Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Rick Suchow: Bass

rolling stone's greatest: who played bass?...


Several years back, in celebration of their 40th anniversary, Rolling Stone compiled several memorable lists of the all-time greats in music. First came the 100 Greatest Artists issue, followed by the 500 Greatest Albums, and finally the 500 Greatest Songs-- a monumental task in scope for sure, and as is the case with any so-called "best of" list a few controversial picks were included, but for the most part the magazine gave an accurate nod to the artists and music whose work will no doubt stand the test of time.

Of the three lists, perhaps the subject most universal is the last, the greatest songs of all time. Great songs: they are forever etched in our collective memory, each triggering a different time and place in our past when we first heard them, and then waited with anticipation to hear them again. And again. These mini-anthems that ultimately became a permanent part of the soundtrack of our lives, forever associated with the artists that brought them to us. We all sing the songs, we all know the artists.

But what of the unsung bass players who played on these magnificent recordings and produced the frequencies that shook our car stereos and apartment walls? The laborers of low who kept us dancing in the street and rockin' in the free world, who anchored a bridge over troubled water and laid the foundation under the house of the rising sun? While many of these bassists are as familiar to us as the songs they played on-- Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Jack Bruce, John Entwistle, etc.-- what about the lesser known players? Sure, you can speed down the highway singing every verse of "Like A Rolling Stone" with mental images of a scruffy Bob Dylan singing his classic (Rolling Stone editors picked it as the number one greatest song of all-time), but when was the last time the name Joe Macho Jr. came up in conversation? Without Joe's important bass contribution, Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" certainly wouldn't have rolled and surely would have gathered moss. And what about all the low-profile bassists playing in high-profile bands? Can you name the bass player in R.E.M?

Here then, are a hundred of Rolling Stone's 500 greatest songs of all-time, and who played bass on these unforgettable recordings. Perhaps the next time you hear one of these songs you'll pay a bit more attention to the bottom end... and come back to this list to see who it was that moved your woofers.



RS #1 - "Like A Rolling Stone", Bob Dylan (Joe Macho Jr., bass)

RS #3 - "Imagine", John Lennon (Klaus Voorman, bass)

RS #4 - "What's Going On", Marvin Gaye (James Jamerson, bass)

RS #5 - "Respect", Aretha Franklin (Tommy Cogbill, bass)

RS #7 - "Johnny B. Goode", Chuck Berry (Willie Dixon, bass)

RS #9 - "Smells Like Teen Spirit", Nirvana (Krist Noroselic, bass)

RS #15 - "London Calling", The Clash (Paul Simonon, bass)

RS #17 - "Purple Haze", Jimi Hendrix (Noel Redding, bass)

RS #19 - "Hound Dog", Elvis Presley (Bill Black, bass)

RS # 21 - "Born To Run", Bruce Springsteen (Garry Tallent, bass)

RS # 27 - "Layla", Derek & The Dominoes (Carle Radle, bass)

RS #30 - "I Walk The Line", Johnny Cash (Marshall Grant, bass)

RS #33 - "River Deep, Mountain High", Ike & Tina Turner (Carol Kaye, bass)

RS #39 - "That'll Be The Day", Buddy Holly (Joe Mauldin, bass)

RS #40 - "Dancing In The Street", Martha Reeves & The Vandellas (James Jamerson, bass)

RS #45 - "Heartbreak Hotel", Elvis Presley (Bill Black, bass)

RS #46 - "Heroes", David Bowie (George Murray, bass)

RS #47 - "Bridge Over Troubled Water", Simon & Garfunkel (Joe Osborn, bass)

RS #49 - "Hotel California", Eagles (Randy Meisner, bass)

RS #52 - "When Doves Cry", Prince (Mark Brown, bass - unreleased mix only)

RS #55 - "Louie, Louie", The Kingsmen (Bob Nordby, bass)

RS #56 - "Long Tall Sally", Little Richard (Frank Fields, bass)

RS #57 - "Whiter Shade Of Pale", Procol Harum (David Knights, bass)

RS #58 - "Billie Jean", Michael Jackson (Louis Johnson, bass)

RS #60 - "Let's Stay Together", Al Green (Leroy Hodges, bass)

RS #62 - "Bo Diddley", Bo Diddley (Roosevelt Jackson, bass)

RS # 68 - "Tangled Up In Blue", Bob Dylan (Tony Brown, bass)

RS #71 - "California Girls", The Beach Boys (Carol Kaye, bass)

RS #73 - "Summertime Blues", Eddie Cochran (Connie "Guybo" Smith, bass)

RS #78 - "I Got You (I Feel Good)", James Brown (Bernard Odum, bass)

RS #82 - "You Really Got Me", The Kinks (Pete Quaife, bass)

RS #88 - "My Girl", The Temptations (James Jamerson, bass)

RS # 89 - "California Dreamin'", The Mamas & The Papas (Joe Osborn, bass)

RS # 91 - "Suspicious Minds", Elvis Presley (Mike Leech, bass)

RS #103 - "Hot Stuff", Donna Summer (Scott Edwards, bass)

RS #105 - "The Boxer", Simon & Garfunkel (Joe Osborn, bass)

RS #109 - "Brown Eyed Girl", Van Morrison (Russ Savakus, bass)

RS #120 - "I Want You Back", Jackson 5 (Wilton Felder, bass)

RS #121 - "Stand By Me", Ben E. King (Lloyd Trotman, bass)

