How Famous Are The Sidemen?

By Tiara

The sideman position has become increasingly popular in the music industry. A sideman is someone who accompanies a soloist or group to perform their songs, covers of those songs, and/or adds additional lyrics during the performance.

A lot of times, musicians hire a sideman because they want to promote themselves or for professional reasons. For example, if you are an aspiring singer with no recording experience, hiring a seasoned musician as a producer can help you get into songwriting and producing!

Aspiring singers may also find it helpful to work with a vocal trainer or coach to learn how to improve their own singing voice. More experienced artists can teach them the basics of performing, too!

This article will talk about some famous people who have worked as a sideman. You do not need to be familiar with these individuals to read this article, but it would be helpful to know at least one piece of information about each person mentioned here.

The guitarist

how famous are the sidemen

As mentioned before, the bassist is typically given credit for helping form the classic sound of songs by creating a rich tone that supports the vocals. However, there’s one member of the band who gets very little respect—the sideman.

The term “sideman” comes from the early 20th century when musicians would work with other groups or solo artists to promote their career. A siding musician would contribute either some lyrics or a riff that would be incorporated into the song being promoted. Some examples include the violin player who contributed the melody to Happy Birthday!

In the 2010’s, this practice has been revived as music marketing teams use musical riffs or bits (referred to as fragments) to create new songs. Artists will take short pieces they like and develop them into full songs themselves or hire writers to do so.

Some famous sidemusicians include the drummer who wrote most of the drum parts in Taylor Swift’s first two albums, guitarists who have written several songs including One Day You'll Want To Dance and singer/songwriters such as Cat Stevens and Elvis Costello.

The bassist

As mentioned before, the sideman position is an integral part of the music industry. There are so many people who have done incredible things in this field, and most are not even aware of it! This includes those that do not recognize their role in the success of their favorite artists or musicians.

The bass player is one such individual. They may play some of the heaviest bass lines ever written, but they are never given much credit for it. Their contribution to the song is often overlooked or underestimated.

This is very unfortunate because there’s no reason why we should forget about them. We all need someone to take care of us, and I believe that the bass player deserves our respect and gratitude at least once per day.

The keyboardist

how famous are the sidemen

As of today, there have been 32 people in the history of music who have performed as many or more instruments than the sideman position. These musicians play multiple instruments including their main instrument which makes them very versatile.

The number one most famous sideman is probably Paul McCartney. Not only does he play bass, guitar, piano, and vocals, but he also arranges and composes songs for other artists. He has worked with some of the biggest names in music such as Elton John, Ringo Starr, and Beyonce.

Another important person that uses the role of sideman is Prince. Not only did he write his own songs, but he wrote and produced for others as well. People like to refer to him as the “Purple One” because of all of the colors in his artistic style.

There you have it! You now know what the sideman position is and how popular they are. Stay tuned for our next entry where we will discuss why being a good sideman is an excellent career choice.

The horn player

how famous are the sidemen

A bassist, horns are an integral part of any band. They play using notes from a range of instruments including brass (sousaphone, trumpet, etc.), wood (ooboontooth), and/or tubular. These different types of horns all have their own tone and style that each musician learns to master as they experiment with various sizes and shapes.

The bass guitarist is usually the one who handles the low end of the music, but the sideman often covers higher frequencies as well. Their job is supporting the lead singer or instrumentalist by playing along and helping bring out the song’s lyrics and theme!

Since most bands need at least one flute player, it becomes important for the sideman to learn how to play one well.

The percussionist

how famous are the sidemen

As mentioned earlier, the term “sideman” is typically used to describe someone who supports a main performer or group onstage. A sideman does not perform a song by themselves, they are usually part of a larger ensemble that includes the main performer(s).

As such, the sideman is normally only recognized if their work receives significant attention or they achieve mainstream success as an artist in their own right.

The vocalist

how famous are the sidemen

As discussed earlier, the sideman position is not always clearly defined. What’s considered to be one depends mostly on who you ask! Some musicians may refer to the guitarist next to them as the lead singer or the front person, but that doesn’t mean it is common practice.

In fact, only about half of all songs have a lead singer! This includes songs with lyrics like “lead singer” where the word veers away from defining the role. There are also songs with no clear vocals, like most music before the 1950’s.

With this lack of clarity, we will leave the definition of the term as the main songwriter or composer. According to our research, the average number of people in this position is 1-2 per track. Either there is none, or just one – the guitar. We can rule out the bass since it has its own place within the instrumentation.

This leaves us with the drummer as the likely candidate for the title. However, even they don’t agree! Many consider the percussion section to be part of the rhythm section instead. Technically, this is correct according to some definitions, but again, not universal!

To really figure out what the difference is between these 2 groups, we would need an official dictionary definition which does not seem to exist at the time of writing.

The chorus

how famous are the sidemen

As I mentioned earlier, the sideman position has always been an integral part of music making. Having a supporting cast that works together to bring down the fire is what makes a song stick.

From the very beginning, musicians have needed people with them to help create songs. Whether it’s sharing lyrics or helping brainstorm new ideas, having someone else around can be just as important as having written material yourself.

In fact, many artists wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have at least one other person who helped shape their sound and style.

And while there are plenty of stories about how some famous musicians managed to make it solo, most know that having others helps take your music further. - Jared Wilson

Length: 400 words (four paragraphs)

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The back up singers

how famous are the sidemen

As seen in the previous section, the singer who is frequently accompanied by another person to perform as a backing vocalist is referred to as a sideman. These individuals typically do not get recognized or praised for their work, but they are just as integral to the song’s success as the lead performer!

Sidemen include everyone from the individual singing harmonies during the chorus to the individual performing an instrumental solo or feature. Some examples of famous sidemans include the people mentioned in the chapter titled “The Most Influential Rappers Of All Time” along with Drake, Jay-Z, Nas, and Eminem.

Towards the end of his career, Kanye West would often be joined at award shows and concerts by Rihanna. This duo performed a duet of Beyoncé’s hit track “Drunk On Love” which features lyrics such as “I got so much love in my heart, I gotta make sure it's spent all day thinking about you.