For years, we rock ’n’ roll fans have had to put up with endless proclamations that the music we love is on the outs. Sure, the charts make it clear that dance and pop music commands the masses’ attention these days. But we can still take the title of the Who’s classic track “Long Live Rock” to heart, even if the refrain “be it dead or alive” stings a bit more than it did back in the day.
Consider the fact that, as they close the first quarter-century of their existence, the Foo Fighters are as big and beloved as ever. Perhaps more than any other band on the planet, Dave Grohl’s post-Nirvana vehicle represents the very heights of grandeur that rock can still attain. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that it was DG’s old bandmate Kurt Cobain who, thirty years ago, reaffirmed that smart, passionate, and heavy music could remain hugely successful despite the ascendance of hip-hop and other competing styles—as long as the right personality was steering the ship.
“Personality” might be a tough quality to define, but it’s an easy one to recognize, and Grohl and his bandmate Taylor Hawkins, each of whom tops categories in this year’s Readers Poll, have it in spades. Anyone who’s been lucky enough to find themselves in close proximity to Dave or Taylor as they’ve brought their full technique, creativity, and emotion to bear on the instrument understands this.
My feeling is that the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll drummers carry a level of intensity within them almost on a cellular level—like an actual super-power or something. Of course, it’s all that other stuff—the years of dedicated solitary practice sessions, the weeks and weeks of focused band rehearsals, the lifetime of rock-history obsession—that usually determines success or failure on the world stage. A big personality will only get you so far, no matter what style of music you play. Though, it must be said that in all genres of music today it can be tough to separate the wheat from the chaff, what with all the stage and studio production tricks that can be used to mask mediocre skills.
Fortunately, those of you who vote in the MD Readers Poll aren’t so easily fooled. This year, once again, you’ve put your knowledge, taste, and excitement to good use and given the ultimate props to the drummers who spark your imaginations, spike your emotions, and influence your drum workouts. And, as usual, you’ve not only acknowledged the rock players; you’ve chosen your favorite jazz and country drummers, supported pop and world players, selected the clinicians who’ve expanded your thinking, and more.
And I can assure you of this: each and every one of these individuals massively appreciates the gesture. It’s the kind of thing that can keep musicians striving to be the best they can be, particularly in times when their projects, or even the very genres they play in, are struggling to capture ears in an almost impossibly crowded musical world. Invariably they’ll tell you that their biggest hope is that you use their accomplishments to fuel your own dreams.
So long live rock, long live drumming—in all its guises—and long live your musical aspirations, whatever they may be.