Each member of a band has something to contribute. Their talent at playing their instrument or singing will play in a part of the overall sound created and the performance they deliver adds to the entertainment for the audience when they perform live or are filming their music videos. While it is often the lead singer who is the frontman of a rock band and it is they who are usually the most talked about, there are many amazing bass players who are famous for their musical talent and entertaining performances. Some of these are especially skilled and stand out from others in the music industry. Here are 20 of the top rock bassists of all-time.
20. Chris Squire – Yes
Chris Squire was a musician, singer, and songwriter who was best-known as the bassist and a founding member of ‘Yes’, a progressive rock group. He was born in London on March 4, 1948, and began his career as a musician in 1965. ‘Yes’ was formed with Jon Anderson in 1968 and Squire played bass with the band for the next 47 years. His style was described as clear, distinct, dynamic, melodic, and aggressive. The main instrument he played with was a Rickenbacker bass that he had purchased in 1965 and continued to use throughout his career. This talented musician could also play the 12-string guitar, the harmonica, and the piano. He was given the nickname Fish because he was a Pisces and because he once flooded a hotel room in Oslo. His nickname was used in several of the hits on which he performed, such as ‘The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)’ and ‘Fish Out of Water’. In addition to being the bassist for ‘Yes’, he also enjoyed a solo career and played on tracks for many other bands. Sadly, Squire was diagnosed with acute erythroid leukemia in May 2015 and died from this disease on June 27, 2015. In 2017, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
19. Steve Harris – Iron Maiden
Steve Harris is best-known as the bassist of ‘Iron Maiden’, but he also occasionally played the keyboard, provided backing vocals and wrote the songs. He was born in Essex, England, on March 12, 1956, and began his career in music in 1972. He was one of the founders of ‘Iron Maiden’ in 1975 and is the only constant band member since the beginning. Only he and guitarist Dave Murray have appeared on all the albums released by ‘Iron Maiden’. Harris is considered one of the most influential bassists of all-time and is usually associated with his galloping style of playing. In his personal life, he is a father of six as he has four children with his ex-wife and two with his current partner. He has sold his estate in Essex and now lives between the Bahamas and Los Angeles.
18. Tina Weymouth – Talking Heads
Although she has played in several bands, Tina Weymouth is best-known as the bassist of ‘Talking Heads’, of which she is a founding member. She also co-founded ‘Tom Tom Club’ with her husband, Chris Frantz, who is the drummer of ‘Talking Heads’. She was born as Martina Michele Weymouth in Coronado, California, on November 22, 1950. She began her career in the music industry in 1975. In addition to her talents as a bassist, Weymouth is known for her unusual on-stage moves and entertaining performances. She has been married to Chris Frantz since 1977 and they have two sons together, Robin and Egan.
17. Tony Levin – King Crimson/ Stick Men
Rock bassist Tony Levin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 6, 1946. He is a specialist in electric bass, Chapman Stick, and upright bass. However, he has also performed vocals and plays the synthesizer. He has contributed to the work of many bands and also has a career as a solo artist. Some of the bands with which he is usually associated are ‘King Crimson’, ‘Stick Men’, and ‘Peter Gabriel’. Some of the solo artists for whom he has played bass and appeared on their solo or group albums include John Lennon, Cher, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Alice Cooper, Asia, and Stevie Nicks. He is the creator of ‘funk fingers’, which are finger sticks used for playing a particular style of bass. Many current artists have named this musician as one of their greatest influences.
16. Robert Trujillo – Metallica
Robert Trujillo is a bassist who was born in Santa Monica, California, on October 23, 1964. His full birth name is Roberto Agustin Miguel Santiago, Samuel Perez de la Santa Concepcion Trujillo Veracruz Batista. He has played in many bands, although he is currently best-known as the bass guitarist of Metallica and he has played with this band since 2003. Other bands for which he has been a member include ‘Infectious Groves’, ‘Suicidal Tendencies’, and ‘Black Label Society’. Trujillo has also had a career in acting with several small roles in both film and television. He is married to Chloe and they have a son, Tye, and a daughter, Lulah.
15. John Deacon – Queen
John Deacon is a retired English musician who is best-known as the bass guitarist in Queen. In addition to playing bass for this group, he also composed many of their hit songs. Some of these included ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, ‘I Want to Break Free’, ‘You’re My Best Friend’, and ‘Back Chat’. He also played a crucial role in the financial management of the group. After bandmate Freddie Mercury died in 1991, Deacon only played a few more times with Queen before retiring in 1997. People have described Deacon as the quiet member of the band. He has been married to Veronica Tetzlaff since 1975 and they have six children. He now lives in Putney, Southwest London.
