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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James Gadson
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty32/100

32. James Gadson

Although he originally hailed from Kansas City, it's hard to imagine a more important drummer in the history of Los Angeles music than James Gadson. He first rose to prominence in the late 1960s as a core member of the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band (of "Express Yourself" fame) and then Bill Withers' band, all the while staying busying as one of the most prolific session players in town. His steady hand held down everything from the Jackson 5's' "Dancing Machine" to the Temptations' "Happy People" to Marvin Gaye's "I Want You." "I mean, he played on 'Let's Get It On.' ... Gadson is that sound," Jamie Lidell told Pitchfork. "Whenever I'm playing with him, some crazy lock goes on I've never experienced with another musician, ever. He'll just look over and he's smiling and nailing that fuckin' beat. And when he finished the track, he's like, 'I got it from you!' Fuckin' no ego on him."

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