RS #122 - "House Of The Rising Sun", The Animals (Bryan "Chas" Chandler, bass)

RS #127 - "Changes", David Bowie (Trevor Bolder, bass)

RS #128 - "Rock & Roll Music", Chuck Berry (Willie Dixon, bass)

RS #129 - "Born To Be Wild", Steppenwolf (Rushton Moreve, bass)

RS #130 - "Maggie May", Rod Stewart (Ron Wood, bass)

RS #134 - "In The Midnight Hour", Wilson Pickett (Duck Dunn, bass)

RS #136 - "Your Song", Elton John (Dave Richmond, bass)

RS #148 - "Me And Bobby McGee", Janis Joplin (Brad Campbell, bass)

RS #150 - "Eight Miles High", The Byrds (Chris Hillman, bass)

RS #155 - "Proud Mary", Creedence Clearwater Revival (Stu Cook, bass)

RS #156 - "The Sound Of Silence", Simon & Garfunkel (Bob Bushnell, bass)

RS #167 - "Let's Get It On", Marvin Gaye (Wilton Felder, bass)

RS #169 - "Losing My Religion", R.E.M (Mike Mills, bass)

RS #171 - "Dancing Queen", Abba (Rutger Gunnarsson, bass)

RS #172 - "Dream On", Aerosmith (Tom Hamilton, bass)

RS #187 - "Back In Black", AC/DC (Cliff Williams, bass)

RS #191 - "Freebird", Lynyrd Skynyrd (Ed King, bass)

RS #192 - "Wichita Lineman", Glen Campbell (Carol Kaye, bass)

RS #194 - "Peggy Sue", Buddy Holly (Joe Mauldin, bass)

RS #203 - "Positively 4th Street", Bob Dylan (Harvey Brooks, bass)

RS #204 - "Try A Little Tenderness", Otis Redding (Duck Dunn, bass)

RS #205 - "Lean On Me", Bill Withers (Melvin Dunlap, bass)

RS #208 - "Gloria", Van Morrison & Them (Alan Henderson, bass)

RS #212 - "1999", Prince (Mark Brown, bass)

RS #221 - "Walk On The Wild Side", Lou Reed (Herbie Flowers, bass)

RS #226 - "Moondance", Van Morrison (John Klingsburg, bass)

RS #242 - "Rocket Man", Elton John (Dee Murray, bass)

RS #253 - "All the Young Dudes", Mott The Hoople (Pete Watts, bass)

RS #280 - "Ain't No Sunshine", Bill Withers (Duck Dunn, bass)

RS #281 - "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life", Stevie Wonder (Scott Edwards, bass)

RS #282 - "Help Me", Joni Mitchell (Max Bennett, bass)

RS #283 - "Call Me", Blondie (Nigel Harrison, bass)

RS #301 - "Do YaThink I'm Sexy", Rod Stewart (Phil Chen, bass)

RS #318 - "Allison", Elvis Costello (John Ciambotti, bass)

RS #333 - "Spirit In The Sky", Norman Greenbaum (Doug Kilmer, bass)

RS #337 - "Beat It", Michael Jackson (Steve Lukather, bass)

RS # 344 - "Piece Of My Heart", Janis Joplin & Big Brother (Peter Albin, bass)

RS #353 - "Tears In Heaven", Eric Clapton (Nathan East, bass)

RS #354 - "Watching The Detectives", Elvis Costello (Andrew Bodnar, bass)

RS #364 - "Highway 61 Revisited", Bob Dylan (Harvey Brooks, bass)

RS #385 - "Ohio", Crosby Stills Nash & Young (Calvin Samuels, bass)

RS #391 - "Band Of Gold", Freda Payne (Bob Babbitt, bass)

RS #405 - "We've Only Just Begun", The Carpenters (Joe Osborn, bass)

RS #418 - "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", Crosby Stills Nash & Young (Stephen Stills, bass)

RS #422 - "Lola", The Kinks (John Dalton, bass) RS #426 - "Smoke On The Water", Deep Purple (Roger Glover, bass)

RS #432 - "Midnight Train To Georgia", Gladys Knight (Bob Babbitt, bass)

RS #434 - "Mustang Sally", Wilson Pickett (David Hood, bass)

RS #439 - "Pink Houses", John Cougar Mellencamp (Willie Weeks, bass)

RS #448 - "Heroin", The Velvet Underground (John Cale, bass)

RS #469 - "It's Too Late", Carole King (Charles Larkey, bass)

RS #470 - "Free Man In Paris", Joni Mitchell (Wilton Felder, bass)

RS #476 - "I Want to Know What Love Is", Foreigner (Rick Wills, bass)

RS #479 - "Lady Marmalade", LaBelle (George Porter, Jr., bass)

RS #480 - "Into The Mystic", Van Morrison (John Klingburg, bass)

RS #481 - "Young Americans", David Bowie (Willie Weeks, bass)

RS #482 - "I'm Eighteen", Alice Cooper (Dennis Dunaway, bass)

RS # 484 - "I Love Rock 'N Roll", Joan Jett (Gary Ryan, bass)

RS #492 - "Running On Empty", Jackson Browne (Leland Sklar, bass)

RS #494 - "Desperado", Eagles (Randy Meisner, bass)

RS #499 - "The Boys Are Back In Town", Thin Lizzy (Phil Lynott, bass)

RS #500 - "More Than A Feeling", Boston (Tom Scholz, bass)

back to top