Drummer Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones spine, dies at 80

LONDON (AP) — Charlie Watts, the self-effacing and unshakeable Rolling Stones drummer who helped anchor one among rock’s biggest rhythm sections and used his “day job” to help his enduring love of jazz, has died, in response to his publicist. He was 80.

Bernard Doherty stated Tuesday that Watts “handed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier at present surrounded by his household.”

“Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and in addition as a member of The Rolling Stones one of many biggest drummers of his era,” Doherty stated.

Watts had introduced he wouldn’t tour with the Stones in 2021 due to an undefined well being challenge.

The quiet, elegantly dressed Watts was usually ranked with Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and a handful of others as a premier rock drummer, revered worldwide for his muscular, swinging fashion because the Stones rose from their scruffy beginnings to worldwide superstardom. He joined the band early in 1963 and remained for almost 60 years, ranked simply behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richards because the group’s most lasting and most important member.

Watts stayed on, and largely held himself aside, by means of the drug abuse, artistic clashes and ego wars that helped kill founding member Brian Jones, drove bassist Invoice Wyman and Jones’ substitute Mick Taylor to give up and in any other case made being within the Stones a most exhausting job.

A traditional Stones track like “Brown Sugar” and “Begin Me Up” usually started with a tough guitar riff from Richards, with Watts following carefully behind, and Wyman, because the bassist preferred to say, “fattening the sound.” Watts’ velocity, energy and time preserving had been by no means higher showcased than throughout the live performance documentary, “Shine a Mild,” when director Martin Scorsese filmed “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” from the place he drummed towards the again of the stage.

The Stones started, Watts stated, “as white blokes from England enjoying Black American music” however shortly advanced their very own distinctive sound. Watts was a jazz drummer in his early years and by no means misplaced his affinity for the music he first liked, heading his personal jazz band and taking over quite a few different aspect tasks.

He had his eccentricities — Watts preferred to gather automobiles though he didn’t drive and would merely sit in them in his storage. However he was a steadying affect on stage and off because the Stones defied all expectations by rocking properly into their 70s, a long time longer than their outdated rivals the Beatles.

Watts didn’t look after flashy solos or consideration of any sort, however with Wyman and Richards solid a few of rock’s deepest grooves on “Honky Tonk Girls,” “Brown Sugar” and different songs. The drummer tailored properly to every part from the disco of “Miss You” to the jazzy “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and the dreamy ballad “Moonlight Mile.”

Jagger and Richards at instances appeared to agree on little else moreover their admiration of Watts, each as a person and a musician. Richards referred to as Watts “the important thing” and sometimes joked that their affinity was so robust that on stage he’d typically attempt to rattle Watts by immediately altering the beat — solely to have Watts change it proper again.

He additionally had an affect on the Rolling Stones that prolonged past drumming. He labored with Jagger on the ever extra spectacular stage designs for the group’s excursions. He additionally supplied illustrations for the again cowl of the acclaimed 1967 album “Between the Buttons” and inadvertently gave the file its title. When he requested Stones supervisor Andrew Oldham what the album could be referred to as, Oldham responded “Between the buttons,” that means undecided. Watts thought that “Between the Buttons” was the precise title and included it in his paintings.

To the world, he was a rock star. However Watts usually stated that the precise expertise was draining and unsightly, and even horrifying. “Ladies chasing you down the road, screaming … horrible!… I hated it,” he informed The Guardian newspaper in an interview. In one other interview, he described the drumming life as a “cross between being an athlete and a complete nervous wreck.”

Watts discovered refuge from the rock life, marrying Shirley Ann Shepherd in 1964 and having a daughter, Seraphina, quickly after. Whereas different well-known rock marriages crumbled, theirs held. Jagger and Richards might solely envy their bandmate’s indifference to stardom and relative contentment in his non-public life, which included fortunately tending horses on a rural property in Devon, England.

Writer Philip Norman, who has written extensively in regards to the Rolling Stones, stated Watts lived “in fixed hope of being allowed to catch the subsequent airplane residence.” On tour, he made some extent of drawing every resort room he stayed in, a manner of marking time till he might return to his household. He stated little about enjoying the identical songs for greater than 40 years because the Stones recycled their classics. However he did department out far past “Satisfaction” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by assembling and performing with jazz bands within the second half of his profession.

