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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72. James "Diamond" Williams

Jazz-trained and ambidextrous, James Williams was sitting in with Dayton bar bands in his early teens. By the time he joined the Ohio Players in 1974, the group already been kicking around for a decade and a half, but their streak of dance hits for Mercury Records was just beginning. Williams' unfussy but intermittently explosive drumming would motor these tracks along – his steady funk bottom could burst unexpectedly into rambunctious fills, even on ballads like "I Want to Be Free." Though he cooked up his share of tricky rhythms, by the time a given song's chorus came around, Williams would land on the snare with a dance-commanding rhythm that was rarely subtle or negotiable.

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