Famous for infusing the Rolling Stones’ music with a jazzy swing — a roll, as much as a rock — Charlie Watts, a session-player-turned-essential-member of the timeless band, has died this week at the age of 80.
Having originally trained as a graphic artist, Watts joined the Stones in 1963 at the age of 21 — and remained with the band until his death. Renowned for enduring grooves on songs like Honky Tonk Women and Brown Sugar, Watts helped re-define rock drumming, lending it a laconic swagger that stood out next to the neat-and-tidy efforts of similar bands of the era. “It was Charlie who brought the dance beat,” David Hepworth said of the band in The Times.
On a personal level, Watts was regarded as quiet and considerate — a charming antidote to Jagger’s flamboyant peacock, who cared less about women and cars and more about clothes and art. (Tellingly, he collected cars for their aesthetic value alone — and never held a driving licence).
“He was quiet, drily funny and unfailingly modest, characteristics theoretically better suited to his initial profession as a graphic designer than the scream-rent world of 60s pop,” wrote Alexis Petridis in the Guardian. Watts did, in fact, work with Jagger to create many of the Stones’ more elaborate stage sets.
As for his own take on his life with the Stones, Watts remained characteristically blasé, describing his part in one of the biggest bands in the world as “five years of work and 20 years of hanging around”.
While it’d be impossible to sum up 80 years of innovation and spirit in one article, we’ve compiled six of his most memorable moments below.
Watts was only known to have lost his temper once
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