Friday Top: 30 Greatest Bassists of All Time

As voted by UG community.

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Ultimate Guitar
Friday Top: 30 Greatest Bassists of All Time
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This week's traditional Wednesday Question saw the people of UG community discussing the matter of the greatest bass guitarists of all time. Based on votes and more than 450 comments, we summed this one up into a Top 30 rundown.

And before kicking things off, the honorable mentions are:

  • Lemmy (Motörhead)
  • Sam Rivers (Limp Bizkit)
  • Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Testament, etc)
  • Krist Novoselic (Nirvana)
  • Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, Melvins, Tomahawk, Secret Chiefs 3, etc)

The full rundown awaits below.

30. Larry Graham (Sly and the Family Stone, Graham Central Station)

Larry Graham is known for working with Sly and the Family Stone, as well as his own band Graham Central Station and he also played with the legendary Prince. Oh, and he is considered as the inventor of slapping.



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29. Doug Wimbish (Living Colour)

Doug Wimbish is a groovy bass guitarist of Living Colour, also known for working with Tackhead and his own solo band. He's been with Living Colour from 1992 to 1995 and from 2000 to now.



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28. Nick Schendzielos (Cephalic Carnage, Job for a Cowboy, Havok, etc)

Schendzielos played with various death and thrash metal bands, like Job for a Cowboy and Cephalic Carnage. Man, just look at that right-hand shredding...



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27. Carol Kaye

Not many musicians can say that they played on around 10,000 different recordings. Well one of them is Carol Kaye, and she still rocks to this day even though she is more than 80 years old. Rock 'n' roll legend.



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26. James Jamerson

James Jamerson is a guy who recorded most of the bass on Motown Records hits during the 60s and early 70s. He performed on 30 Billboard No. 1 hits, but being a session musician he was not credited on most of the songs.



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25. Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse)

Besides being a bassist of Cannibal Corpse, Alex Webster is also known for working with Blotted Science and Conquering Dystopia. And this is how a death metal bassist should sound like.



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24. Robert Trujillo (Suicidal Tendencies, Infectious Grooves, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica)

Not anyone can be a rhythm section of such renowned names in metal, like Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne. Trujillo is also known for working with Suicidal Tendencies and has played bass in Jerry Cantrell's band.



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23. Stanley Clarke

One of the Return to Forever founding members, Stanley Clarke is a jazz fusion musician who also uses bass as a solo instrument. And he does it quite well.



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22. Marcus Miller

The groove, the slaps, the solos, songwriting... This guy just does it all. Besides his solo career, Miller has also worked with legends like Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock and has been a part of bass supergroup SMV with Stanley Clarke Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller.



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21. Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Liquid Tension Experiment, etc)

Levin has worked with various different musicians and bands, going through different genres, from jazz, pop, prog rock, and even metal. And all that while playing on Chapman stick. How cool is that?



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20. Bootsy Collins (Parliament-Funkadelic, James Brown)

Funky. Really funky. After all, Collins played with the legendary James Brown.



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19. Jack Bruce (Cream)

User TN444 explains:

He played baselines that were still baselines, if you know what I mean. They were the solid foundation of the song, yet so interesting to listen to.


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18. Colin Greenwood (Radiohead)

Our own N-D, who nominated Greenwood, said:

Because Colin is quiet enough he's often underlooked in Radiohead, but he's a truly amazing bass player!


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17. Paul McCartney (The Beatles)

Besides being one of The Beatles, Sir James Paul McCartney is an amazing bassist with tasteful playing, just like rock 'n' roll should be.



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16. Ryan Martinie (Mudvayne)

User smutherd commented:

His bass playing is what I miss the most from mudvayne.

We all miss that. Martinie is definitely someone who made Mudwayne sound so full and rich.



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15. John Myung (Dream Theater)

What else can be said about the guy who just keeps quiet and plays bass in Dream Theater? The true master of his instrument.



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14. Tim Commerford (Rage Against the Machine)

Tim Commerford is the guy behind the groove in RATM and Prophets of Rage. Everything always sounds so huge with him in the band.



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13. Chris Squire (Yes)

He is the original member of the progressive rock band Yes and is present on all the band's albums from 1968 to 2014. His dynamic and distinct playing gave the band its unique sound. He passed away aged 67 in 2015.



