100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

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

Jim Keltner
100
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38. Jim Keltner

Jim Keltner is one of the most revered session drummers ever, grounding thousands of records including John Lennon's Imagine, Ringo Starr's "Photograph," much of George Harrison's solo output, both Traveling Wilburys LPs, Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever, Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and Steely Dan's "Josie"; not to mention work with Harry Nilsson, the Bee Gees, Pink Floyd, Randy Newman, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, the Pretenders, Fiona Apple and Oasis. Born in Oklahoma, he grew up in Pasadena, California and started doing session work in the Sixties, launching a career that's touched pretty much every pop and rock idiom. Keltner is known for his solid backing, easygoing feel, jazz-schooled subtlety and versatility. "He reacts to everything that's going on in the music," said Leon Russell, who has worked with Keltner frequently over the decades. A hallmark of Keltner's style is unshowy casualness. "I've had a lot of people over the years that have said to me, 'You don't look like you're playing when you're playing," he once said, adding, "There's so many different ways to play the drums, just like guitar."

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