Top 7 Female Drummers of All Time
Female drummers are almost an oxymoron. Good female drummers definitely are – at least according to top drummers charts scattered around the net.
As a young girl interested in music, I never considered drums as one of the means to express myself. I had no real-life examples in the drumming world to which I could compare myself to, or strive to become one day. Drumming wasn’t considered feminine, and comparing myself to Neil, John, Carl or Keith just wasn’t an option. Copying Joan Jett, Janis or Lita Ford was the only thing on the agenda for an aspiring rock chick.
Later, when I realized that no guitar, bass or keyboards is a right fit for me and that drumming is what I was “born” to do, I tried to look for new role models. It took some time, but I managed.
Some might argue that the below list of my personal best still doesn’t compare to the ultimate drum beasts that dominate the charts. They might be right, but in order to break the era of male domination, we have to inspire girls to pick up the sticks and pound their frustrations away. In that way, we will raise a new generation of fearless and fantastic chicks who can win any testosterone filled bang-off out there.
So who are those (as we will refer to them in the future) pioneers of female drumming?
Here is my personal top 7, in no particular order.
Member of The Carpenters, Karen first started as a drummer for the band, and later took on the lead vocals role as well. Although over time she drummed less and less, it is known that she considered herself as a “drummer who sings.”
Her drumming was acknowledged by her male peers as well, and she received numerous praises from the likes of Buddy Rich and Hal Blaine. Modern Drummer magazine had only praise for Karen and stated: “With a stick and a brush, she weaves an almost ethereal groove.”
Unfortunately, she passed away at the young age of 32, losing her long battle with anorexia. We lost an excellent singer and an even better drummer.
This 1987-born LA drummer is currently a drummer for Autolux. She first started as a percussionist in her school orchestra, but picked up drumming a few years later.
Her talent was recognized by some of the greats, so she contributed drums for T-Bone Burnett, PJ Harvey, as well as one of the guitar legends, John Frusciante.
What makes her so good and so unique in my point of view is summed up in one sentence she said in her interview for Tom Tom Magazine in April 2011. For her, she stated, the best part about being a drummer is: “Playing sick drum beats. Or trying to at least. And then hopefully effecting people whilst doing so.”
Born in the US, her obsession with drums started when she went on a trip to England, fell in love with the country and never returned. By chance, she started playing the conga drums, and soon awed everyone who heard her play. A natural talent is what most described her. Later on, she went to play with tons of notable musicians/acts - Robert Palmer, David Gilmour, Elton John, The Who and Paul McCartney, to name a few.
To all the aspiring female drummers, here are a few words of wisdom from this mega-awesome drummer: “There really are no rules, so just go into it with love in your heart and have good faith in your abilities.” (source: Mikedolbear.com)
A clarinetist in an symphony orchestra who loves to rock it on the drums – this is probably the best way to sum up Roxy.
A member of notorious Madam X and Vixen, she toured with Kiss, Ozzy and Deep Purple, and is regarded as the toughest female drummer today.
Why is she so great? What keeps her rockin’?
"I love playing live; the thunder of my kick drum and the crack from my snare resonating in a room full of head bangers is so indescribably satisfying, it's like an addiction. I'm anxious to get back on stage and kick in some teeth!" (source: zildjian.com)
Maureen (Moe) Tucker
A notorious drummer for the notorious band Velvet Underground, she is often described as that chick drummer who played it standing up. Easier access to bass pedals and all :)
Her philosophy was to keep it simple. With a kit consisting of only snare, bass, tom toms and a mallet she considered herself as a “time-keeper” for the band. Cymbals were a redundancy for her.
Her unique style, massive attitude and the ultimate cool factor make her a perfect role model for all future power drummers out there.
Drummer for a one-hit-wonder 60s Brit band, The Honeycombs, she is considered one of the first female drummers (The Ravens were the first, but we won’t be nitpickers). It has been said that she was the main inspiration for Karen Carpenter to pick up the sticks.
Although her contributions to women in music history has been somewhat diminished, she is still one of the original “chicks with sticks” who not only looked good, but was one helluva drummer as well.
Probably one of the best known girl drummers out there, Sandy was a drummer for The Runaways, the first all-girl hard rock band. Her drumming was powerful, intense and inspired many.
As Joan Jett said in one interview following Sandy’s premature death: "In 1975 I started The Runaways with Sandy West. We shared the dream of girls playing rock and roll. Sandy was an exuberant and powerful drummer. So underrated, she was the caliber of John Bonham. I am overcome from the loss of my friend. I always told her we changed the world." (Source: drummerszone.com)
My advice: Pick up The Runaways CD, listen to Cherry Bomb and listen for yourself what made Sandy so special and why I consider her one of my main drumming muses.