The music world is full of talented multi-instrumentalists, but one of the most difficult combinations to master is singing and drumming simultaneously! Bands where the drummer is the lead singer on a full-time basis, are pretty rare, while even drummers who sing lead on occasion are few and far between.
With that being said, some musicians have mastered this fairly unusual combination and have used their talents to great effect, functioning as vocalists and percussionists, either simultaneously, or as the need arises. In this article, we take a more in-depth look at eight of the very best drummer lead singers of all time.
Phil Collins is widely recognized as one of the most influential progressive rock drummers of all time and his first big career break came when he joined Genesis in 1970. Originally serving as the band’s drummer, while also providing some backing vocals, he would eventually take over from frontman Peter Gabriel as the lead singer in 1975.
Outside of the band, Collins also enjoyed a hugely successful solo career, with some of his biggest hits including ‘In the Air Tonight’, ‘Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)’ and ‘Sussudio’. Alongside Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, he is one of only three artists to sell more than 100 million records as part of a band and as a solo artist.
Don Henley was a founding member of The Eagles, serving as the band’s drummer and sharing lead singer duties with Glenn Frey during the group’s heyday. In fact, he serves as the main singer on some of the band’s best-known songs, including ‘Hotel California’, ‘Desperado’, ‘Best of My Love’ and ‘Witchy Woman’.
Known for his ‘less is more’ drumming style, Henley was a singing drummer in the true sense, being able to sing and play at the same time. Outside of The Eagles, he also carved out a successful solo career, which produced tracks like ‘Dirty Laundry’ and ‘The Boys of Summer’, with the latter earning Henley a solo Grammy Award.
Taking inspiration from Phil Collins, among others, Brann Dailor is best-known as the drummer and co-vocalist of the heavy metal band Mastodon. Sharing vocal duties with Troy Sanders and Brent Hinds, Dailor’s fill-heavy, stop and start drum style is one of the defining features of the band’s overall sound.
In 2015, Dailor also formed the progressive metal band, Arcadea, where he operated as the drummer and lead singer. He is on record as saying that the band was largely influenced by early Genesis and other ’70s progressive rock bands.
It goes without saying that Brann Dailor is one of the best metal drummers in the world right now, with his energetic grooves and thunderous drum fills that helps to drive Mastodon’s sound forward.
Any good list of the best drummers that are also lead singers simply has to include Roger Taylor. While Taylor is most recognizable as the drummer and backing vocalist for Queen, where his drumming style helped to forge the band’s distinctive sound, he is also an accomplished singer in his own right and is especially known for his falsetto.
Aside from either writing or co-writing hits like ‘Under Pressure’ and ‘One Vision’ for Queen, often providing backing vocals to Freddie Mercury in the process, Roger Taylor was able to showcase his abilities as a lead singer when he formed The Cross. In addition, Taylor has also released five solo albums, including 1981’s ‘Fun in Space’.
Aaron Gillespie was originally recruited by the metalcore band Underoath as the drummer, but has since established himself as both a drummer and vocalist. Starting with their third album, ‘The Changing of Times’, he began to contribute clean vocals, complimenting the original lead singer, Dallas Taylor, and his replacement, Spencer Chamberlain.
Away from Underoath, Gillespie has also performed as the touring drummer for the band Paramore, although he has never been a full-time member of the band, or involved in their creative process. In 2005, he also formed the band The Almost, where he performs as the lead singer, focusing on more of an alternate rock sound.
The first female inclusion in our drummer lead singer list is Stefanie Mannaerts, who is most famous for being the drummer and vocalist for the post-hardcore Belgian band Brutus. Mannaerts has a distinctive, powerful voice and actually grew up living above her parents’ music store, which is where her love of drumming originated.
The singing drummer began her career as a performer in Refused Party Program, which was a tribute band to Swedish punk icons The Refused. In that band, she shared the stage with bassist Peter Mulders, who would also go on to form part of Brutus with her. The band is best known for singles like ‘War’, ‘All Along’ and ‘Cemetery’.
When listing the best drummers who sing lead, Micky Dolenz is another important inclusion. Known for his time in the band The Monkees, Dolenz was initially a guitarist and singer and was cast in the band for his musical abilities, as well as his talent as an actor, which was important because the band was initially put together for a TV sitcom.
Early on, Dolenz had to be given lessons to even pretend to play the drums credibly, but he eventually learned to not only play drums, but also sing at the same time. Dolenz is the lead singer on a number of The Monkees’ best-known tracks, including ‘I’m a Believer’, and also performed backing vocals on tracks like ‘Daydream Believer’.
Finally, Jen Ledger is another excellent example of a drummer and vocalist, performing both duties for the Christian rock band Skillet, who are known for tracks such as ‘Whispers in the Dark’, ‘Monster’ and ‘Hero’. Ledger joined Skillet in 2008, when she was still a teenager, replacing previous drummer Lori Peters.
In 2018, Ledger released her first solo EP, with several of the tracks making it onto the Christian Rock chart in the United States. As a result, she further enhanced her status as both a drummer and a vocalist.