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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Roger Hawkins
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty31/100

31. Roger Hawkins

Jerry Wexler, the producer who coined the very term "rhythm & blues," called Roger Hawkins "the greatest drummer in the world." Like all the Swampers, as he and his mates in the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section were affectionately known, Hawkins excelled at adapting his personal style to the needs of a session. Wilson Pickett slapped out the beat he wanted for "Land of 1000 Dances" on his leg and Hawkins took it from there; Paul Simon sought a particular lope for "Kodachrome" and the drummer captured it by tapping on a tape box. The intricate cymbal pattern Hawkins builds up to on Aretha's "Chain of Fools," the wry funk patterns he runs under the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There," the subtle drama he lays out on Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman" — it all makes it hard to argue with Wexler.

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