Not everybody in any prominent band will receive their just due. That does not mean they are any less a contributor to the success of those groups. Here's a look at some notable performers who probably have been underrated during their careers.
We know about the brothers Van Halen, "Diamond" David Lee Roth and then Sammy Hagar, but the band's bassist during its classic lineup(s) does not get as much credit as he should. Those high-pitched background vocals found in many Van Halen hits, all Anthony. Plus, who can forget his legendary baseline from " Runnin' With The Devil." Plus, he was perhaps the most down-to-earth member of the band.
There is plenty of talent to be found in The Boss' backing band, but "The Professor" might might also be the most versatile. In addition to the veteran's stellar work on piano ("Jungleland " and "Backstreets," to name a few), Bittan plays the organ and is an accomplished accordion player. Bittan was also responsible for most of the brilliant piano work on Meat Loaf's 1977 smash Bat Out of Hell record.
Bass players are often the most forgotten members of any band that does not feature the instrument prominently in its work. In the realm of Black Sabbath, Butler's play on the bass was not only eerie and soulfully menacing, but also integral to the group's heavy sound. Butler's slap work on hits such "Paranoid" was stoically brilliant, and complimented Tony Iommi quite well.
To those in the know, Campbell is a household name, but as part of a band with a prominent front presence as the late Petty, everybody else takes a backseat. That said, Campbell is still one of the great guitarists and songwriters in music history. In addition to his strong play, Campbell co-wrote some of Petty's biggest hits such as "Refugee" and "Runnin' Down a Dream."
With Freddie Mercury's flamboyance and Brian May's legendary guitar dominance, it's easy to be overshadowed. Yet, Deacon was find staying out of the spotlight as Queen's soft-spoken bass player. That did not mean, however, he didn't contribute. Deacon composed classic Queen cuts like "Another One Bites the Dust," You're My Best Friend" and co-wrote "Under Pressure."
Known as "The Ox," Entwistle was a mainstay for these Hall of Famers. However, the charisma and antics of bandmates Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and Keith Moon often left Entwistle to nothing more than a visual supporting player. In reality, he might have been the most musically gifted member of The Who and helped write deeper cuts such as "Boris the Spider" and "My Wife."
Kiss has always been a band about imagery and spectacle. Up front, it's also been about Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, and Peter Criss eventually got some love through the power ballad "Beth." Yet, Frehley was arguably the best musician among the classic Kiss lineup. With Les Paul in hand, "The Spaceman" wailed on some of Kiss' biggest early hits, such as " Deuce."
Eddie Vedder takes a big share of the limelight within the Pearl Jam universe, but everyone in the band has contributed to its long-standing success. Gossard, though, is one member who probably does not get the due he deserves beyond his role as the band's rhythm guitarist. Gossard wrote some of the group's most popular tunes like "Black," "Daughter" and "Do the Evolution."
Though he's considered one of the great alternative rock guitarists, Greenwood tends not to draw much attention to himself. Maybe that's why he doesn't feature more prominently as a visible member of this massively successful group. In addition to his strong guitar playing, Greenwood is a masterfully creative and experimental composer and musical arranger.
Sure, everybody knows who Harrison is and some might argue that Ringo Starr was the most underrated Beatle, but we like this choice for a couple of reasons. In addition to being perhaps the most even-keeled member of the group, Harrison might also have been its best overall musician and should be celebrated as an exceptional guitarist (" While My Guitar Gently Weeps").
Die-hard fans of the Clash will say that the band was never really the same -- or nearly as good as we went on to see -- after drummer Headon left in 1982, due to his heroin addiction. While part of the band, Headon's work was often unheralded. Especially on two of the Clash's most celebrated albums Sandinista! (1980) and Combat Rock (1982). Headon also showed off his accomplished piano work on the hit "Rock the Casbah."
In professional music circles, Jones is highly celebrated as a great bass player, composer and arranger. Within the confines of Led Zeppelin contributed to classics such as "Ramble On " and "Black Dog." In the years after Led Zeppelin disbanded, Jones has been a prominent session player, as well as collaborating with the likes of Foo Fighters and Lenny Kravitz.
