Top 10 Bassists Of All Time

A recent online poll placed a modern player ahead of some classic artists in this top ten. But who was it, and do they deserve it?

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Frontmen get all the girls, drummers beat out their showmanship, but every real musician knows it's the bassist that acts as the backbone for a solid rock song. Some argue that it's the "easy" instrument to lean, and it's monophonic tendencies certainly make it more approachable to beginners. But it takes years of hard work and a special sense of groove to become a master and go down in history as a four-string legend. Gigwise readers recently voted for their favorite bassists ever, and the list might surprise you. Check out each video of their solos in action, and see if you agree with this list of the best bassists of all time.

10. Robert Trujillo (Metallica)

Trujillo has performed for Suicidal Tendencies, Infectious Grooves, Black Label Society, Jerry Cantrell and Ozzy Osbourne but we think he found a good home in Metallica when he first started playing with them in 2003. Excuse the wonky video, but trust that it sounds great.

9. Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy)

The Irish frontman was a founding member and lead songwriter of Thin Lizzy, and later went on to publish books of poetry with his lyrics before passing away in 1986.

8. Steve Harris (Iron Maiden)

Steve is the only founding member of Maiden to stay with the band throughout its lifetime, having shunned his dream of being a professional footballer for the stadium tour lifestyle. He very nearly chose to play drums as a youngster, but instead taught himself bass with a Fender Precision model for £40 in 1971.

7. John Entwistle (The Who)

Entwistle's aggressive playing style inspired hundreds of majors rock acts, and many recognise his playing for its notably high treble sound. He was found dead after a cocaine-fuelled night partying with a stripper one day before his band were to embark on a major US tour, aged 57.

6. Lemmy (Motorhead)

The iconic frontman is easily recognised with his handlebar moustache, mutton chops and facial moles. Lemmy was inspired to play music after seeing The Beatles play at the Cavern Club when he was 16, and was more recently seen slowing down his "Ace Of Spades" song for a British beer advert.

5. Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

The prolific collaborator started as a jazz trumpet prodigy, but turned to the four-string when started a band with future RHCP guitarist Hillel Slovak at high school. He's gone on to make his personality known through one of the biggest rock acts in history, as well as finding time to perform with the likes of The Mars Volta, Jane's Addiction, and Thom Yorke's Atoms For Peace. His most recent project is alongside Blur's Damon Albarn in Rocketjuice And The Moon.

4. John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)

The British rock legend is a versatile musician and record producer, having collaborated with dozens of major acts after the death of Zeppelin's drummer John Bonham, including R.E.M., Foo Fighters and Lenny Kravitz. Jones more recently hit the stage with his supergroup Them Crooked Vultures alongside Josh Homme and Dave Grohl.

3. Jack Bruce (Cream)

It's funny how often the bassist is a founding member of these Classic rock acts. Bruce started Cream in 1966 with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, and was equally recognised for his singing ability having developed one of rock's most distinctive voices. Few realise his ability as a trained classical cellist, but we bet he rocks it just as hard.

2. Paul McCartney (The Beatles)

One of the greatest living songwriters, and a face that adorned bedroom walls throught the world in the 1960s. McCartney is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as "the most successful musician and composer in popular music history", with over 100 million single sales in the UK alone. His song "Yesterday" has been played in the US more than 7 million times on American television and radio since its 1965 release, and he continues to write and perform today. Just don't remind him of that one-legged ex-wife who took a sizable chunk of his savings a few years back.

1. Chris Wolstenholme (Muse)

Chris' number 1 position could be the result of the keen online Muse community who are known for over-voting their favourite band in online polls. It was only this week that his bassline to "Hysteria" was voted the best of all time ahead of compositions by other bassists in this list (ahem). But his ability is sound, and if he can inspire millions of fans to support his band in this way, then more power to him.
What do you think? Did better bassists miss the cut, or is the list bang on? Vote for your favorite bass slinger in the comments, and we'll round them up for a UG list in the future.

