10 of the Best Drummers That Have Died [Updated Apr 2024]

Many people think that only rock stars die young, but drummers are in an even more dangerous position. Drummers put themselves at risk when they play their drums because they have to be right up front and center where the cymbals and other pieces of equipment are being thrown around. There is a list of some famous drummers who died while performing on stage.

Buddy Rich 

Buddy Rich was one of the most well-known United States drummers. He had a distinctive sound and was awarded 33 honorary degrees in music from major universities, including Brown, Cincinnati, Williams College, Western Michigan University, Yale University.

He played for many notable bands and artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Jay McShann Band at Theatre-de-Setteville, Louis Armstrong at private recording sessions, and Gene Krupa Big Band with Benny Goodman at Hollywood Palladium.

Elvin Jones

Elvin Jones is one of the greatest drummers in jazz history. One iconoclast, Jones stretched standard rhythms with his syncopations and flurries of rolls to create a unique, compelling sense of movement. His style changed traditional conceptions about drumming’s role as a timekeeper.

While other musicians laid down melodic lines and harmonic structures, he occupied his own singular space while driving the music forward to provide its robust rhythmic base. This approach captured the collective imagination with his groundbreaking virtuosity and delightfully unorthodox approach to percussion. 

He is the constant timekeeper for Miles Davis’ innovative groups from 1959-1968, earning four Grammy awards along the way. Jones will consistently be recognized for adding a new dimension to drum music. 

Gene Krupa

Gene Krupa was a jazz drummer of the 1940s and 1950s, best known for his work with Benny Goodman. He laid down many essential elements in the music that later gave rise to rock and roll. He was one of the top territory drummers during that time.

Aside from being a great drummer, he discovered some technical devices like cymbal rivets that can stop cymbals from ringing without dampening their sound. This tactic greatly improved live sound at concerts by eliminating feedback. His stylized “dropping bombs” would place him on the map as an all-around virtuoso kit man who could stretch out on any style of music presented before him, whether it be swing or pulsating rock.

Ginger Baker

Ginger Elvis Baker, MBE (16 December 1939) is an English rock drummer. He has been a professional musician since 1960.

Born in Lewisham, England, during World War II to an American serviceman father and British mother, he first gained fame as one of the founding members of drumming group Cream.

He was ranked 37th on Rolling Stone’s “50 Greatest Drummers of All Time” list 

and second only to Buddy Rich in Modern Drummer magazine’s “Greatest Drummers Of All Time” poll from 1999.

In 2000 his solo album, A New Day Yesterday, was inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame’s permanent collection due to its influence and contribution to the genre.

Hal Blaine

Hal Blaine is an American drummer who has provided drums on several notable songs and singles since the 1960s. He’s played with acts such as The Ronettes, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Bobby Darin, Sonny and Cher, Darlene Love, Johnny Cash, and has been a number one song, including I want to Hold Your Hand by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Hal Blaine (born Harold Spiro Blainowitz) is an American drummer who has provided drums on several notable songs and singles since the 1960s. His best-known work as a session musician was his longtime collaboration with rock-and-roll icon Phil Spector.

John Bonham

John Bonham is regarded as one of the most influential rock drummers in rock history. When he was six years old, his father gave him his first drum kit.

He was also a member of The Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison and many other famous musicians throughout the 1980s. He died at only 32 from sudden alcohol-related asphyxiation due to a massive intake of alcohol indirectly caused by epileptic seizures brought on by an allergic reaction to treatment for drinking problems.

John’s legacy lives on through Led Zeppelin, inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame twice (once individually for all four members and once together).

Tony Allen

Tony Allen is a Nigerian-American drummer and bandleader. He’s one of the founders of Afrobeat, which combines African & Latin American styles with Jazz and Funk. His drumming is primarily what makes the sound so distinctive.

He plays alongside other bands for live performances and records solo albums on occasion, such as, most recently, “Seeing Hands Talk.” Coincidentally, he doesn’t use cymbals up until 2010, so they’re not nearly as present on his recordings typically. 

With that said, it’s worth noting that he has extensive accreditation, including being a very successful session musician like playing drums on, for instance, Michael Jackson’s album.

Tony Williams

Williams was one of the leading figures in jazz for decades, playing with jazz luminaries like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock. He broke through to the mass market with his Grammy Award-winning instrumental solo on “We’ve Only Just Begun” by The Carpenters and Jimmy Buffett’s song “Margaritaville.” The audience also heard his drums on TV soundtracks such as The Equalizer, 21 Jump Street (TV series), the music from Mass Effect 3, and songs by many singers, including Rod Stewart.

Tony Williams founded the group Lifetime, which released two albums: Somewhere Within This Noise and Brown Rice. With that band, he recorded an album a

Drummers are a dying breed. The number of drummers that have passed away in the last year is staggering, and it’s not just about the classic rockers who were lost this past year. Even some up-and-coming artists like Chris Cornell from Soundgarden or Chester Bennington from Linkin’ Park met their demise at age 52. 

Fortunately, we can always honor their memory. The drummers who died are memorialized in the list above. What is your favorite memory of these talented musicians? Comment below and let us know!

Also, if you have any stories about drummers or other musicians that died, please comment below. We would love to hear your story and share it with others. We should not let these legends die. It is their music that allows them to live continuously. 

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