14. Lemmy – Motorhead
Ian Fraser Kilmister is better-known as Lemmy. He was both the bassist and singer-songwriter for Motorhead, a group he founded in 1975. He was born in Staffordshire, England, on December 24, 1945 and began his career in the music industry in 1965. Other groups of which he was a member during his career were ‘Hawkwind’ and ‘The Rocking Vickers’. Lemmy was known as much for his hard-hitting lifestyle as his talents as a musician. In his later years, Lemmy suffered from prostate cancer, cardiac arrhythmia, and congestive heart failure. He died on December 28, 2015.
13. Geezer Butler – Black Sabbath
Geezer Butler is the stage name of bassist and songwriter Terence Michael Joseph Butler who was born in Birmingham, England, on July 17, 1949. He used Geezer as his stage name as it was a slang term for a man that everyone used when he was growing up. He began his career in the music industry in 1967 and is best-known as the bassist of the heavy metal rock band ‘Black Sabbath’. He was one of the first bassists to use a wah pedal and to down-tune his guitar. He is considered one of the most influential musicians in the heavy metal genre of music. He is married to Gloria Butler with whom he has a son, Biff, and he lives with his wife and their cats in Los Angeles.
12. Peter Hook – Joy Division/ New Order
Peter Hook is an English singer, songwriter, composer, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist. Although he played with many groups and supported many artists during his career, he is best-known as the co-founder and bassist of both ‘New Order’ and ‘Joy Division’. He was born in Salford, England, on February 13, 1956 and began his career in 1976. Hook’s style of playing is melodic and rhythmic and he often explores the higher notes of the bass. He has been married three times and has three children.
11. Billy Sheehan – Various
Billy Sheehan’s career in the music industry spans five decades and he has played bass in numerous bands. Some of these include ‘Mr. Big’, ‘Talas’, ‘Niacin’, ‘Stevie Vai’, ‘The Winery Dogs’, and ‘David Lee Roth’. This musician was born in New York on March 19, 1953 and began his career in 1970. He is particularly well-known for the wide range of playing techniques he uses, including two-handed tapping, chording, controlled feedback, and right-hand three-finger picking. He has also provided vocals on many hits.
10. Victor Wooten – Various
Victor Wooten was born on September 11, 1964 in Mountain Home, Idaho. He is a bass player, composer, producer, author, and educator. He began his career in 1980 and has received five Grammy Awards during his career. He has also been named the Bass Player of the Year on three occasions by Bass Player magazine. He has enjoyed a successful solo career and has also collaborated with many other artists. He has also been a bassist for ‘Bela Fleck and the Fleckstones’ since 1988.
9. Cliff Burton – Metallica
Cliff Burton was the second bass guitarist for Metallica from 1982 until his death. He was born in Castro Valley, California, on February 10, 1962. He began his career in 1980 but rose to prominence in the music industry when he joined ‘Metallica’. He was the bassist on the first three Metallica studio albums. When the fourth album was released, he had a posthumous credit as the writer of ‘To Live Is to Die’. Burton was tragically killed in a bus accident on September 27, 1996. The incident took place in a rural area of Sweden while the band was touring for their ‘Master of Puppets album. He was replaced the following month by bassist Jason Newstead. In 2009, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the other members of Metallica.
8. Jack Bruce
Born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, on May 14, 1943, Jack Bruce is a famous musician, singer, and songwriter. Although he had a successful career as a solo artist and played with many artists during his career, which began in 1962, he is best-known as the bassist of the British supergroup ‘Cream’. This group also included singer and guitarist Eric Clpaton and drummer Ginger Baker. In addition to playing the bass, Jack Bruce could also play the piano, the harmonica, the cello, and the double bass. He was also a talented songwriter. He married his first wife, Janet Godfrey, in 1962. They had two sons together Jonas, and Malcolm. Sadly, Jonas died from respiratory problems in 1997. He married his second wife, Margrit Seyffer, in 1982. They had three children; Natascha, Kyla, and Corin. Jack Bruce died of liver disease on October 25, 2014.
7. Jaco Pastorius – Weather Report
Jaco Pastorius was a jazz and rock bassist. He was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on December 1, 1951. His career began in 1964 and he enjoyed careers as both a solo artist and as a bassist in groups or supporting other artists. Between 1976 and 1981, he was the bassist for ‘Weather Report’. He also supported artists including Joni Mitchell and Pat Metheny. In 1988, he became one of only seven bassists to be inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. He was particularly well-known for playing in a jazz fusion style and for his dynamic stage presence. During his later years, Pastorius developed a dangerous and self-destructive habit of deliberately provoking fights in bars. One evening, he caused trouble with a club bouncer who was a black belt in karate. He suffered multiple facial fractures in addition to injuries to his left arm and right eye. He was in a coma for a few days before he suffered a fatal brain hemorrage. He died on September 21, 1987 at the age of 35.
