Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones' Bedrock drummer, dies at 80

Charlie Watts, whose strong but relentless percussion fueled the Rolling Stones for more than 50 years, died in London on Tuesday. He w...


Charlie Watts, whose strong but relentless percussion fueled the Rolling Stones for more than 50 years, died in London on Tuesday. He was 80 years old.

His death, in a hospital, was announced by his publicist, Bernard Doherty. No further details were immediately provided.

The Rolling Stones announced earlier this month that Mr. Watts would not be part of the band’s upcoming “No Filter” tour of the United States after undergoing unspecified emergency medical intervention, which representatives say of the group, had been a success.

Reserved, dignified and dapper, Mr. Watts has never been more flamboyant, on stage or off, than most of his rock-star peers, let alone Stones lead singer Mick Jagger; he was content to be one of the best rock drummers of his generation, playing with a jazz-tinged swing that made the band’s titanic success possible. As Stones guitarist Keith Richards said in his autobiography of 2010, “Life”, “Charlie Watts has always been the bed I lay down on musically.”

While some rock drummers chased volume and exhilaration, Mr. Watts defined his playing with subtlety, swing and a solid groove.

“As much as Mick’s voice and Keith’s guitar, Charlie Watts’ snare sound is the Rolling Stones, ”Bruce Springsteen wrote in an introduction to the 1991 edition of drummer Max Weinberg’s book“ The Big Beat ”. “When Mick sings ‘It’s only rock’n’roll but I like it’, Charlie is behind you to show you why!”

Charles Robert Watts was born in London on June 2, 1941. His mother, the former Lillian Charlotte Eaves, was a housewife; his father, Charles Richard Watts, was in the Royal Air Force and after World War II became a truck driver for the British Railways.

Charlie’s first instrument was a banjo, but, bewildered by the fingerings required to play it, he removed the neck and turned his body into a snare drum. He discovered jazz at the age of 12 and quickly became a fan of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus.

In 1960, Mr. Watts graduated from the Harrow School of Art and found work as a graphic designer for a London advertising agency. He wrote and illustrated “Ode to a Highflying Bird,” a children’s book about jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker (although it was not published until 1965). In the evenings he played drums with various groups.

Most of them were jazz combos, but he was also invited to join Alexis Korner’s raucous rhythm and blues collective, Blues Incorporated. Mr Watts declined the invitation as he was leaving England to work as a graphic designer in Scandinavia, but joined the group upon his return a few months later.

The newly formed Rolling Stones (then called the Rollin ‘Stones) knew they needed a good drummer but couldn’t afford Mr. Watts, who was already making a regular salary from his various gigs. “We starved ourselves to pay for him! Mr. Richards wrote. “Literally. We shoplifted to get Charlie Watts back.

In early 1963, when they could finally guarantee five pounds a week, Mr. Watts joined the group, completing the canonical lineup of Mr. Richards, Mr. Jagger, guitarist Brian Jones, bassist Bill Wyman and pianist. Ian Stewart. He moved in with his band mates and immersed himself in Chicago blues records.

Following the success of The Beatles, the Rolling Stones quickly went from being a group specializing in electric blues to that of one of the greatest groups of the British invasion of the 1960s. While M’s guitar riff Richards defined the band’s most famous single, the 1965 record “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, Mr. Watts’ drum motif was just as essential. He was relentless on “Paint It, Black” (n ° 1 in 1966), flexible on “Ruby Tuesday” (n ° 1 in 1967) and master of the funky cowbell groove on “Honky Tonk Women” (n ° 1 in 1969 ).

Mr. Watts was ambivalent about the fame he gained as a member of the group that has often been called “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world”. As he put it in the 2003 book “According to The Rolling Stones”: “I loved playing with Keith and the band – I still do – but I wasn’t interested in being a sitting pop idol. there with screaming girls. This is not the world where I come from. It’s not who I wanted to be, and I still think it’s silly.

