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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Bill Ward
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42. Bill Ward

Given his status as the drummer in the band that undisputedly invented heavy metal, it's surprising to reflect on what a nimble player Bill Ward has always been. Schooled on jazz greats such as Joe Morello and Gene Krupa, the Black Sabbath co-founder brought a sense of stylish elasticity to the ominous trudge that defined the band's early work ("Black Sabbath," "Iron Man"). Instead of mimicking guitarist Tony Iommi's iconic riffs, he would dance around them — see the bebop-informed shimmy he busts out midway through "Electric Funeral" or his stuttering tom-tom breaks in "Rat Salad." And when he wanted to be – as on the swaggering verse groove in "Hand of Doom" — Ward was as funky as any R&B drummer. "Bill Ward could be sampled for days on hip-hop records," noted Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk, a Ward admirer who reluctantly deputized for him on the band's 2013 comeback disc, 13. Later Sabbath drummers, such as the more bombastic Vinny Appice and the flashier Cozy Powell, brought an arena-ready professionalism to the gig but could never reproduce Ward's earthy ballet behind the kit, one of many reasons why his ongoing squabbles with Sabbath's other original members have been such a disappointment.

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