Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has passed away.
Charles Robert (Charlie) Watts
June 2, 1941 – August 24, 2021
Despite becoming one of the greats of rock’n’roll, the dapper and deadpan Charlie Watts, who has died aged 80, spent more than 60 years doing his second-favourite job. Watts applied himself diligently to the task of being the rock-steady heartbeat of the Rolling Stones, but what he always yearned to do was play jazz. Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis were his musical idols, and his playing was inspired by jazz drummers such as Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes and Philly Joe Jones.
Charles Robert “Charlie” Watts, the Rolling Stones’ drummer and the band’s irreplaceable heartbeat, has died at age 80. No cause of death was given.
Watts’ publicist confirmed his death in a statement. “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts,” it read. “He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier [Tuesday] surrounded by his family.”
His music career has been and will be well documented,
here we will be looking at the path not taken.
In 1961, twenty-year-old Charles Robert Watts was working as a full-time graphic designer and a part-time drummer. He had left art school in July 1960, and after working as a tea boy in an advertising agency he got his chance to work as a designer. In mid-1961 he was also playing drums twice a week in a coffee bar, but by September he was playing with a band at the Troubadour Club in Chelsea. It’s here he met Alexis Korner who asked him to join his band, but young Charlie had other ideas: he moved to Denmark to work.
It was while he was at art school that he wrote and illustrated a book he called, Ode To A High Flying Bird, the bird being, Charlie Parker, the jazz saxophonist who Charlie loved so much. When Charlie became a member of the Rolling Stones in January 1963 his jazz drumming took a back seat, but not his passion for the music, which he has loved and played ever since whenever his commitments with the Stones allowed.
Charlie produced Ode To A High Flying Bird as a children’s book for his portfolio, with a narrative of Parker’s life (“Soon everybody was digging what Bird blew. . . . His nest was made”) along with simple whimsical drawings that illustrated the narrative.
Late in 1964, according to Charlie, “This guy who published ‘Rolling Stones Monthly’ saw my book and said ‘Ah, there’s a few bob in this!’” Charlie’s 36-page book was published by Beat Publications, London on January 17, 1965, and cost 7 shillings (35p/70 US cents). In the 1990s a facsimile edition was produced.
In 1966 Charlie drew a comic strip for The Stones’ tour program.
A Stones’ Christmas card also from 1966:
1967 saw Charlie drawing the back cover of the Between the Buttons album.
Rest in peace, Charlie.
3 thoughts on “Charlie Watts – RIP”
With only two remaining members of the real (Brian Jones) Rolling Stones left, it’s time to disband. Mick, Keith, and sidemen aren’t The Rolling Stones anymore.
I agree. But comics has been doing it since lead type so…
“…He will be sorely missed and impossible to replace but I’ve no doubt The Stones will go on. My message to Charlie? Rest In Beat!”
– Alice Cooper
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