100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

From rock thunder machines to punk powerhouses, we count down the kings and queens of slam

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Carlton Barrett
100
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29. Carlton Barrett

Nothing sounds more certifiably reggae than Carlton "Carlie" Barrett's tumbling tom-toms followed by the high, whip-cracking snare that launched a thousand tracks. Arguably the single most influential musician in reggae history, Barrett popularized the music's signature "one drop" rhythm in the Wailers and Bob Marley's solo band. The "Field Marshal" and his bassist brother Aston "Family Man" Barrett decelerated rocksteady's rhythm into the locked-in slow grooves that came to define classic roots reggae. His dry drum sound — heard in tracks like "Duppy Conqueror, "Soul Rebel" and "Small Axe" — and triplet-feel hi-hat served as a tractor beam for skanking fans until his 1987 murder at age 36. "Because drums are from the slavery days and from Africa, it comes from a lot of history," he told Modern Drummer. "[T]he good reggae drummers make playing a spiritual experience."

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