Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones drummer who propelled the band’s sound for nearly 60 years, has died aged 80.
“He gave up the ghost peacefully during a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family.
Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also, as a member of the Rolling Stones, one among the best drummers of his generation.”
Earlier this month, it had been announced that Watts was to miss the band’s forthcoming US tour as he recovered from an unspecified procedure.
With his limber stance, keen knowledge of jazz, and unruffled ability to form songs swing even when keeping the strictest time, Watts is considered one among the best – and most stylish – rock drummers of all time.
Among those paying tribute was Starr, his counterpart in friendly rivals the Beatles, who wrote: “God bless Charlie Watts we’re getting to miss you man peace and like to the family.”
McCartney said: “He was a stunning guy. I knew he was ill but I didn’t know he was this ill … Charlie was a rock, and an incredible drummer, Love you Charlie, I’ve always loved you – a gorgeous man.”
Elton John wrote: “A very sad day. Charlie Watts was the last word drummer. the foremost stylish of men, and such brilliant company.”
Born in 1941, Watts has raised in Wembley, northwest London, and later the suburb of Kingsbury.
His first musical love was US jazz from the swing and bebop eras, drumming alongside jazz records after getting his first kit in his mid-teens.
He later attended conservatory and have become a graphic designer after graduation, playing in local bands on the side.
In 1962 he joined Blues Incorporated, a linchpin band within the British rhythm and blues scene led by Alexis Korner, playing alongside the Cream bassist Jack Bruce and more during a fluid lineup.
Through Korner he met Brian Jones, who would play at Blues Incorporated gigs, and that they found regular fans in Jagger and Keith Richards, who also ended up twiddling with the group.
Charlie Watts latest Update 2021
Jagger and Richards soon formed their own group, the Rolling Stones, with Watts joining in 1963. “
It had been another band to hitch, I used to be in about three of them,” Watts later said; he began living informally with the group. “We’d rehearse tons.
They – Brian and Keith – never visited work, so we played records all day, therein rather bohemian life. Mick was at university. But he paid the rent.”
Always employing a straightforward four-drum setup – positively minimalist compared with the multi-instrument setups favored by many rock groups – he gave the Rolling Stones propulsive, unfussy backbeats on all of their studio albums, beginning with their self-titled 1964 debut.
“I don’t like drum solos,” he once said. “I admire some folks that do them, but generally I prefer drummers twiddling with the band. The challenge with rock’n’roll is that the regularity of it. My thing is to form it a dance sound – it should swing and bounce.”
Weathering the death of Jones in 1969, the band went on to epitomize stadium rock’n’roll – though Watts regarded them as a “blues band” – scoring 13 UK No 1 albums including the critically adored likes of Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street.
Watts helped to power their high-energy world tours, twiddling with the group well into his mid-70s – his final tour was the two-year No Filter tour, beginning in 2017.
Alongside the Rolling Stones, Watts also played jazz during a series of groups over the years, including his own quintet and tentet, and Rocket 88, reuniting with Korner and Bruce within the late 1970s to play boogie-woogie.
In the mid-1980s, he was bandleader within the Charlie Watts Orchestra, a gargantuan unit playing dance band jazz that toured the planet, and released a live album, The Charlie Watts Orchestra Live at Fulham government building.
“Mick really likes it,” he said of his Rolling Stones bandmates in 1987. “Keith’s very annoyed, though, that we don’t have a guitarist.
He thinks it’s a sacrilege. But I just told him that with 33 guys, it’s hard enough to suit everyone’s solos in because it is.”
Unlike the colorful romantic histories of his Rolling Stones bandmates, Watts was stable in his personal life: he married his wife Shirley Ann Shepherd in 1964, and that they remained together until his death. he’s also survived by their daughter, Seraphina, and granddaughter Charlotte.
Although referred to as a more temperate rocker compared with the remainder of the Stones, Watts struggled with alcohol, amphetamines, and heroin use for a period within the 1980s.
“I think it had been a midlife crisis,” he told the Observer in 2000. “All I do know is that I became totally another person around 1983 and came out of it about 1986. I nearly lost my wife and everything over my behavior.
I wasn’t that badly affected, I wasn’t a junkie, but abandoning [drugs] was very, very hard.”
He said that falling down the steps of his cellar drunk while fetching another bottle of wine “really brought it home to me how far down I’d gone. I just stopped everything – drinking, smoking, shooting up , everything, all directly .”
In 2004, he was diagnosed with throat cancer but recovered after a course of radiotherapy.
After undergoing emergency surgery last month and announcing he wouldn’t appear on the road – he was to get replaced by Steve Jordan
he commented during a typically droll manner: “For once my timing has been a touch off.”
The procedure had been announced as “completely successful” with Watts needing “proper rest and recuperation”.
Richards had said: “This has been a touch of a blow to all or any folks and we’re all wishing for Charlie to possess a speedy recovery.”
Watts’ final release with the band was Living during a town, 2020 single taken from a studio album that they had been planning.
Other artists paying tribute include Robbie Robertson of the Band, who said: “Charlie’s drumming is powerful and unique. His approach is entirely his own and helped shape the sound of rock’n’roll.”
Paul Stanley of Kiss called Watts “one of truth timeless icons and therefore the backbone of the Stones. Hard to fathom the loss.”
Joan Jett said Charlie Watts was “the most elegant and dignified drummer in rock’n’roll. He played exactly what was needed – no more – no less. he’s one among a sort .”
Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine called him “one of the best and most vital architects of the music we love … Rock’n’roll wouldn’t be rock’n’roll without the rhythm, the style, the vibe of this incredible musician.”