Charles Robert Watts, son of a truck driver and a homemaker, was born in Neasden, London, on June 2, 1941. From childhood, he was captivated with music — jazz specifically. He fell in love with the drums after listening to Chico Hamilton, and taught himself to play by listening to information by Johnny Dodds, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and different jazz giants.

He labored for a London promoting agency after he attended London’s Harrow Artwork School and performed drums in his spare time. London was residence to a blues and jazz revival within the early Sixties, with Jagger, Richards and Eric Clapton among the many future superstars getting their begin. Watts’ profession took off after he performed with Alexis Korner’s Blues Included, for whom Jagger additionally carried out, and was inspired by Korner to hitch the Stones.

Watts wasn’t a rock music fan at first and remembered being guided by Richards and Brian Jones as he absorbed blues and rock information, notably the music of bluesman Jimmy Reed. He stated the band might hint its roots to a short interval when he had misplaced his job and shared an condominium with Jagger and Richards as a result of he might dwell there rent-free.

“Keith Richards taught me rock and roll,” Watts stated. “We’d don’t have anything to do all day and we’d play these information over and over. I discovered to like Muddy Waters. Keith turned me on to how good Elvis Presley was, and I’d at all times hated Elvis up ’til then.”

Watts was the ultimate man to hitch the Stones; the band had looked for months to discover a everlasting drummer and feared Watts was too completed for them. Richards recalled the band wanting him so badly to hitch that members minimize down on bills so they might afford to pay Watts a correct wage. Watts stated he believed at first the band could be fortunate to final a yr.

“Each band I’d ever been in had lasted per week,” he stated. “I at all times thought the Stones would final per week, then a fortnight, after which immediately, it’s 30 years.”

For a lot of his profession, Watts resisted the excesses of his bandmates, however he fell into heroin dependancy within the mid-Eighties. He would credit score his steady relationship together with his spouse for getting him off medication.

“I used to be warring with myself at the moment,” he informed Rolling Stone journal.

Together with his monetary future safe due to the Stones’ standing as one of many world’s hottest dwell bands, Watts was capable of indulge his ardour for jazz by placing collectively a few of the most gifted musicians in Britain for a sequence of recordings and performances. They usually performed throughout the lengthy breaks between Stones excursions.

His first jazz file, the 1986 “Stay at Fulham City Corridor,” was recorded by the Charlie Watts Orchestra. Others by the Charlie Watts Quintet adopted, and he expanded that group into the Charlie Watts and the Tentet.

Watts was an acclaimed jazz bandleader when he was stricken with throat most cancers in 2004. He acquired in depth therapy and made a full restoration. His return to well being allowed him to renew touring with each the Stones and his jazz band.

By then, the younger man who had worn his brown hair all the way down to his shoulders within the late Sixties had advanced right into a craggy, white-haired, impeccably dressed senior statesman of rock. Getting Watts to speak about his place in rock historical past was nearly unattainable, however he appeared to get pleasure from speaking about style. It was commonplace to see him attired in a custom-made go well with and polka dot tie whereas his bandmates wore denims and T-shirts.

Within the tumultuous, extraordinarily aggressive world of rock and roll, Watts appeared to make few enemies.

“All of it appears to boil all the way down to a sure high quality which is as uncommon as hen’s enamel within the music enterprise, however which Charlie Watts is perceived to have in abundance. In a phrase, decency,” columnist Barbara Ellen wrote after interviewing Watts in 2000. “You’ve bought handy it to a … man who’s performed with the world’s most influential rock ‘n’ roll band … and stayed fortunately married to his spouse, Shirley … A person who, furthermore, stays resolutely decided to not take his elevated place too significantly.”

Watts is survived by his spouse Shirley, sister Linda, daughter Seraphina and granddaughter Charlotte.


Katz contributed to this report earlier than his loss of life. Nationwide Author Hillel Italie in New York and former Related Press Author Janelle Stecklein additionally contributed.

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