6. John Paul Jones – Led Zeppelin
John Paul Baldwin was better-known by his stage name John Paul Jones. This English musician was born in Greater London on January 3, 1946. In addition to his work as a bassist, he was also a songwriter, producer, composer, and arranger. His career began in 1961 and he initially worked as a session musician. In 1968, he formed ‘Led Zeppelin with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Bonham. It is his role as the bassist for this rock band for which he is best-known. He is currently the bassist for a band called ‘Them Crooked Vultures’. This band also includes Josh Homme and David Grohl. He has often been ranked highly in lists of the world’s most underrated bassists. This talented musician can also play many other instruments. These include the cello, the recorder, the upright bass, the mandolin, the guitar, the organ, the banjo, the autoharp, the violin, the continuum, lap steel guitars, the ukulele, the sitar, and the koto. This means he has been in much demand throughout his career. John Paul Jones has been married to Maureen since 1967 and they have three daughters together; Tamara, Jacinda, and Kiera. The family currently live in West London.
5. Les Claypool- Primus
Les Claypool is a singer, songwriter, musician, composer, actor, and author who was born in Richmond, California, on September 29, 1963. He was born as Leslie Edward Cooper and is also known as Colonel Claypool. He is best-known as the bassist for ‘Primus’. However, he has also been a member of ‘Holy Mackerel’, Oysterhead’, and ‘The Frog Brigade’. Claypool is known for a bass style that includes slapping, whammy bar bends, electric bass mixes tapping, and flamenco-like strumming. The genres of music with which he is most associated are alternative metal, funk, metal, progressive rock, thrash metal, and experimental rock. He lives in California with his wife, Chaney and their two children, Cage Oliver and Lena Tallulah.
4. Geddy Lee – Rush
Born as Gary Lee Weinrib, Geddy Lee is a musician, singer, and songwriter. He was born in Ontario, Canada, on July 29, 1953. He is best-known as the lead vocalist, keyboardist, and bassist of ‘Rush’, a Canadian rock group. He joined ‘Rush’ right at the beginning of his career on the request of Alex Lifeson, his childhood friend. They needed to replace their original bassist, Jeff Jones. In addition to being a member of ‘Rush’, Geddy Lee has also enjoyed a solo career. His debut single was ‘My Favorite Headache’, which was released in 2000. Lee’s talents have long been recognized and this award-winning musician is known for his individual style and techniques. He is an inspiration for many current bass players. In 1996, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada along with his bandmates Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart. Lee has been married to Nancy Young since 1976. They have a daughter, Kyla, and a son, Julian.
3. Paul McCartney – The Beatles
Paul McCartney is widely considered one of the best-known musicians in the world as he was a member of the ‘Beatles’, which is one of the most successful bands of all-time. He is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer who was born in Liverpool, England, on June 18, 1942. His career in the music industry began in 1957 and he continues to perform to this day, despite now being in his mid-70s. He was a member of the ‘Beatles’ from the beginning of his career until they disbanded in 1970. He has since gone on to enjoy a successful solo career as well as playing bass and providing vocals for several other bands. He has won 18 Grammy Awards and has either written or co-written 32 singles that have reached the top spot in the Billboard Hot 100. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, once as a solo artist and once as a member of the ‘Beatles’. He has been married three times and has five children.
2. Flea – Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Michael Peter Balzary is better-known by his stage name ‘Flea’. He was born in Melbourne, Australia, on October 16, 1962. He is most famous for being the bassist for the rock band ‘Red Hot Chilli Peppers’. In addition to his role in this band, he has collaborated with many other artists during his career, including Johnny Cash, Alanis Morissette, The Mars Volta, Young MC, and Tom Waits. The genres of music with which he is typically associated are funk rock, alternative rock, funk metal, jazz, experimental rock, punk rock, hardcore punk, and jazz-funk. In addition to a career in the music industry, Flea has also enjoyed success as an actor. In fact, he has had roles in over 20 films. These have included ‘Son in Law’, ‘Back to the Future Part II’, ‘Back to the Future Part III’, ‘Suburbia’, and ‘The Chase’. An interesting fact about this musician is that he was with River Phoenix on the night that he died in 1993.
1. John Entwistle – The Who
John Entwistle was born in London on October 9, 1944. He is best-known as the bassist of ‘The Who’. He was a guitarist, singer, songwriter, and producer in the film and music industries and his career spanned five decades as he first became an entertainer in 1961. He had many nicknames, including The Ox, Thunderfingers, Big Johnny Twinkle, and The Quiet One. He is widely considered to be the best bass player to have ever lived and has been named as the main inspiration of many other famous bass players. In 1990, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sadly, the world prematurely lost one of its greatest musical talents when he died at the age of 57. He was found in room 658 of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and a coroner recorded a verdict of death caused by a heart attack that was brought on by an overdose of cocaine. He died on June 27, 2002.