LONDON (AP) – Charlie Watts, the self-effacing and steadfast Rolling Stones drummer who helped anchor one of rock’s greatest rhythm sections and used his ‘day job’ to support his enduring love of jazz, has passed away , according to its publicist. He was 80 years old.
Bernard Doherty said on Tuesday that Watts “passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier in the day surrounded by his family.”
“Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also as a member of the Rolling Stones, one of the greatest drummers of his generation,” Doherty said.
Watts had announced that he would not tour with the Stones in 2021 due to an undefined health issue.
The calm and elegantly dressed Watts was often ranked with Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and a handful of others as a leading rock drummer, respected around the world for his muscular, swinging style as the Stones moved on from their early days. scruffy to an international superstar. He joined the group in early 1963 and remained there for almost 60 years, ranking just behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as the oldest and most essential member of the group.
Watts has stayed and largely kept away, through drug abuse, creative clashes and ego wars that helped kill founding member Brian Jones, drove bassist Bill Wyman and the Jones’ replacement Mick Taylor to step down and made being in the Stones the most exhausting job.
A classic Stones song like “Brown Sugar” and “Start Me Up” often began with a harsh guitar riff from Richards, followed closely by Watts and Wyman, as the bassist liked to say, “fattening the sound.” Watts ‘speed, power and timing have never been better showcased than in the concert documentary, “Shine a Light”, when director Martin Scorsese filmed “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” from where he shot. drummed towards the back of the stage.
Watts didn’t care for flashy solos or attention of any kind, but with Wyman and Richards he forged some of rock’s deepest grooves on “Honky Tonk Women”, “Brown Sugar” and ‘other songs. The drummer has adapted well to everything from the disco of “Miss You” to the jazzy “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and the dream ballad “Moonlight Mile”.
The Stones started out, Watts said, “as white dudes from England playing black American music,” but quickly developed their own distinctive sound. Watts was a jazz drummer in his early days and never lost his affinity for the music he first loved, returning to it during the long breaks between the Stones’ tours.
Charles Robert Watts, son of a truck driver and housewife, was born in Neasden, London, on June 2, 1941. From childhood he was passionate about music – falling in love with the drums after hearing Chico Hamilton and learned to play. listening to records from jazz giants like Johnny Dodds, Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington.
Watts’ career took off after playing with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, for whom Jagger also played, and was encouraged by Korner to join the Stones.
Watts was not a fan of rock music but was guided by Richards and Brian Jones as he absorbed blues and rock records. He said the group could trace their roots back to a brief time when he lost his job and shared an apartment with Jagger and Richards because he could live there without rent.
Watts was the last man to join the Stones; the band had searched for months for a permanent drummer and feared Watts was too accomplished for them. Richards recalled that the group wanted him to join so badly that the members cut their expenses so they could afford to pay Watts an appropriate salary. Watts said he initially believed the band would be lucky to last for a year.
“Each group I had been in had 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.”
He found refuge from the rock life, marrying Shirley Ann Shepherd in 1964 and having a daughter, Seraphina, soon after. While other famous rock weddings fell apart, theirs stuck.
Watts generally resisted the excesses of his bandmates, but fell into heroin addiction in the mid-1980s. He credited his stable relationship with his wife for making him quit using drugs.
With his financial future secured through Stones status, Watts was able to assuage his passion for jazz by bringing together some of Britain’s most talented players for a series of recordings and performances.
His first jazz record was “Live at Fulham Town Hall” in 1986 by the Charlie Watts Orchestra. Others by the Charlie Watts Quintet followed, and he then expanded that group to Charlie Watts and the Tentet.
He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004. After intensive treatment, he made a full recovery and resumed touring with the Stones and his jazz band.
By this time he had become a white-haired, immaculately dressed senior rock statesman.
It was not uncommon to see him wearing a tailored suit and polka dot tie while his group mates wore grimy jeans and t-shirts.
In the tumultuous and extremely competitive world of rock and roll, Watts seemed to make few enemies.
“It all seems to come down to a certain quality which is as rare as houndstooth in the music business, but which Charlie Watts is seen to be in abundance. In a nutshell, decency, “wrote columnist Barbara Ellen after interviewing Watts in 2000.” You have to hand it over to a … man who played with the most influential rock and roll band in the world. .. and remained happily married to his wife, Shirley. … A man who, moreover, remains resolutely determined not to take his high position too seriously.
Katz contributed to this report before his death. Former Associated Press editor Janelle Stecklein has compiled biographical documents.