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12. Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, Talas, David Lee Roth, etc)

Well, what can you say about the guy who played with Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, David Lee Roth, Mike Portnoy and other renowned names in rock 'n' roll? As user schecterhellraz said:

The guy is more technical on his Bass than most bands lead guitarists.



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11. Victor Wooten

Well, Wooten is a beast. Besides his solo career, he has played with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, as well as Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller in SMV. He is currently a session member of Michael Angelo Batio's band Nitro.



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10. Justin Chancellor (Tool)

User Robfreitag said:

Tool is basically all rhythm section, and I love it!

Damn right. Well, except Maynard, he sings.



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9. John Entwistle (The Who)

Entwistle, considered by many as Jimi Hendrix of bass guitar, was the only member of The Who to have the formal musical training. And that can be heard in his playing.



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8. Jaco Pastorius

Unfortunately, some music legends passed away too early, and that is the case with Jaco Pastorius. In 1970 he removed the frets from '62 Fender Precision, and according to some, he was the first one to do this, practically inventing the fretless electric bass.



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7. Steve Harris (Iron Maiden)

Besides being a bad ass heavy metal bassist, Steve Harris is a driving force and the main songwriter in the legendary Iron Maiden. He's been changing the music world ever since 1975.



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6. Cliff Burton (Metallica)

Cliff is what made first three Metallica albums so unique. Even to this day his former bandmates in Metallica pay respect to him and honor his legacy. One of his most notable works is on Metallica's song "Orion" from "Master of Puppets" album.



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5. Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

UG user Agar4life explained it quite well by saying:

While he might not be the most technically outstanding player in the world or the most versatile or flexible player in the world. I think no other bassist matches the overall package of his charisma, on-stage presence, persistent relevance, and inspiration to aspiring players.


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4. John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)

Led Zeppelin wasn't just about Jimmy Page and his riffs. John Paul Jones is an extremely talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Definitely the most underrated musician in Led Zeppelin.



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3. Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath)

Coming in third is the guy thundering away on his bass behind Tony Iommi's riffs and solos. Geezer Butler's playing was as dark as the most of the lyrics he wrote for Black Sabbath. Quiet and introverted guy, the typical trait of most bass players. And that sound on "13" album... True metal bassist.



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2. Geddy Lee (Rush)

And the second place goes to Rush's Geddy Lee. Besides being a monster bassist he is also one of the most influential musicians of rock 'n' roll. User hudsonstradlin said:

This question should be rephrased to "Greatest Bassist of all time who isn't Geddy Lee"

Well, he didn't win this week's vote, but your statement has some truth in it.



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1. Les Claypool (Primus)

And the winner of this week's list is Les Claypool of Primus. His crazy style of playing works hand in hand with his crazy music ideas and weird songs. Certainly one of a kind musician that incorporates funk, metal, and prog rock into one insane thing called Primus.



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That's all folks! Feel free to post more great bassists in the comment section below. And we hope you enjoyed the top, stay tuned until next week for another WQ!

