10 Good Bass Musicians

They are the unsung heroes of music, but these 10 good bass musicians deserve the spotlight. Lead guitarists are envied, singers adored, and drummers fawned over. Bass players, on the other hand, are largely anonymous. Yet they form the missing link between the rhythm of the drums and melody of the guitars.

  1. Larry Graham – As a member of both Sly and the Family Stone and Graham Central Station, Larry Graham is one of the two godfathers of funk bass playing. One of 10 good bass musicians, Graham had an inimitable sense of both melody and rhythm. He anchored songs with danceable slaps and pops while crafting lines that drove music rather than stood in the background.
  2. Bootsy Collins – Bootsy is the other, more well known godfather of funk bass playing. As a four-string slinger for both James Brown and Parliament/Funkadelic, Collins’ influence on popular music and, more importantly, bass playing is incalculable. He is cited as a primary influence by countless greats and made the instrument warble in ways that still sound alien decades on from his initial innovations. 
  3. Paul McCartney – Paul McCartney is the godfather of rock, pop and punk bass playing and one of the 10 best musicians to pick up the instrument. A consummate composer, McCartney engineered wildly melodic bass lines that complimented vocal harmonies while relegating guitars to rhythm instruments while never threatening to capsize a song.
  4. John Entwhistle – The Who were blessed with one of the great rhythm sections in hard rock. Drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwhistle where never playing the same thing. In fact, one most of the band’s songs, it sound like they’re soloing at the same time. Somehow it works, and Entwhistle’s fleet fingers are a phenomenal thing to behold.
  5. Flea – The Chili Peppers emerged in the 80’s with a left field blend of art punk like Blondie and Talking Heads and the powerful, bludgeoning party funk of Parliament and Funkadelic. All of this was both drive and anchored by the innovative, melodic and rock solid bass playing of Flea, one of 10 good bass musicians.
  6. Chris Wolstenholme – Muse bassman Chris Wolstenholme has a difficult job. He’s charged with keeping the power trio’s rhytm section tight while laying a melodic and driving foundation underneath guitarist Matt Bellamy’s riffs that range from colossal to minimalist. In the band’s later material, he also brings danceable electro and funk influences into play. He’s a deft musician and one of 10 good bass players.
  7. Lemmy – Lemmy: a motherf*cker so bad he doesn’t even need a last name. When he graduated from the proto-metal weirdness of Hawkwind to the all out assault of Motorhead, Lemmy turned the bass from an instrument of song to an instrument of war. His monolithic blitzkrieg approach to playing created an entire subgenre of bands now populated by powerhouses like High on Fire.
  8. Matt Freeman – Bass player Matt Freeman is one of the most distinctive elements of punk revivalists Rancid’s sound. Freeman plays with the dexterity of Entlwhistle, the complex melody of McCartney, and the full-steam-ahead charge of Lemmy. Watching Freeman play his frenzied bass lines for nearly two hours at a Rancid show, you have to wonder whether his right arm is a steel cable.
  9. John Paul Jones – John Paul Jones was more than a bass player; he added background vocals, mandolins, and keyboards to the band’s sound. In addition to his prodigious multi instrumentation, John Paul Jones was charged with keeping up with drum monster John Bonham, a task he performed well.
  10. P-Nut – P-Nut slaps the four string for Omaha funk-metal-reggae-punk-jam mongers 311. What makes Nut one of 10 good bass players is his diversity. On the course of a single album (“Evolver”) be plays punk riffs, heavy slapping, acoustic finger-picked melodies, and downtuned metal.



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