Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer of The Rolling Stones, dead at 80.
News of the death of Charlie Watts came pouring in the early morning of Wednesday, Manila time, as music outlets and music artist’s social media alike started to pay their tributes to the rock and roll musician.
A founding member of The Rolling Stones, Charles Robert Watts was born in Bloomsbury, England June 2, 1941.
Watts was already playing for a successful band before he even played for the Stones. While working as a graphic artist for an advertising company during the day, in the evening, he played as the drummer for Blues Incorporated with Alexis Corner, a key figure in the early 60’s London blues revival scene. That band also had future Cream bassist Jack Bruce. Watts was eventually replaced by future Cream drummer Ginger Baker when Watts went with Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman to form The Rolling Stones in 1963.
Charlie married his wife Shirley Shepherd in 1964 and remained with her until his death. Watts was a known jazz music enthusiast and a snappy dresser. For the latter, he was elected by Vanity Fair to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.
Last August 5, 2021, it was reported that Watts had to sit out the Rolling Stones’ remaining dates of their American “No Filter Tour” because of a medical procedure that he had to undergo. It was later announced that Watts had a successful operation and was recuperating.
Charlie Watts died August 24, 2021. He was 80.
Watts’ publicist confirmed his passing and issued the following statement, “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts. He passed away peacefully in 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 of the greatest drummers of his generation. We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.”
In June 2004, Watts was diagnosed with throat cancer but had beat the disease and went into remission. “I went into hospital and eight months later Mick said, ‘We’re going to do a record. But only when you’re ready.’ They were buggering about, writing songs, and when I was ready, I went down and that was it, (the album) ‘A Bigger Bang’. Then we did a two-year tour. It seems whenever we stop, I get ill. So maybe I should carry on!”
Bandmate and guitarist Keith Richards posted a picture of Charlie Watts’ drum riser with a ‘closed’ sign hanging on it on his Instagram and speechless, left no caption to the photo. Keith once called Charlie Watts “the greatest backbeat in rock and roll.”
Richards also said: “Everybody thinks Mick and Keith are the Rolling Stones. If Charlie wasn’t doing what he’s doing on drums, that wouldn’t be true at all. You’d find out that Charlie Watts is the Stones.”
Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger likewise posted a photo of a smiling Charlie Watts behind his drum kit and like Richards, left no caption on.
Contemporaries such as Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney also took to Instagram to pay their respects to their friend and compatriot. “So sad to hear about Charlie Watts, the Stones drummer,” McCartney said on a video, adding, “He was a lovely guy, Lots of love to his family, wife and kids and to his extended family. Condolences to the Stones, this was a huge blow to them because Charlie was a rock, a fantastic drummer, steady as a rock. Love you Charlie, always loved you, a lovely man.”
Starr kept it simple, “God bless Charlie Watts we’re going to miss you man peace and love to the family. Ringo.”
Other A-list musicians paid their respects as well.
John Mayer wrote: “Economy of motion, epitome of cool. Rest In Peace, Charlie Watts.”
Guns & Roses’ Slash wrote: “The countenance of rock n roll is forever changed this day. Devastating loss. RIP. #CharlieWatts.”
Motley Crue’s bassist Nikki Sixx also paid his respect. “This one hurts. To me he was the backbone to the world’s greatest rock n roll band. Such flair and always a gentleman. RIP.”
Elton John tweeted: “Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The Most stylish of men, and such brilliant company.”
Paul Weller wrote: “What a man! Top drummer, dresser, gentleman & what a legacy Charlie has left us. Thank you, Mr. Watts…-Paul.”
Eric Clapton commented on the Stones’ official Facebook announcement that simply said “Goodnight sweet prince…”
Rolling Stone magazine wrote: “It was hard to imagine the Stones without Watts even then (referring to when Watts was first announced unable to play early this month). His light touch, singular rhythmic sense, and impeccable feel, as heard on canonical rock songs such as “Paint It Black,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Brown Sugar,” made him both the engine that powered the Stones’ music and one of the most famous and respected drummers of all time.”