As the Stones progressed through the years, Mr. Watts drew on his graphic arts background to help design the group’s sets, merchandise and album covers. buttons. While the Stones cultivated bad boy images and indulged in a collective appetite for debauchery, Mr. Watts primarily avoided sex and drugs. He secretly married Shirley Anne Shepherd, an art student and sculptor, in 1964.

On tour, he returned alone to his hotel room; every night he drew his accommodation. “I’ve drawn every single bed I’ve slept in on tour since 1967,” he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1996. “It’s a fantastic off-book.”

Likewise, as other members of the Stones fought for control of the group, Mr Watts remained largely aloof from internal politics. As he told The Weekend Australian in 2014, “I usually mumble in the background.”

Mr Jones, who considered himself the frontman, was fired from the Stones in 1969 (and found dead in his swimming pool soon after). Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards have spent decades at loggerheads, sometimes making albums without being in the studio at the same time. Mr. Watts was happy to work with either or both.

There was once, however, when Mr. Watts resented being treated like a mercenary rather than an equal member of the group. In 1984, Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards went out for a drink in Amsterdam. When they returned to their hotel around 5 am, Mr. Jagger called Mr. Watts, woke him up and asked, “Where’s my drummer?” Twenty minutes later, Mr. Watts showed up to Mr. Jagger’s room, coldly enraged, but shaven and smartly dressed in a Savile Row suit and tie.

“Never call me your drummer again,” he told Mr. Jagger, before grabbing him by the backhand and delivering a right hook. Mr Richards said he narrowly saved Mr Jagger from falling from a window in an Amsterdam canal.

“It’s not something I’m proud of, and if I hadn’t been drinking I never would have done it,” Watts said in 2003. “At the end of the day, don’t piss me off . “

At the time, Mr Watts was in the early stages of a midlife crisis that manifested as a two-year crisis. Just as the other Stones settled into moderation in their forties, he became addicted to amphetamines and heroin, nearly destroying his marriage. After passing out in a recording studio and breaking his ankle falling down a staircase, he quit, cold.

Mr Watts and his wife had a daughter, Seraphina, in 1968 and, after spending some time in France as tax exiles, moved to a farm in southwest England. There they bred award-winning Arabian horses, gradually expanding their stud farm to over 250 horses on 700 acres of land. Information on his survivors was not immediately available. Mr Doherty, the publicist, said Mr Watts had “passed away peacefully” in the hospital “surrounded by his family”.

The Rolling Stones have released 30 studio albums, nine of which topped the US charts and 10 topped the UK charts. The group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 – a ceremony Mr. Watts ignored.

Eventually, the Stones settled into a cycle of releasing one album every four years, followed by a hugely lucrative world tour. (They grossed over half a billion dollars between 2005 and 2007 on their “Bigger Bang” tour.)

But Mr. Watts’ true love was still jazz, and he filled the time between these tours with jazz bands of various sizes – the Charlie Watts Quintet, the Charlie Watts Tentet, the Charlie Watts Orchestra. Soon, however, he would be back on the road with the Stones, playing sold-out arenas and drawing beds in empty hotel rooms.

He was not slowed down by old age, nor by throat cancer in 2004. In 2016, drummer Lars Ulrich of Metallica told Billboard that since he wanted to continue playing until he was 70, he saw Mr. Watts as his role model. “The only road map is Charlie Watts,” he said.

All the while, Mr. Watts continued to time on a simple four-piece drum kit, anchoring the Rolling Stones show.

“I always wanted to be a drummer,” he told Rolling Stone in 1996, adding that at rock concerts in arenas, he envisioned a more intimate setting. “I’ve always had this illusion of being in the Blue Note or Birdland with Charlie Parker in front of me. It didn’t look like that, but it was the illusion I had.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones' Bedrock drummer, dies at 80
Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones' Bedrock drummer, dies at 80
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