Rock music took off in the 60s, and it was a time when many musicians were trying to find their own sound. This list features some of the best bass players that have ever played rock music.
Every bassist here impacted how we listen to today’s popular music. Many of them were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
You may recognize many of these bassists and how they helped rock music evolve to what it is today. Check out our list to see who made the cut and find out how they made their bands so popular!
1. Geddy Lee
Geddy Lee joined the band that would become Rush, which he has been in for 40 years now. His style, technique, and skill on the bass have made him a legend in the world of rock.
His tone has become staples for many aspiring bass players, and his stage presence is as legendary as his ability to play the bass guitar. Lee is an inducted member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he ranked #8 in the Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest bass players list.
2. Paul McCartney
What can you say about one of the founding members of the most popular band in music history? A brilliant musician, songwriter, and pioneer, Paul McCartney is the most successful bass player of all time.
He wrote many of the Beatles’ most memorable songs and is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member. Since the Beatles ‘ breakup, he has been in many bands, including Wings, one of the biggest bands in music history.
3. Gene Simmons
It may surprise some that we could consider the bass player for KISS one of the best bass players. But Gene Simmons has been profoundly influential in the world of rock music. He is also a vocalist, songwriter, and producer with an impressive voice, which is usually overlooked, considering he’s part of arguably one of the most visually dynamic bands ever.
4. John Entwistle
John Entwistle was an English musician, singer, and songwriter known as a member of The Who. Despite his brief stint with the band (1962-1976), John Entwistle became one of the most important members of The Who. He was an accomplished songwriter, singer, and bass player whose untimely passing still saddens many people to this day.
5. John Illsley
John Illsley has had a lengthy and famous career as a bass player with the band Dire Straits. He founded the band with lead singer siblings Mark and David Knopfler and drummer Pick Withers.
The band lasted for over 20 years until their breakup in 1996 after keyboardist Guy Fletcher left. All four members of Dire Straits were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, which was a fantastic honor for them and their devoted fans.
6. Jack Bruce
Jack Bruce was one of the founding members of the legendary rock band Cream, merging blues and jazz music with that of rock. His bass lines have given many aspiring bass players some awesome templates to work with. He is likewise an influential singer-songwriter who set up an establishment for cancer research in 1990.
7. Roger Glover
Roger Glover is one of the founding members of the iconic British rock band Deep Purple. Roger Glover was an influential bassist in many respects. He pioneered the use of overdrive on his bass and delivered a distorted sound to the stage.
His stage presence is legendary, and his skill on the bass guitar has inspired many. He also had a successful solo career that launched the careers of some amazing musicians.
8. Steve Harris
Steve Harris was an English musician who founded the heavy metal band Iron Maiden. An excellent bassist who played with precision, he co-founded one of the biggest independent record labels in the UK. Harris had an enormous influence on the heavy metal genre and many contemporary bands.
9. Peter Hook
English-born musician, Peter Hook, can be credited for his iconic talent and tone on the bass guitar and is one of the first bass players to use MIDI systems. He is one of the founding members of the renowned band Joy Division and a member of the rock band New Order. An inductee of the UK Music Hall of Fame, Hook has received many awards throughout his career.
10. Robert Trujillo
Robert Trujillo is a Mexican-American musician who has been the bass player for American heavy metal band Metallica since 2003 and Suicidal Tendencies. He has also performed with Ozzy Osbourne, Infectious Grooves, and Colosseum II. Robert has a precise, solid, and, at times, funky playing style, which makes him one of the most sought-after bass players in rock music today.
11. Jeordie White
He is one of the founding members of the American rock band, Marilyn Manson. He has also been in a band called A Perfect Circle with Tool’s guitarist James Iha and drummer Josh Freese, which was very influential in their genre of music. Jeordie White has been an iconic figure in the underground rock scene for quite some time now.
12. Colin Greenwood
Colin Greenwood is an English musician and bassist with the band Radiohead. His melodic approach to the bass has played a big part in giving Radiohead their unique sound.
Colin also plays keyboards and synthesizers for the group, although his role as a bass player is most visible. He was also a member of the short-lived project with Jonny Greenwood called The Noises.
13. Pino Palladino
This British-born musician is best known as an upright bass player for music legend Tony Allen. He also plays double bass, guitar, and piano.
Pino Palladino has worked with many world-class artists, including D’Angelo, Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, Alicia Keys, and others. Many regard his playing as one of the best in modern times.
14. Chris Squire
One of the founding members of the progressive rock band Yes. Chris Squire had a tremendous influence on other bass players, thanks to his distinctive form. He ranked #50 in Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest bass players list and played bass for another legendary rock band called the Syn with Steve How of Yes.