840 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Steelrod
    Jaco Pastorious? Stanley Clarke? Geddy Lee? Billy Shenhan? Mike Watt? Les Claypool?
    tonello
    Cliff Burton. And don't call me a fan boy, because Anesthesia is an amazing song.
    couch002
    Why do they get these lists from outside sources? Why doesn't ug post their own polls for their own users to votes, then it would be a lot harder to argue with the results since WE voted for them...
    AnnihilationUK
    This is a pretty good list. But I think they enjoy the arguments... Muse Bassist at no.1 again?? Fuck off.
    judo_john
    Bullshit list. Honestly. No Geddy Lee. Victor feckin Wooten, or Claypool. And really, Muse????? Ha. John Myung is insanely good. Been trying to learn New Millennium by Dream Theater. The finger tapping is so cool and melodic.
    Irra Jahad
    Then, again at least the Slipknot fans didn't mobilise and have Paul Gray in all 10 spots.
    zomgguitarz1234
    Rob over cliff? Seriously? You'd think the fact that cliff burton had a load of bass solo's etc, and the fact that he died (which puts most celebrities at a godly status) would have shot him up to at least the top 5.
    Mikethespud
    Cliff Burton, Les Claypool, John Myung. There's too many Muse fanboys on these sites
    jjbarnes
    Victor Wooten? This whole thing is kind of stupid. There's one or two punk type bassists and that's the genre that makes bass shine!
    CoolMcAwesome
    terrible list is terrible. No Claypool, no Lee, No Myung? Did they draw names from a ****ing hat?
    xero1123
    Jaco, Wooten, Claypool, Myung, Geddy Lee, god not even Cliff Burton for the fanboys
    neandramathal
    McCartney may have had a fair influence on music via the beatles but 2nd best bassist? :/ .. and #1 is just pure lol. Sheehan and Geddy Lee deserve to be up there if nothing else.
    British Josh
    I was going to say how ridiculous it was that Rob Trujillo was #10, but then I saw Lemmy at #6. Then they put that guy from Muse as the best bass player ever? Even for UG, this list is pretty atrocious.
    SkepsisMetal
    On clicking this article I predicted Cliff Burton, Flea, Less Claypool, Steve Harris and Geddy Lee. I was actually quite surprised at the result. Paul McCartney wasn't a good bassist. He was just a bassist. Justin Chancellor probably deserves a spot on there somewhere.
    shredder3386
    metallica144 wrote: No John Myung? I don't want to live on this planet anymore
    this x1000
    ZeppelinManiac0
    I'm sorry, but I believe this is the correct list (might need to be changed around a bit though): 10. Flea 9. Robert Trujillo 8. Geezer Butler 7. Les Claypool 6. Billy Sheehan 5. Cliff Burton 4. Victor Wooten 3. John Paul Jones 2. John Entwistle 1. Geddy Lee
    benf199105
    Lol, chris is number one? I love the guy but damn he is not the best bassist ever.
    dr-g0nz0
    Where the hell is Justin Chancellor and Les Claypool? There are easily 10 bassists that I could name that are a billion times better -and deserve to be on here than this list. I like Lemmy, but he isn't a good bassist. This list stinks of mainstream.
    Mr Winters
    cory_i wrote: No Geddy Lee, John Myung, Victor Wooten, Cliff Burton, Billy Sheehan, or Les Claypool? This list doesn't make any sense to me. But I guess that's what happens when you leave a "Best of All Time" up to popular vote.
    This a thousand times.
    Crim_Graveyard
    I got really excitied reading this list. I was more and more anxious scrolling down the page to see #1. I beleive they did a great job doing this... until I seen the unintelligent thing of making Chris Wolstenhome #1 I was enraged. I know I sound like a pissed off teen ranting to the internet, but I call B.S
