Charlie Watts Of The Rolling Stones Dies Aged 80
Charlie Watts, the drummer who provided the backbone for The Rolling Stones since joining them in 1962, has died following emergency heart surgery at the age of 80. In a statement, the band said, “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.”
— The Rolling Stones (@RollingStones) August 24, 2021
Charles Robert Watts was born on 2 June 1941 at the University College Hospital in London and raised in Kingsbury, now part of the London Borough of Brent. He had an early interest in jazz and, at the age of 13, his parents bought him a drum kit.
After playing in local bands, in 1961 he was heard by Alexis Korner, who offered him a job in his band, Blues Incorporated, an outfit that became highly influential in the development of British blues music. His Blues Incorporated band mate, guitarist Brian Jones, introduced Watts to the fledgling Rolling Stones who were looking for a drummer after Tony Chapman quit the band.
The meeting was a success and Watts became a Stone. his musicality provided a vital part of the chemistry of the band, forming a reliable rhythm section with bassist Bill Wyman on top of which guitarists Jones and Keith Richards could add thrilling blues rock licks and singer Mick Jagger would provide his charismatic vocals. Before long, the Stones were household names with a string of hit singles – It’s All Over Now, Little Red Rooster, The Last Time, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Get Off My Cloud and Paint It, Black all hit No 1 in the UK chart – and a reputation for rock’n’roll antics that preceded them around the world.
After that early success, the group grew in musical sophistication with a string of classic albums as the 60s ended and the 70s began that sealed their place as the biggest rock’n’roll band in the world – 1968’s Beggars Banquet, 1969’s Let It Bleed, 1971’s Sticky Fingers and the 1972 double album, Exile On Main Street. From this point on, the Stones regularly released chart-topping albums and became a touring phenomenon, leading the way in terms of ever-more ambitious tours and stage sets.
Watts’ love of jazz never abated and, between Stones tours, he played and recorded with various big bands. And in 1990 he used an illustrated biography of jazz great that he’d completed during his time in art college as the basis for an album by The Charlie Watts Quintet, From One Charlie To Another, released in 1991.
He remained down to earth and often played down the rock’n’roll lifestyle when interviewed, famously saying when it was the band’s 25th anniversary that it had been, “Work 5 years and 20 hanging around.” And later, when reflecting on his career, “I wanted to play drums because I fell in love with the glitter and the lights, but it wasn’t about adulation. It was being up there playing.”