128 comments sorted by best / new / date

    rickyvanh
    Everyone's in there, just way the fuck out of order.
    alex-coutant
    Where is Token???? Faith+1 for ever!!!
    N-D
    Hey guys! And here's the rest of the list - if you want to discover more amazing bassists feel free to check it: Thundercat Troy Sanders (Mastodon) Christopher Pravdica (Swans) Peter Hook (Joy Division, New Order) Charles Mingus [actually a double bassist] G.C. Greene (Godflesh) Al Cisneros (Sleep, Om) Dirk Lance (Incubus) Joe Lester (Intronaut) Simon Gallup (The Cure) Sean Malone (Cynic) Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy) Matt Freeman (Rancid) Pino Palladino (The Who, etc) Mike Inez (Alice In Chains, Ozzy Osbourne, Heart, Black Label Society, etc) Jason Newsted (Metallica) Dominic "Forest" Lapointe (Beyond Creation, Augury) Beyond Creation (Lightning Bolt) Stuart Zender (Jamiroquai) Kilian Duarte (Scale the Summit, Felix Martin) John Deacon (Queen) Roger Patterson (Atheist) Shavo Odadjian (System of a Down) Eric Wilson (Sublime) Eric Czar George Porter Jr. (The Meters) Holger Czukay (Can) Tal Wilkenfeld (Jeff Beck, Prince, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, etc) Chi Cheng (Deftones) Louis Johnson (The Brothers Johnson) Mark Sandman (Morphine) Stu Hamm (Joe Satriani, Frank Gambale, Steve Vai, etc) Donald "Duck" Dunn Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots) John Patitucci Nathan Watts (Stevie Wonder) Nathan Navarro Scott Fernandez [18-string bassist] Taiji Sawada (X Japan, Loudness) Mark King (Level 42) John Taylor (Duran Duran) Martin Mendez (Opeth) Peter Steele (Type O Negative) Dave Ellefson (Megadeth) Paolo Gregoletto (Trivium) Eric Avery (Jane's Addiction) Dan Briggs (Between The Buried and Me) Michael League (Snarky Puppy) Gerry McAvoy (Rory Gallagher, Nine Below Zero) Mohini Dey John Wetton (King Crimson, Asia) Aston Barrett (Bob Marley & The Wailers) Mike Dirnt (Green Day) Glenn Cornick (Jethro Tull, Wild Turkey) Frank Bello (Anthrax) Bryan Beller (Joe Satriani, The Aristocrats, Dethklok, Steve Vai, etc) Burke Shelley (Budgie) Mike Starr (Alice in Chains) Benn Kenny (Incubus) Robbie Shakespeare (Sly and Robbie) Andy Rourke (The Smiths) Mike Mills (R.E.M.) Roger Glover (Deep Purple) Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes) Gary Thain (Uriah Heep) Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads) Carlos Dengler (Interpol) Joey DeMaio (Manowar) Juan Alderete (Racer X, The Mars Volta) Prince Evan Brewer (Entheos, The Faceless, Animosity) Mike Rutherford (Genesis) Jack Casady (Heffesron Airplane, Hot Tuna) Rick Danko (The Band) Mike Kerr (Royal Blood) Stefan Olsdal (Placebo) Rostislav Chaban (Ya I Drug Moy Gruzovik) Leland Sklar Mike Watt (Minutemen, Dos, Firehose) Jesse Keeler (Death From Above 1979) Cliff Williams (AC/DC) Chris #2 (Anti-Flag) Chris White (The Zombies) Colin Moulding (XTC) Esperanza Spalding Eddie Breckenridge (Thrice) Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) Duff McKagan (Guns N' Roses) Ron Carter [double bassist] Lloyd Brevett (The Skatalites) [double bassist] Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden) Micki Steele (The Bangles, The Runaways) Gal Peremen (Teapacks) Davie504 Abraham Laboriel Berry Oakley (The Allman Brothers Band) Joe Osborn Squarepusher Earl Falconer (UB40) Bob Daisley (Ozzy Osbourne) Verdine White (Earth, Wind & Fire) Rocco Prestia (Tower of Power) Bernard Edwards (Chic, The Power Station, Sister Sledge) Tommy Cogbill Mel Schacher (Grand Funk Railroad) Paul Chambers [double bassist] Paul Gray (Slipknot) [early stuff] Oteil Burbridge (The Allman Brothers Band, Dead & Company, The Aquarium Rescue Unit) Dusty Hill (ZZ Top) Ellard Moose Boles Patrick O'Hearn (Frank Zappa) Jim Hughart Rob Wasserman D'arcy Wretzky (The Samshing Pumpkins) Jerry Jemmott Wylie Gelber (Dawes) Ian Hill (Judas Priest) Gordon Sinclair (The Tragically Hip) Jonas Hellborg (Mahavishnu Orchestra) Steve Bailey Hansford Rowe (Gong) Divinity Roxx John Norwood Fisher (Fishbone) Ralphe Armstrong (Mahavishnu Orchestra) Michael Shuman aka Mikey Shoes (Queens of the Stone Age) P-Nut aka Aaron Wills (311) Dave Hollingworth (Dorje, Toska) T.M. Stevens Hans-Jürgen Reznicek Possum Jenkins Fieldy (Korn) Darryl Jones (The Rolling Stones) Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead) Tony Kanal (No Doubt) Matt Freeman (Rancid, Operation Ivy) Andy Fraser (Free) Dan Adams (Oxbow)
    metalme31
    Damn... that list is like watching the end credits for the greatest bassists on earth movie.
    zalant
    Nice list. I recall some former thing like this on this site (UG) where it named John Taylor the best bassist of some era or something, and now he doesn't even make the top 30 list. Seems a bit odd.
    Ed...