It's hard not to get noticed or praised within a three-piece band. And, one of the biggest in the world for that matter. But, between Geddy Lee's presence and the legendary drum work and songwriting of the late Neil Peart. Lifeson is not necessarily the first member of Rush who comes to mind. Yet, Lifeson is an exceptional guitar player and composer within the Rush universe.
With Jim Morrison leading the way, casual music fans might not be able to name the other members of the Doors. That said, Manzarek should be hailed as the most accomplished musician in the group. His keyboard work ("Light My Fire ") was legendary and influential, but Manzarek should be celebrated as a stellar songwriter and composer, too. He also enjoyed success following the Doors, working with artists like Iggy Pop and Roy Rogers.
Vince Neil had the moves, Nikki Sixx the flamboyance and Tommy Lee the circus-like antics behind the drum kit. Then there was Mars, whose guitar work with the Crue has often gone under appreciated. The oldest and quietest member of these longtime hell-raisers, Mars did his talking with his instrument on hits like "Looks That Kill" and "Girls, Girls, Girls."
There was plenty of talent among the original lineup and early years of these Southern rockers. However, no member was more underrated than pianist/keyboardist Powell. Originally one of the band's roadies, Powell eventually became an official member and shined on such Skynyrd favorites like "Free Bird" and the beautiful arranged "Tuesday's Gone."
Before REO became a pop band along the lines of Air Supply, it was a full-fledged rock outfit during the 1970s. Late lead guitarist Richrath was a big reason. He was the "rocker" in the band and shred on such classics like "Ridin' the Storm Out" and especially "Golden Country," which defined his legacy as an exceptional guitarist. Richrath left the band in the late 1980s due to musical differences with frontman Kevin Cronin.
Before drummer Schock joined the band in the late 1970s, the Go-Go's were a middling wannabe punk outfit that were not filled with great musicians. Following the addition of the determined and uber-talented Schock, the band elevated its collective game, rehearsed more and started to polish a sound that went from the unorganized fury of punk to the radio-friendly hits that made the Go-Go's famous. Her work on "Vacation" is severely underrated.
The witty, Will Ferrell look-alike, Smith doesn't always get the credit he deserves when it comes to his drumming. Maybe the outgoing presence of bandmates Flea and Anthony Kiedis plays a presence in that. Still, Smith can more than hold his own behind the the kit as is evident on "Higher Ground" and "Knock Me Down." He's also been a part of the supergroup Chickenfoot with Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony and Joe Satriani.
Those in the know are well aware just how talented Stevens is as a guitar player. He earned prominence backing Billy Idol, shining on the singer's biggest-selling albums like his self-titled smash from 1982 and Rebel Yell from a year later. Stevens, who never drew much public attention to himself, also worked with Michael Jackson and offered his guitar talent to the Top Gun soundtrack.
It's often rare that a frontman can be considered underrated. Yet, within a group that included solo star Bobby Brown and post-New Edition breakout Bell Biv DeVoe, Tresvant never enjoyed the same personal professional success the others did. Now, Tresvant did not completely disappear from the pop scene, but it always seemed from his talent and voice that he had the best chance for post-New Edition stardom.
It's been reported over the years that when Charlie Watts decides to call it quits as a drummer, the Rolling Stones as a collective will also call it a career. While Watts is considered one of the great drummers of all time, he's obviously overshadowed by Mick and Keith within his own band. And that's OK with Watts, who has never longed for notoriety and praise. He simply earns with his play.
Fans of these indie/alt rockers know just how good of a drummer Weiss is, but her overall talent was usually overshadowed by the two ladies in front of her. Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein can harmonize and trade lyrics with the best of them, but Weiss was equally special with her assault on the drums. Weiss, though, recently left the group but still continues to play -- most notably with the band Quasi.
The Talking Heads bassist has always been able to hold her with the best on her instrument, but we never heard enough about her with bandmate David Byrne in the picture. A creative and conceptual talent, Weymouth also earned success with side project Tom Tom Club, which she formed with husband Chris Frantz, who also happened to be the Talking Heads' drummer.
While brother Angus Young certainly delivered a commanding stage presence, Malcolm was one the true driving force of this legendary hard-rock band behind the scenes. Malcolm, the band's rhythm guitarist, wrote and composed most, if not all of the bands greatest hits and also played a major role in the day-to-day operations of the group. Sadly, Young passed away from issues due to dementia in November 2017.
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.