LONDON (AP) — Charlie Watts, the self-deprecating and volatile Rolling Stones drummer who helped anchor one of rock’s biggest rhythm sections and took his “day job” to support his enduring love of jazz According to his publicist, he has died. He was 80 years old.
Bernard Doherty said Tuesday that Watts “died peacefully earlier today in a London hospital surrounded by his family.”
“Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and one of the greatest drummers of his generation as a member of The Rolling Stones,” Doherty said.
Watts announced that he would not tour with the Stones in 2021 due to an undefined health problem. The band is scheduled to headline US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on October 24.
The cool, elegantly dressed Watts was often ranked as a prominent rock drummer alongside Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, and a few others, respected around the world for his muscular, swinging style as the Stones were on their way. Husky rose to international superstardom from the beginning. He joined the band in early 1963 and remained so for the next 60 years, just behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as the group’s longest-lasting and most essential member.
Watts persisted through drug abuse, creative struggles, and ego wars, and largely kept himself apart, having helped kill founding member Brian Jones, leaving bassist Bill Wyman and Jones’ replacement Mick Taylor. Inspired and otherwise made the most tedious of jobs at the Stones.
A classic Stones song like “Brown Sugar” and “Start Me Up” often began with a hard guitar riff by Richards, with Watts closely behind, and Wyman, as the bassist liked to say, “thickened the sound.” Doing.” Watts’ speed, power, and time-keeping were never better demonstrated than in the concert documentary, “Shine a Light”, when director Martin Scorsese filmed “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” from where he performed backstage. And the drums were played.
The Stones began, Watts said, “white blocks from England playing Black American music” but quickly developed their own distinctive sound. Watts was a jazz drummer in his early years and never lost his affinity for the music he had previously enjoyed, leading his own jazz band and taking on several other side projects.
He had his own eccentricity – Watts loved collecting cars, even though he didn’t drive and just sat in his garage. But he was a steady influence on stage and off as the Stones defied all expectations by rocking well into their 70s compared to their older rivals the Beatles.
Watts didn’t care for catchy singles or any sort of attention, but Wyman and Richards created some of rock’s deep groove on “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Brown Sugar” and other songs. The drummer adapted everything well from the disco “Miss You” to the jazzy “Can You Hear Me Knocking” and the dreamy ballad “Moonlight Mile”.
Jagger and Richards sometimes seemed to agree on something other than Watts’ admiration as both a man and a musician. Richards called Watts “the key” and often joked that his affinity was so strong that on stage he would sometimes try to rattle Watts by abruptly changing the beat – only for Watts to change it back.
He also had an influence on the Rolling Stones which extended beyond drumming. He worked with Jagger on more spectacular stage designs for the group tours. He also provided the illustrations for the back cover of the acclaimed 1967 album “Between the Buttons” and inadvertently gave the record its title. When he asked Stones manager Andrew Oldham what the album would be called, Oldham replied “Between the Buttons,” meaning undecided. Watts thought that “Between the Buttons” was the actual name and incorporated it into his artwork.
He was a rock star to the world. But Watts often said that the actual experience was exhausting and unpleasant, and even frightening. “Girls are following you in the street, screaming… Terrible! … I hate it,” he told The Guardian newspaper in an interview. In another interview, he described the drumming life as “a cross between being an athlete and a total nervous wreck”.
Watts took refuge from the rock life, married Shirley Ann Shepherd in 1964 and soon gave birth to a daughter, Seraphina. While other famous rock marriages broke up, they held up. Jagger and Richards could only envy their bandmate’s indifference to stardom and relative contentment in their personal lives, which consisted of horses happily running on a rural estate in Devon, England.
Writer Philip Norman, who has written extensively about the Rolling Stones, said that Watts “lived in constant hope of allowing the next plane to take home.” On tour, he made it a point to photograph each hotel room until he could return to his family. He said little about playing the same songs for more than 40 years as the Stones recycled their classics. But he went far beyond “Satisfaction” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by combining and performing with jazz bands in the second half of his career.
The son of a lorry driver and a housewife, Charles Robert Watts was born on June 2, 1941, in Neesden, London. Since childhood, he was fond of music – especially jazz. He fell in love with the drums after listening to Chico Hamilton and taught himself to play by listening to records from Johnny Dodds, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and other jazz giants.
After attending Harrow Art College and playing drums in his spare time, he worked at an advertising firm in London. London was home to a blues and jazz revival in the early 1960s, with Jagger, Richards and Eric Clapton being among the future superstars who made their debut. Watts’ career began after Alexis Korner played with Blues Incorporated, for which Jagger also performed, and was encouraged by Korner to join the Stones.
Watts was not a fan of rock music at first and remembers being directed by Richards and Brian Jones as they absorbed blues and rock records, particularly the music of bluesman Jimmy Reed. He said that the band could trace its roots back to a brief period when he lost his job and shared an apartment with Jagger and Richards because he could live there rent-free.
“Keith Richards taught me rock and roll,” Watts said. “We had nothing to do all day and we would play these records over and over again. I learned to love Muddy Waters. Keith told me how cool Elvis Presley was, and I always hated Elvis until then. .
Watts was the last person to join the Stones; The band had searched for months to find a permanent drummer and feared that Watts was too skillful for them. Richards remembered the band he wanted to join so badly that the members cut expenses so they could pay Watts a fair salary. Watts said that he believed the band would be lucky to last a year at first.
“Every band I’ve ever played in lasted a week,” he said. “I always thought the Stones would last a week, then a fortnight, and then all of a sudden, it would be 30 years.”
For most of his career, Watts resisted the excesses of his bandmates, but in the mid-1980s he became addicted to heroin. He would attribute his stable relationship with his wife to the release of drugs.
“I was at war with myself at the time,” he told Rolling Stone magazine.
Along with securing their financial future due to the Stones’ status as one of the world’s most popular live bands, Watts developed his passion for jazz by putting together some of Britain’s most talented musicians for a range of recordings and performances. were able to increase. They usually played during the long breaks between Stones tours.
Their first jazz record, 1986’s “Live at Fulham Town Hall”, was recorded by the Charlie Watts Orchestra. Others from the Charlie Watts quintet followed, and they expanded that group into Charlie Watts and Tenet.
Watts was an acclaimed jazz bandleader in 2004 when he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He received extensive treatment and made a full recovery. His return to health allowed him to resume touring with both the Stones and his jazz band.
By then, the young man who had let his gray hair down to his shoulders in the late 1960s had grown into a crooked, white-haired, impeccably dressed senior politician of rock. It was nearly impossible to get Watts to talk about his place in rock history, but he loved talking about fashion. It was not uncommon to see him wearing a custom-made suit and polka dot tie, while his bandmates wore jeans and T-shirts.
In the turbulent, extremely competitive world of rock and roll, Watts made few enemies.
“It seems like it’s all boiling down to a certain quality that’s as rare as a hen’s teeth in the music business, but Charlie Watts is considered plentiful. In a word, complacency,” columnist Barbara Allen told Watts in 2000. Wrote after interview “You have to hand it to a guy who has played with the most influential rock ‘n’ roll band in the world…and is happily married to his wife, Shirley….a man who, moreover, Determined not to take her high position too seriously.”
Former Associated Press writers Greg Katz and Janelle Steklin compiled biographical material for this story. Pioneer Press contributed to this report.