    I remember reading that list too! I nominated John here expecting him to make the cut, gutted he didn't, he's so underrated. Rio, Planet Earth and Hold Back The Rain have some incredible basslines.
    magarez
     Nick Oliveri 
    Wiencon
    His basslines or Rated R were orgasmic. Just the right amount of craziness and melodical groove like in In The Fade and Better Live Through Chemistry. I miss him so much in the qotsa :/ Current bassist is ok but I can't remember any of his basslines, Nick's on the other hand I can easily sing anytime
    magarez
    Yeah, I would mentioned “I think I lost my headache”. Also check this Mikey’s line from last album.
    Wiencon
    I think I like the bassline in "The Evil Has Landed" the most from the new album but this one is pretty cool too. But still not as memorable in my opinion as the ones I mentioned
    jesse1994
     I'd love to see a Jefferson Airplane cover band with everyone dressed as Hugh Hefner. 
    Eifler121
    Solid overall list, definitely don't respect a couple of the guys here, but that's the nature of lists. I'm also glad you extended it for Larry Graham's inclusion. I don't think people know his name, and they need to. Not sure if 30 was always your number, but glad it was.
    TheMysticalBard
    Dan Briggs definitely should of been on here, at lwast a mention, BTBAM, Trioscapes, Orbs, everything he does is fantastic.
    tuaavo
    Interesting selection of musicians. Even nominations for unsung heroes from studio sessions. And from so many styles. Miss only two people here. Lee Sklar and Joe Osbourn.
    Jimjambanx
    Sad to see no Jon Stockman, one of the most significant bass players in prog.
    Paro_metalhead
    No one cares about Australia, we're too far away...
    Jimjambanx
    We have some incredible acts, but I swear Australia is seen as some mystical land full of weird flightless birds and mmo spiders, and so people just don't think we actually exist.
    pavoman3
    No P-Nut (Aaron willis) really? He has some sick bass lines over his music career with 311
    Keyworks Kid
    Good list, although I would have liked to see Dan Briggs on there. If I were to ever pick up bass it would be to solely emulate him. 
    LadyWhiskey
    For the sake of broadening horizons, I want to bring up one name: Renaud Garcia Fons. I don't think anybody plays an upright bass like he does.
    LadyWhiskey
    Why nobody mentioned Michael Manring? Solely for that crazy ass bass he's playing he deserves some recognition .  
    tom11
    Oh, come on. Did someone really say Flea wasn't technical? And then get quoted in the article like they're not talking crap? Slap bass is a technique that's easy to mimic but hard to master.
    scaryness
    Ryan Martinie (#16) also just started a Jazz Fusion/Prog Rock band called 'Soften the Glare' that released their first album 'Making Faces' this year.
    William Sitnin
    Lemmy didn't make the list? LEMMY?!?
    richey2195
    It must be because Lemmy never slapped his instrument, unlike at least half of the bassists who made the list. 
    ErnestoFidel
    Lemmy was a rhythm guitarist who happened to play bass. An awesome combination, but I agree with not having him on the list.
    iAmBaTmAn65
    Les Claypool, is definitely #1 in my book I'm glad he got number 1, still wish Brian Gibson from lightning bolt was on this list.
    tonello
    I used to like Muse, but find their songwriting of late to be lacking, but Chris Wolstenholme has an interesting playing style and definitely deserves a spot. 
    dirron
    McCartney should be higher
    dennis.1960
    Top 3 IMO.  Macca laid the foundation for an out front melodic bass style between '66 and '69...without him taking the lead, bass players would still be playing boring 1/8 notes following the root of the chords.
    jesse1994
    I will say I never cared for Paul's tone. I mean he plays great instruments but I always find it a bit duddy. Of coarse that don't negate his geniusness at all. 
    dennis.1960
    Really?  I love his tone especially after he switched from the Hofner to the Rickenbacker.  I call it that smooth, velvet chocolate sound where there's virtually no treble or snap...I really love it when he does the long string slides on Dear Prudence and With a Little Help from my Friends  
    dirron
    That's interesting, I think his tone on Abbey road is wonderful, and even grittier stuff like glass onion is great too.
    Pucky87
    I feel pretty strongly that James Jamerson and Carol Kaye should be way higher. All in all, it is a good list, though. Also, I would recommend checking out Nic West, a younger singer/bassist who is really impressive.
    Anjohl
    If you need to put your leg up to play your solo, your bass is hung too low (@Trujillo)
    JOHNSTONE6
