Setting the Bass and Drum Foundation

If you want a great band, you need a great rhythm section—and this month we’re taking a look at some of the best in popular music history.

Our May Hear the Music and Extended Play sections feature several audio examples of top-notch bassists and drummers working together, but we figured we’d give you a few video clips as well.

In the 1960s, Jimi Hendrix dazzled the world with his electric guitar playing. But bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, who made up the rhythm section of his original backing band the Experience, were great musicians too. Here they are playing “Purple Haze” in a 1967 clip from the German TV show Beat Club.

Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album What’s Going On was the first Motown release to acknowledge the crucial contributions of the session musicians known as the Funk Brothers—including hugely influential bassist James Jamerson. You can see Jamerson here, sitting right next to Gaye, in this 1972 live version of that album’s famous title song.

Bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham of Led Zeppelin knew how to propel a song better than just about anyone. Here’s proof: “Rock and Roll,” from the band’s 1979 concert in Knebworth, England.

Finally, a taste of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton, plus keyboardist Reese Wynans). Yes, Vaughan’s guitar work is extraordinary on this 1989 Austin City Limits version of “Couldn’t Stand the Weather,” but it’s Double Trouble’s powerful backing that truly allows him to achieve liftoff—and each one of the four players gets a little time in the spotlight.