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Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died Tuesday at the age of 80, his agent, Bernard Doherty, announced. He was part of the famous rock band since 1963.
Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died Tuesday August 23 in London at the age of 80, his agent Bernard Doherty announced, lamenting the disappearance of “one of the greatest drummers of his generation” .
“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our dear Charlie Watts,” said his agent in a statement, adding that he “died peacefully in a London hospital earlier in the day, surrounded by his family”.
A spokesperson for the artist had already announced in early August that he would not participate in the group’s American tour, scheduled for the fall, for medical reasons.
“Charlie has undergone a successful operation,” but his doctors believe he needs rest, he said at the time, without further clarification.
“One of the greatest drummers of his generation”
The drummer, who turned 80 in June, had been a member of the Rolling Stones since 1963. Along with frontman Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, Charlie Watts was among the oldest members of the famous rock band, which saw Mick parade. Taylor, Ronnie Wood or even Bill Wyman.
In 2004, Charlie Watts was treated for throat cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, from which he recovered after four months of struggle, including six weeks of intensive radiotherapy.
“Charlie was a beloved husband, father and grandfather and also, as a member of the Rolling Stones, one of the greatest drummers of his generation,” said Bernard Doherty.
“We ask that the privacy of his family, group members and close friends be respected in these difficult times,” he added.
Far from the follies of the group
With his impassive face and his unanimously recognized talent for binary rhythm, Charlie Watts offered on stage the perfect counterpoint to the frantic swaying of Mick Jagger and the electric antics of guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood.
Born June 2, 1941 in London, he came to music through jazz. It was his neighbor, Dave Green, who initiated him at 13 years old. Thirty years later, they formed together the quartet “The A, B, C & D of Boogie-Woogie”. “We listened to Duke Ellington, Chet Baker and Charlie Parker together and that was all we dreamed of doing,” this swing enthusiast told AFP in 2011.
Self-taught in drums, the musician learned to play by ear, watching players in London jazz clubs. “I never went to a school to learn to play jazz. It’s not what I like. What I like about jazz is the emotion.”
After studying art, he worked as a graphic designer in a large advertising agency and played, for a fee, with a host of jazz groups in Copenhagen, then in London. He ended up being convinced in 1963 to join the Rolling Stones, then a small formation in its infancy.
Throughout his career with the Rolling Stones, the one who held his drumsticks upside down while hitting with the big end, continued jazz. He recorded several records under his name with a quintet (Charlie Watts Quintet) then a dixtuor (Charlie Watts and the Tentet).
“I am blessed,” Keith Richards said. “The first drummer I started with 40 years ago is one of the best in the world. With a good drummer, you are free to do whatever you want.”
But Charlie Watts has always displayed unwavering modesty. For him, “playing in an intimate jazz quartet and in stadiums with the Rolling Stones is not that different”.