    cory_i
    No Geddy Lee, John Myung, Victor Wooten, Cliff Burton, Billy Sheehan, or Les Claypool? This list doesn't make any sense to me. But I guess that's what happens when you leave a "Best of All Time" up to popular vote.
    cesar_romo
    WTF! Seriously, this is an insult for us bass players. It seems that you don't know anything about bass playing. I'll do a list of truly great bass players: -Jaco Pastorius -Victor Wooten -Steve Bailey -Gianni Serino -Geedy Lee -Tetsuo Sakurai -Marcus Miller -Larry Graham -John Patitucci -Jonas Hellborg -Bill Dickens -Tal Wilkenfeld -Mark King -Alain Caron -Michael Lepond -Stuart Zender -Stu Hamm -Jeff Berlin -Flea -Stanley Clarke -Justin Chancellor -Grzegorz Kosinski -Alex Webster -Jeroen Paul Thesseling -Hadrien Feraud -Bootsy Collins -Les Claypool -Ryan Martinie -Frank Bello -Matej Susnik -Anthony Jackson -Chris Squire -Wojtek Pilichowski -Pino Palladino -Steve DiGiorgio -Adamm Nitti -Richard Bona -Billy Sheehan -John Myung -Michael Manring -Evan Brewer -Zander Zon -Stuart Clayton -Nathan East -Avishai Cohen -Percy Stanbury -Sami Hinkka -Jeff Walker And the list goes on...
    corrda00
    You spelled the title wrong, I think you meant to sa 'Most popular bassists of all time'
    Root Beer
    Ooooh, God... this is not even CLOSE... Here's my list: 1.Les Claypool (Primus, if you didn't know that I'm ashamed of you) 2.Geddy Lee (Rush, same statement as above) 3.Flea (RHCP) 4.Chris Squire (Yes) 5.Cliff Burton (Metallica, SO much better than Rob Trujillo) 6.John Entwistle (The Who) 7.Justin Chancellor (Tool) 8.John Myung (Dream Theater) 9.John Wetton (King Crimson 1973-1974) 10.John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) After you're done puzzling over why so many bassists are named John, you'll notice only 3 of the people I just named are actually on the list at all. That's pretty sad.
    djc707
    This is a terrible list. I'm so sick of Muse's overpraise. They're a good band, but they're not that good. "Hysteria" just got voted best bass line ever, or something like that. Seriously, number one? And come on, Lemmy above Entwistle? That's just sickening. I love Lemmy, but Entwistle is imo the best bassist ever. Speaking of, it's a shock that there's no Victor Wooten, Jaco Pastorius, Geddy Lee, or Les Claypool.
    JenoUnion
    Cliff Burton, John Myung, Victor Wooten, Geezer Butler, Jaco Pastorius, Dave Ellefson...where the hell are they? This list sucks. Whoever compromised it really doesn't know about bass.
    Kerry_King_1990
    They're missing so many great bassist, and I din't care, Entwistle should be 1, he invented the bass solo, the guy from Muse might be good, and they won that bass riff poll, but John Entwistle has influenced so many players, wrote amazing solos, riffs, fills, and used so many more techniques then most bassist, just my opinion
    'DC fan
    Steve Harris should be nearer to 1 than 8. Rob deserves to be on this list, he's good, but where's Cliff Burton? Also Geezer Butler?
    Lord Waltaa
    GOD DAMMIT UG, GET IT TOGETHER OR STOP MAKING INCREDIBLY RIDICULOUS LISTS LIKE THIS. CAPS IS INSTA RAGE
    Family Reunion
    I'm in love with John Paul Jones. I'd take off the Muse bassist, he makes some pretty decent bass lines I guess, but being a bassist in general? Not really my style. Geddy Lee Cliff Burton Victor Wooten Stanley Clarke What makes this top 10 list anyway? Their ability to improvise? Their influence on music? It just looks like a popularity contest to me :/