Just sitting here mourning the death of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, who passed away Monday due to an unspecified illness in a London hospital. He was 80 years old.
Watts was the best drummer in the best band. Period. In the cathedral of rock ’n’ ‘roll it was Watts that stood the tallest, amid drummers like John Bonham, DJ Fontana, Ringo Starr, and Ginger Baker. Watts may have been stoic and less flamboyant than his bandmates, but with his deadpan mug, he was definitely the coolest.
Folks might have seen the death of guitarist Brian Jones in 1969 or the exit of bassist Bill Wyman in 1993 as the death of the Stones. Those worries were unfounded. Watts, as with original members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, was irreplaceable. But health got in the way and it was announced that Watts would not tour with the Rolling Stones in 2021.
With over 240 million copies of their albums sold, the Stones were considered in 2013 by Rolling Stone magazine “the most definitive that rock ’n’ roll has ever produced.”
Charlie Watts considered himself, and was viewed by many others, as a jazz drummer. It was Richards and Jagger who turned him on to Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley via Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Little Walter, and Muddy Waters, who the band took its band name from.
In a dubious local connection, the Stones’ Nov. 1, 1965, show at the Rochester War Memorial was cut short six songs into the band’s performance afterJagger took off his jacket and the crowd of approximately 4,000—mostly female—went batshit.
The Stones’ influence runs staggeringly deep, long, wide, far, and forever. How can they possibly continue without Watts? That’s the question that looms.
Frank De Blase is Rochester Beacon music writer.
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