HITS Daily Double


Charlie Watts, one of the premier drummers of rock & roll history, who played with The Rolling Stones for more than 50 years, died in London Tuesday. He was 80.

The band's statement reads: “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 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.”

Watts had recently announced that he was recuperating from surgery and would not join the band on their upcoming U.S. tour.

A student of jazz drummers, he was revered for his steadiness and energy, as demonstrated on such beat-driven classics as “Get Off of My Cloud” and “Honky Tonk Women.” Watts' drumming often provided a perfect foil for Keith Richards on guitar-driven songs like “Stray Cat Blues,” “Gimme Shelter” and “Tumbling Dice”; his impeccable timekeeping was evident whether the band was playing fast and loose with blues forms or attempting to fit in with the dance trends of the 1970s and early ‘80s.

Steady as he was, his playing was full of the swing and bounce that came from the American jazz musicians of the 1940s and '50s he admired and studied.

Watts joined the Stones in January 1963 and was the group’s lone drummer as they moved from covers of blues and early rock 'n' roll numbers to such era-defining albums as Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. His last concert with the Stones was on 8/30/19 in Miami.

The Stones’ original bassist, Bill Wyman, recounted Watts’ thoughts about joining the Stones in his book Rolling With the Stones. “Charlie was living with his parents in Neasden. As an outsider, Charlie’s view of the Stones was interesting and in truth about right,” Wyman writes.

Watts, according to Wyman, said: “I thought they were mad. They were working a lot of dates without getting paid or worrying about it. I was earning a pretty comfortable living, which obviously was going to nosedive. But I got to thinking about it. I liked their spirit and I was getting involved with R&B. So I said okay.”

Watts' only side ventures were jazz bands—a quintet and a tentet—that toured and recorded from the mid-1980s into the 2000s.

In fact, Watts started as a jazz drummer, playing coffee shops and clubs while he worked days as a graphic designer. A neighbor from his childhood in Wembley, Dave Green, played bass with him in a group called the Jo Jones Allstars; he also occasionally played in Dudley Moore's piano trio. Guitarist Alexis Korner welcomed him into his Blues Incorporated.

Then, in mid-1962, Watts met Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and Richards, who convinced him to join their band several months later.

He was inducted as a member of the Stones into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1986. He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2006.

Paul McCartney called Watts “a lovely guy” in a tweeted video and said, “Charlie was a rock. Fantastic drummer; steady as a rock. I always loved you, Charlie.”

Facebook tributes to Watts included the following:

Ringo Starr: “God bless Charlie Watts. We’re going to miss you, man. Peace and love to the family.”

Elton John: “A very sad day. Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The most stylish of men and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to Shirley, Seraphina and Charlotte. And of course, The Rolling Stones.”

Questlove: “The heartbeat of Rock & Roll. The Great Charlie Watts. All due respect.”

Duran Duran’s Roger Taylor: “So saddened to hear about the passing of Charlie Watts. An absolute inspiration to a legion of drummers since the 1960s. A man of grace, style, dignity and composure. His simple style was a lesson to us all. When we heard Charlie play, we realised there was never a need to over-perform; it was all about the groove, serving the band and, of course, the song. Most of all, despite being in the greatest rock and roll band of all time, his self-effacing manner and humility was a shining light for all of us in the world to follow.”

Keith Urban: “The heartbeat of one of the greatest bands of all time, a truly one-of-a-kind musician whose influence is unquantifiable AND will continue to be for as long as there are musicians who are working to shed all that is not needed, to get to THE ESSENCE. I didn’t even properly know you, but I love you, Charlie, and I thank you for all that you gave us. I’m so grateful that through countless recordings we will always be not only hearing you but FEELING you!”