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Charlie Watts of the Stones Dead at 80

Marion Charatan

Posted on August 29, 2021 10:36

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Charlie Watts's tenure with the Rolling Stones spanned nearly six decades but he recently said he would not be able to tour due to an undisclosed illness. The quiet bandmate never filled the stereotype of a rock and roller: he loved breeding Arabian horses on his farm in Devon, U.K.

Charlie Watts has left an indelible impression on the music industry. As a young man, he met Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and Keith Richards when he played drumming gigs around London. He joined the Rolling Stones in 1963, after leaving the band Blue Incorporated. Watts stayed with the Stones for the next 58 years, which is astounding when you consider the rigors of the rock and roll industry, especially touring. 

A little-known fact about Watts is that he designed all of the band's record sleeves, a specialized art form for many years, as well as their tour stages. Watts had formal training as a graphic artist, but he got into jazz drumming early on, too.

Watts was a huge fan of Charlie Parker, the jazz saxophonist and composer. In December of 1964, Watts published a cartoon tribute to his idol Parker called Ode to a High Flying Bird

The drummer also toured with his own group The Charlie Watts Quintet, and performed at the famous Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in Soho, London. Although Watts primarily made his living in rock and roll, his true passion was jazz. It is noteworthy that Watts never missed performing at a single concert in his entire career as a Rolling Stone.

In his personal life, he was grounded, too. Watts married to Shirley Ann Shepherd in 1963, who he met before fame arrived, and they stayed together until his death last week (August 24, 2021). The couple had one daughter, Seraphina, born in 1968, who gave them their only granddaughter Charlotte.

Watts had impeccable style. In fact, he was voted into Vanity Fair's International Best Dressed Hall of Fame List in 2006. And as part of the Rolling Stones, Watts became a permanent member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

I am a relentless British Rock Invasion fan. Even young kids today listen to classic oldies. I think, in part, it's because many musicians of that era were truly talented. Some might feel it's a bit over the top seeing clearly older musicians jumping around on a stage, but it's indisputable that their music speaks for itself. 

Widely praised by fellow musicians for his artistry, Charlie Watts's quiet disposition stood out, too. Bandmate Keith Richards said, "There’s nothing forced about Charlie, least of all his modesty. It’s totally real. He cannot understand what people see in his drumming.” 

The Stones posted a two-minute video tribute on their Twitter feed which says it better than I can. Pop critic Alexis Petridis called Watts "the calm, brilliant eye of the Rolling Stones’ rock’n’roll storm." The New Yorker magazine said Watts's musicianship is 'restrained' and 'poetic.'

An official cause of Charlie Watts's death was not listed. However, Watts beat throat cancer in 2004--and was recently treated for an undisclosed illness that some think could be related.

I expect a biopic will be written about the irreplaceable drummer and his timeless contributions. Now, sit back, listen and enjoy!

Marion Charatan

Posted on August 29, 2021 10:36

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Source: NBC New York

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