15. John Deacon
Deacon joined Queen in early 1971 and played his first show with the band the following June. Songwriting was just as important to him as his musical skills. As a result, he wrote songs for the band throughout the early 1980s.
By the mid-1980s, Deacon performed with other bands such as Man Friday & Jive Junior, The Immortals, Elton John, and Hot Chocolate’s Errol Brown. Critics have praised him for his bass playing on songs such as “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Under Pressure,” and “Radio Ga Ga.” In addition, his playing method is described as smooth and funky.
16. Gail Ann Dorsey
Gail Ann Dorsey is an American singer, songwriter, and bass player. She was part of the critically acclaimed music group David Bowie from 1993-1999.
She also plays for The Dap Kings’ soul band, which had a number one album called “Daptone Gold” in the US. Gail is also an accomplished session musician and has collaborated with various artists, including bands like The Rolling Stones, U2, and TLC.
17. Chuck Dukowski
This American musician was one of the four original members of Black Flag. His method and tone on the bass guitar make him stand out among many. Chuck was also one of the founding members of the post-hardcore band Minutemen, who had an enormous influence on punk rock, classic rock, and heavy metal genres.
18. Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck is an English musician and one of the best-known and most influential guitarists in rock music. His playing technique has drawn inspiration from blues, jazz, and especially rock ‘n’ roll musicians, such as John Mayer.
19. John Moyer
John Moyer is an American musician and bass player for the Grammy-winning band Disturbed. He also plays the keyboard and sings backup vocals.
John had a significant influence on Disturbed’s sound because of his unique way of playing. As a result, he plays an integral role in shaping the band’s overall tone.
20. Simon Gallup
A singer and a bassist, Simon Gallup was one of the founding members of The Cure. He has worked with various music artists, including Siouxsie and the Banshees, X-Mal Deutschland, Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias, and two different lineups of Jimmy Cauty’s version of The KLF.
21. Ben Kenney
Ben Kenney is the original bassist and founding member of Incubus. His unique sound influences the band’s music and defines its overall character. Ben has also worked with many other artists, including Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready.
22. John Paul Jones
English musician John Baldwin was the bassist for Led Zeppelin. His form is simple but powerful, and he has was ranked #42 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 greatest bass players list. He is also a very versatile bassist, playing guitar on many Zep tracks and keyboards.
23. Michael Lepond
This American musician is best known as the bassist for the progressive metal band Symphony X. Michael Lepond has also worked with legends like Dweezil Zappa, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Heart. However, his bass playing is more rooted in metal than most others on this list.
24. Bill Wyman
Alongside Charlie Watts, this English musician found fame as a member of The Rolling Stones. He was their first bassist and left the band in 1993 after playing for them on and off for 46 years. The Rolling Stones were named the best-selling rock band of all time, and Bill Wyman has made his mark on music history by developing a distinct style that can be heard in many songs he worked on with the band.
25. D’arcy Wretzky
D’arcy Wretzky is an American musician and songwriter. She was the bassist for The Smashing Pumpkins from 1991 to 2000.
D’arcy has a distinct style that can be heard on many of the band’s most famous hits. After leaving the band, she worked as a solo artist, with mixed success.
26. Dave Sitek
An American musician, Dave Sitek is best known as a guitarist, producer, and musical director for TV On The Radio. Critics described his talent as imaginative and original, with a fusion of different styles. Sitek is also a member of the indie rock bands Drums & Drones, Psycho Sisters, and Celebration.
27. Michael “Flea Balzary
This American musician was one of the founding members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Since he was ten years old, he played bass with an energetic and slap-happy technique. He is also the only band member who does not sing, leaving Anthony Kiedis to take on most of the vocal duties.
28. Jaco Pastorius
This American musician was one of the most influential bass players ever to play jazz fusion. In addition, many remember his creative ability to improvise while singing melodic lines through his instrument. He died in 1987 at the age of 35 after having been beaten outside a bar.
29. Tony Levin
English musician Tony Levin is best known as a member of the progressive rock band King Crimson and a session player for various other bands and projects. He accomplishes melodic and fluid bass playing, using both fingers and a plectrum.
30. Mike Mills
Mike Mills is an American multi-instrumentalist, best known as the bassist and occasional guitarist of REM. He has also performed with many other artists, including Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Patti Smith, Wilco, and Yo La Tengo.
31. Jeff Ament
Jeff Ament is an American musician best known as a founding member of Pearl Jam. He also played bass for Mother Love Bone and Brad and Neil Young in The Stray Gators’ backing band. Ament played his bass using a pick in the early days of Pearl Jam but has since switched to fingers.
