- Schuyler Beltrami
Charlie Watts, Drummer of the Rolling Stones, Dead at 80
Legendary Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died Tuesday at the age of 80. As a core member of one of the biggest rock bands of all time, Charlie Watts became a superstar of the rock scene, often being heralded as one of the greatest drummers of all time.
The music world lost a great on Tuesday with the death of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts at the age of 80. Although not a founding member of the group, Watts joined the band in January of 1963, one year before they released their eponymous first album. A long-time fan of American Jazz and R&B music, Charlie Watts brought a unique style to both the drum kit and to life. Born in London in 1941, Watts grew up in a lower middle-class family in the aftermath of World War II. Receiving his first drum kit as a gift at the age of 14, Watts showed an early passion and talent for music, specifically for the drums. With the American jazz great Charlie Parker as his idol, Watts soon created his own unique style of drumming, plucked from the sounds of Jazz and R&B. After returning from a graphic design apprenticeship in Denmark, Watts joined the London-based Blues Incorporated band, where he would eventually meet other rising stars of the London music scene including Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, and Jimmy Page. More importantly for the future path of Watts, it was in this music scene where he would meet Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones, all three of whom he would later join in the Rolling Stones.
After a falling out with other members of Blues Incorporated, Watts agreed to join the Rolling Stones. The band members’ adoration for American jazz and R&B attracted Watts to the band, who would find their first major international breakthrough with their 1965 hit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. Soon after came their Number 1 Album “Aftermath” (“Paint It, Black” and “Under My Thumb”) which propelled the band to international superstardom on par with their contemporaries The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Their final evolution to titans of rock n roll came with the seminal 1968 album “Beggars Banquet” (“Sympathy for the Devil”) and the 1969 album “Let it Bleed” (“Gimme Shelter”, “You Can’t Always Get what you Want”). Unlike some of their fiercest rivals, the Rolling Stones’ success continued past the end of the 1960’s and the quartet soon became one of the biggest and highest earning musical acts in the world. Their logo of a licking tongue, first designed in 1971, even became one of the most recognizable logos in the world.
Although he became famous as the lead drummer of one of the biggest acts in music history, Charlie Watts always found time to pursue his other interests, most notably jazz and graphic design. He often toured as a part of other groups, mostly in the jazz and “boogie-woogie” genres and recorded his own solo albums, usually tributes to the Great American Songbook. Although he made his name in rock n roll, Watts never exhibited much of the stereotypical rocker lifestyle, whether it be his quiet private life or his monogamous lifestyle, Watts even never received his driving license, despite owning a collection of classic cars. He was also known as a classically stylish dresser, being named one of the World’s Best Dressed Men by the British Daily Telegraph newspaper. Watts announced at the beginning of the month that he would not join the rest of the Rolling Stones when their tour resumed later this year, owing his decision to a heart procedure. Upon the news of his death, tributes poured in from around the music world, including from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Elton John, and Bono, as well as the fellow members of the Rolling Stones. The official website for the band changed to a singular photo of Watts as a tribute to the drummer’s illustrious life. Charlie Watts was 80 and is survived by his wife of 57 years, Shirley, and one daughter.