The 10 Greatest Rock Bassists in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Geddy Lee Edition

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Photo by Jeff Balke
I could sit here and write paragraphs about my appreciation of Geddy Lee. He was the first true influence I had as a bass player when I was in high school. For years after, I admired not just his talent as a musician, but his ability to improve and grow. He is also underrated for how great a "rock" musician he is, since he is often lumped in with more artsy prog-rock acts of the '70s.

Now that Rush is finally being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame today, it seems only fitting to count down the best rock bass players in the Hall now that he is entering. It most definitely shifts the order around, but is he the king of the Hall?

(Please note that, with all due respect to the brilliance of players like James Jamerson, "Duck" Dunn and Larry Graham, I'm sticking with rock music for my list)

10. Michael Anthony (Van Halen)
Anthony is one of the more underrated bass players in rock music history as was his rhythm-section partner, Alex Van Halen. But some of the more intricate and interesting rhythms in hard rock music were born in Van Halen. Unlike so many rock guitarists of his time who preferred simplistic beds of music for solos, Eddie Van Halen wanted syncopated, quirky rhythms under his and Anthony laid them down.

9. Cliff Burton (Metallica)
So often prior to Burton, metal bass was simple and plodding. Prior to his horrific and untimely death, Burton was changing the way people thought about the low end for really heavy bands. His combination of distortion and melodic lines made him a pioneer for the instrument in a genre where bass was only supposed to play a supporting role.

8. Sting (The Police)
Sting has been much-maligned for his elitist musical bent, particularly after the Police disbanded. He even left the bass behind for many years, choosing instead to hand those duties over to brilliant jazz musicians like Darryl Jones. But in his prime, Sting was not only a master of the four strings, he was able to do it while singing rhythms as complicated as his bass lines.

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The Ox is obligatory... but for arguments sake how about a little shuffling and suggestions?

JPJ should probably rank #2 or a tie for #1 if one takes into account his writing the riffs for Good Times Bad Times and Black Dog. Using his instrument in songwriting is no small feat.

Flea, meh. How about Holger Czukay or Bootsy Collins? But then Can and Funkadelic are not necessarily pigeon-holed into the 'rock' category.

Ric Laird from Mahavishnu Orchestra certainly deserves a mention for his three plus minutes of thundering on 'One Word' from the Birds of Fire LP.

Dave Holland from Miles Davis electric era was more groovy than Geddy or Cliff ever was. Check him out at Miles' 'Call it Anything' performance at the 1970 Isle of Wight fest.

Peter Hook needs to be on here for redefining the use of his instrument as well. Certainly a better pick from the post-punk era than Sting, no?

MadMac topcommenter

I agree with all but one on this list; Sir Paul. He's adequate but Steve Harris is a monster with a herculean task in bridging teutonic rhythm, race-car guitars, and Bruce Dickenson's insanity. Oh, btw, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, for not sullying Entwhistle's name on this list with a mentioning of Les.    

MadMac topcommenter

All good suggestions, paultvani but the man said he was focusing, exclusively on rock. Otherwise, we could get into Wayman Tisdale, (RIP) Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Jaco Pastorious, (RIP) and Stanley Clarke. BWT, Geddy writes, plays keyboards, works Moog pedals, while playing open. I good with him in the silver spot.

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