound-a-like indie bands, The Black Keys wound up the decade with something rather special. It’s an album that takes a few listens but when you get it, you really get it.


That’s our list of seven underrated rock albums of the noughties. Did we miss any? Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.


Read about musicians who nearly died on stage HERE.

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