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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Benny Benjamin
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11. Benny Benjamin

For years, Berry Gordy refused to record unless the hard-swinging Benny Benjamin was in the studio. "He had a distinctive knack for executing various rhythms all at the same time," the Motown founder has said of his label's key session drummer. "He had a pulse, a steadiness, that kept the tempo better than a metronome." Benjamin held down tons of Motown hits, from Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" to "The Temptations' "My Girl," alongside session mates who he dubbed the Funk Brothers and called him "Papa Zita."  Addiction frequently kept him out of the studio before he died of a stroke in 1969, but Benjamin mentored the young Stevie Wonder, who credits his own drumming style to the older musician. "I learned from just listening to him," Wonder said in 1973. "Man, he was one of the major forces in the Motown sound. Benny could've very well been the baddest."  

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