32. Tommy Stinson
American musician Tommy Stinson is best known as the bassist for The Replacements and has also played with Guns N’ Roses, Venus & Mars, and Bash & Pop. Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen influenced him to play more than one instrument, including guitar rather than bass.
33. Cliff Burton
Cliff Burton was best remembered as the original bassist for Metallica before his death in 1986. He worked with the band from 1982 to 1986 and performed on two of their most successful albums, Kill ‘Em All and Ride The Lightning. His style helped to create what many have called thrash metal.
34. Dusty Hill
Dusty Hill is the bassist for the well-known American rock group ZZ Top, playing together since 1969. He was a member of one of their early bands called American Blues before joining up with Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard to start what would eventually become ZZ Top.
35. Jeroen van Veen
Jeroen van Veen is a Dutch bass player who works with the band Within Temptation and played with Zeloot and Mayan. He plays his bass mainly using fingers, although he learned to play on an electric guitar before switching to an upright acoustic.
36. Duff McKagan
Duff McKagan is an American musician who has performed as the bassist for many different bands, notably Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver. He had been playing with GNR since 1985 but left in 1997. He rejoined the band later on when they reunited, but left again after the 2008 tour.
37. Adam Clayton
This Irish musician is the bassist of the rock group U2. Since he was 14 years old, he played music, and his form has been described as melodic and lyrical. Listeners may recognize his playing on many of U2’s songs, including “I Will Follow,” “Gloria,” “With Or Without You,” and “Bullet the Blue Sky.”
38. Rob “Blasko” Nicholson
Rob Nicholson is an American musician who has played in many bands, including Fear Factory and Ozzy Osbourne. He was the bass player for Ozzy’s band from 2001 until 2004 and from 2005 until 2007. He is best known for his extraordinary versatility and creativity, making him an ideal fit for Ozzy.
39. Dennis Dunaway
Dennis Dunaway is an American musician who has played with Alice Cooper since the beginning. He was born in Columbus, Ohio, and worked as a music teacher before meeting up with Vincent Furnier to start one of the most famous shock rock bands ever.
40. Colin Hodgkinson
This English musician is a bass player who plays for several musical projects, including Uncle Lord Fauntleroy, Magoo, and The Sisters of Mercy. He has been playing bass since the 1970s and was a member of the band Econoline Crush from 1993 to 2005. His style is often described as melodic, emotional, and groovy.
41. Joan Jett
Joan Jett is an American musician who has helped to create the sound of rock and roll. She was born in 1958 and began playing guitar at the age of 13.
In 1981, she formed The Runaways with Sandy West and Cherie Currie. The band became very popular until they broke up after three years. She is known for her unconventional style and volume.
42. Cris Kirkwood
Cris Kirkwood is the guitarist and vocalist for Meat Puppets, a band he formed with his brother in 1980. The band recorded several albums together before Cris left in 1994 to focus more on his family life. He rejoined the band in 1996 and has been playing with them ever since.
43. Dee Dee Ramone
This American musician was a member of the punk rock band The Ramones for 15 years. He is considered one of the most influential bass players in punk rock music because he helped create a solid low-end foundation for their songs, such as “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Judy Is A Punk,” and “I Wanna Be Sedated.”
44. Mike Watt
This American musician is a bass player and songwriter who has played for Minutemen, Firehose, Dos, Banyan, and The Stooges. He started as a drummer before moving onto guitar and then to bass guitar, where he often plays with only one finger. His approach can be described as funky and fluid.
45. Victor Wooten
This American bassist and vocalist is part of the musical group Béla Fleck and The Flecktones. He has been called a virtuoso of all things bass, and his technique can be described as technical, melodic, groovy, soulful, and funky.
46. Mark Hoppus
This American musician is the bassist and vocalist of the band Blink-182. Since he was a child, he has been playing music in a pleasant and squeaky clean way. Mark Hoppus was the leading composer for his band’s biggest hits, such as “All the Small Things,” “Dammit,” and “What’s My Age Again?”
47. Tom Hamilton
This American musician is a guitarist and bassist who plays for the band Aerosmith. Since he was nine years old, he played music with a bold, melodic, and fluid technique. Tom Hamilton is the leading composer for hits like “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “Crazy,” and “What It Takes.”
48. Ashley Hutchings
This English musician is a founding member of the folk rock band Fairport Convention. He has played in several bands and played music since 1955, when he joined his first group, The Ramrods. His form can be described as melodic and fluid.
49. Matt Freeman
This American musician is a bassist who plays for several punk rock bands, including Operation Ivy, Rancid, and The Transplants. Bassist John Entwistle inspired him at an early age.
Freeman has been playing music since 1977, with a melodic technique that often utilizes scales and arpeggios. His method is considered atypical in the punk rock world.