    What a weird list...Marcus miller shits on most of these bassists, so does Jaco, and victor wooten...Tim Commerford doesn’t play anything difficult, sure he has groove but that sure as hell doesn’t validate you being on this list.
    dewitt
    All we can do is nominate them. It's a popularity contest (and a matter of timing) from that point on.
    ElPanda
    I like these kind of lists, but they usually come down to a popularity contest.
    s.dolinski
    Actually, I'm quite mad that Peter Hook didn't make it to the main list. He might be quite an unpleasant person from what I've heard, but his contribution to the bass as an instrument is more that just outstanding. Nevertheless, I realize that he's not so known or appreciated by the community here
    lukegte
    You idiots always insist on putting that prick from the Beatles and Entwhistle in there. Geezer Butler? Steve Harris? Seriously? Not just that they're on the list, but look at the people they're ahead of... And those that didn't even make the list. "Cliff Burton was actually derp derp derp". Cliff Burton's work is lightyears behind most amateur youtube bassists these days and was in no way ground breaking. Always the same shit. You fucks have no idea what you're talking about.
    rcanders
    It's not all about speed and flash maestro. McCartney is a genius. You might catch on eventually, nah I doubt it.
    gearandsound
    He probably thinks that Gilmour is a shitty guitar player because he can't play half as fast as Yngwie.
    lukegte
    I never said anything about speed or flash. McCartney is not a genius. That's a term that gets thrown around way too much and that was an abuse of its meaning. You're just on the bandwagon.
    tomaxandxamot
    FINALLY - a real honest to goodness result on UG Les is the best - - and Tim Commerford rated higher than Stanley Clarke (and pretty boy Paul McCarteny GTFOH) is a effing joke.  Comerford shouldn't even be on this list.  Jason Newsted runs circles around this dude - in personality alone.  
    rcanders
    If you think McCartney's a joke. The joke is on you. Stanley Clark is amazing. Romantic Warrior is one of the top five albums of all time(IMO). McCartney's bass work is just as stunning as Clarke's...just different approach and style. Both are genius.
    ErnestoFidel
    The fact that Cliff Burton is ranked this high, or that he's actually on the list, makes this list a complete joke.
    CosyNinja
    I love cliff but I think due to 3-4 songs that stood out because of classical composition is what puts him up on a pedestal aside from his death. But his standard approach to the rest of the songs isn’t anything note worthy. Steve Harris has him beat by miles; and I’m one who also believes Jason’s approach to the down stroke rhythm of Metallica was better for the overall sound. Cliff pounded like a rubber mallet where Jason hit like the hammer of Thor.
    tm13871984
    No Matt Freeman GTFO. Also to whoever wrote this article, not quite sure who Mudwayne is lol. (Read the stuff under Ryan Martinie's name).
    Ippon
    Under the title, it says: " As voted by UG community."  This was last Wednesday's piece where members provided and voted for users' recommendations.  
    dennis.1960
    John Wetton played circles around most of these guys in his time in King Crimson from '73 to '74.  Chris Squire '71 to '81 was probably the most innovative and melodic bass player in rock history.  Sir Paul single-handedly created melodic bass playing instead of hiding behind the band from '66 to '69.  Oh well...guess you had to be there  
    lurkingfan4
    Hey! My suggestion (Steve DiGiorgio) got an honorable mention. That's pretty cool.
    crossroadsjazz
    AKA "Let's name a bunch of average but popular bassists that appeal to amateurs while we put the most skilled and influential toward the bottom (especially if they're black) instead of educating noobs and giving them a resource to help improve their craft." Shame on you.
    gearandsound
    McCartney, Geezer and Entwistle weren't influential?
    crossroadsjazz
    McCartney's important in terms of visibility/melodic style. I mean, he's a freaking Beatle. Not so much Geezer or Entwistle. And none of them are nearly as important (or capable) as James Jamerson, Carol Kaye, Larry Graham, Jaco, Chuck Rainey, Prince, or Marcus Miller. You can disagree, but I'll remind you that you're probably white and don't play with the big boys.
    The9
    What about dream theatres bassist? And Geezer Butler should not be 3rd
    jtrumpfheller
    This list is pretty one-sided - almost only bassists from the rock scene, but hey you forgot John Deacon from Queen, Doug Wimbish and Bootsy Collins I would see much further ahead and what about Mark King (Level 42) and not a woman, where Kim Clarke (Defunkt) is one of the best of her profession.