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Top 10 Keyboard Players in Rock

Top 10 Keyboard Players in Rock
VOICE OVER: Matt Campbell
Script written by George Pacheco

It's time for the keyboard players to get a little love! Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Keyboard Players in Rock! For this list, we're ranking the most popular and influential rock musicians who utilize the keyboard as their chosen instrument.

Special thanks to our users Jack Morris, Lars Damen, Antonio Lorusso, Lucam18, Mark Revie and King Paul the Critic for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at http://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest
Script written by George Pacheco

#10: Billy Preston

This master of the Hammond organ was known affectionately as "The Fifth Beatle," thanks to his credited performance with The Fab Four on the classic track "Get Back." The career of Billy Preston speaks volumes on its own, however, thanks to the famed keyboardist's esteemed solo career and work on film soundtracks for "Slaughter” and “Fast Break”. Preston was also known for backing some the biggest names in rock on tour, including Little Richard and The Rolling Stones, proving that this keyboard master could play alongside just about anyone.

#9: John Paul Jones
Led Zeppelin/Them Crooked Vultures

Sure, Led Zeppelin legend John Paul Jones may be best known for his groundbreaking achievements on the bass guitar, but many classic rock aficionados will also point to the man's equally impressive keyboard abilities as one of Zep's best kept secrets. Indeed, Jones is an incredibly well traveled musician; one whose songwriting and arrangement skills have placed him in demand with artists as diverse as Diamanda Galás and Them Crooked Vultures. Jones' keyboard skills have been spotlighted on many classic rock radio staples, including Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," "No Quarter" and "Trampled Under Foot," while his work with Them Crooked Vultures continues to win over fans of all ages.

#8: Jordan Rudess
Dream Theater

Fans love to debate the ins and outs of their favorite band, including who best filled that spot behind the keyboards. Several talented players have served time within the Dream Theater ranks, including Derek Sherinian and founding member Kevin Moore, but it's Jordan Rudess who currently holds fans' rapt attention as the band's go-to keyboard wizard. Rudess has proven more than capable in both the technical and theatrical departments, providing melodic chills and thrills while also connecting with the audience as an entertaining live performer. The debate may rage on, but Jordan Rudess is more than game to give fans his all night after night on the road.

#7: Geddy Lee

The progressive hard rock titans known as Rush went through a stylistic shift of sorts during the early 80s, where the guitar-heavy arrangements featured on such songs as "YYZ" were replaced with a thoughtful, streamlined and melodic direction which relied heavily upon keyboards and synthesizers. It was the band's bassist and frontman Geddy Lee who spearheaded this progression, which resulted in the hits "Subdivisions" and "Tom Sawyer," while "The Analog Kid" and "Countdown" served as fan favorite deep cuts, where Lee's virtuoso playing and keen ear for melody resulted in some of the band's most inspired material.

#6: Richard Wright
Pink Floyd

It isn't always the flash or the razzle-dazzle which defines a great keyboard player, but rather the ability to devise a proper atmosphere. Richard Wright was one of those keyboardists, as evidenced by his work within Pink Floyd. Wright's ability to hang back and allow a soundscape to build and wind its way around the band's psychedelic orchestrations served as one of Floyd's secret weapons, alongside the restrained drumming of Nick Mason. Sure, Roger Waters and David Gilmour might have received all the glory, but it was Richard Wright whose crafty key work made that Floyd magic all the more special.

#5: Tony Banks

The immense body of work which makes up the career of keyboardist and songwriter Tony Banks is enough to make even the most accomplished musician jealous. Banks has performed everything from the intricate progressive symphonies to stripped down, minimalist soundscapes in his career as a founding member of Genesis, all the while retaining a memorable songwriting sense all his own. It takes a special sort of performer to be as versatile as Tony Banks, yet this keyboardist has proven time and time again that his talent is beyond reproach.

#4: Jon Lord
Deep Purple

There were few keyboardists out there with as much fiery stage presence or as many furious technical chops as the legendary Jon Lord of Deep Purple. Lord practically abused his Hammond organ and other keyboards over the years, engaging in extravagant runs and epic solo sections with all of the electricity of a lightning storm. It wasn't always about aggression with Jon Lord, however, as the keyboardist could also add delicate texture and mood to a piece, as evidenced by his work with Purple's Mark III lineup alongside singer David Coverdale and bassist Glenn Hughes.

#3: Rick Wakeman

There was little to no room for subtlety when it came to the magical keyboard world of Rick Wakeman. This former member of progressive rock legends Yes was known for his extravagant solo performances on such albums as The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, just as much as the symphonic approach on such Yes classics as "Roundabout" and "Heart of the Sunrise." Wakeman would even compose soundtrack music for the 1981 slasher film "The Burning”, further exemplifying the keyboardist's boundary smashing approach to his chosen instrument.

#2: Ray Manzarek
The Doors

Classic rock icons The Doors were one of the few popular bands of their generation without a bass player, but there was one very simple reason for this fact: they had Ray Manzarek. This immensely talented keyboardist and songwriter not only composed and performed melody lines on his instrument, but Manzarek also handled the low end grooves, as well, in a style which was completely and utterly unique for the day. For a band with a public persona so heavily associated with frontman Jim Morrison, it was nevertheless Ray Manzarek's amazing talent which pushed The Doors' music into the annals of rock 'n roll history.

Before we unveil our final keyboardist, here are a few honorable mentions!

Rod Argent
The Zombies/Argent

Martin Gore
Depeche Mode

Bernard Sumner
Joy Division/New Order

Brian Eno
Roxy Music

Steve Winwood
Traffic, Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith

#1: Keith Emerson
Emerson, Lake & Palmer

The keyboard wizard known as Keith Emerson was a man who wore many creative hats. The English songwriter and arranger would gain success with both Emerson, Lake & Palmer and The Nice early on his career, before venturing into the world of film soundtracks, which includes his work on Dario Argento’s cult horror flick “Inferno”. Emerson's excessive symphonic flourishes and influence from classical composers Beethoven and Bach have defined him as not only as one of the leading keyboardists from the progressive rock era, but also one of the most influential men to ever play the instrument.

Did you agree with our list? Which keyboard player do you think rocks hardest? For more heavy top ten lists, published every day, please subscribe to!

The two Greggs- Allman and Rolie
Well done. Glad to see Bill Preston on the list and Keith Emerson was a FREAK!
Agreed 100 percent! Keith Emerson is the GOAT.