John Gress via Reuters
CULTURE – Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died on Tuesday August 24 in London at the age of 80, his agent announced, lamenting the loss 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 in a statement his agent, specifying that he had“ died peacefully in a hospital of London earlier in the day, surrounded by his family ”.
“Calm in the midst of the Rolling Stones storm”
Charlie Watts, elegant drummer who has always kept away from the follies of his cronies, has remained for more than half a century the imperturbable metronome of the group while nourishing a passion for jazz.
With his impassive face and his unanimously recognized talent for binary rhythm, he offered the perfect counterpoint on stage. to the frantic swaying of Mick Jagger and the electric antics of guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood.
And while his friends multiplied “divorces, addictions, arrests and crazy shouts”, according to an inventory drawn up by the Mirror, Charlie Watts, the quiet, spent a serene life alongside Shirley Shepherd, his wife of 50 years, and their daughter Seraphina, at their thoroughbred Arabian stud in Devon, England.
“For fifty years of chaos, drummer Charlie Watts represented calm in the midst of the storm Rolling Stones, both on stage and off, ”estimated the British tabloid in 2012.
The musician, however, was not completely impervious to the group’s addictions: in the 1980s, he underwent detoxification with heroin and alcohol. But he claims to have completely dropped out. “It was very short for me. I just quit, it was not something for me ”, confided this taciturn musician who survived throat cancer in 2004.
Self-taught who came to music through jazz
Born June 2, 1941 in London, Charlie Watts comes to music through jazz. It was his neighbor Dave Green who introduced him at 13 years old. Thirty years later they formed 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 learns to play by ear, watching players in London jazz clubs. “I never went to a school to learn to play jazz. This is not what I like. What I like about jazz is emotion ”.
Throughout his career with the Rolling Stones, the one who held his drumsticks upside down while hitting with the big end, continues jazz in parallel. He recorded several discs under his name with a quintet (Charlie Watts Quintet) then a dixtuor (Charlie and the tentet Watts).
“One of the best in the world”
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.
“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”. Over time, he became indifferent, at least on the surface, to the prospect of separation from the group.
“Announcing a final concert would not be a particularly sad moment for me. I will continue to be what I was yesterday or today ”, he confided in 2018 to the magazine. New Musical Express (NME), while the band of septuagenarians prepared a new tour.
The one who was dubbed as the twelfth best drummer of all time by the magazine Rolling Stones admitted in all honesty having wanted to leave the group several times. “At the end of each tour, I was leaving. We worked for six months in the United States and I said, it’s over, I’m coming home. Then two weeks later I was going around in circles and my wife was like, ‘Why don’t you go back to work? You are a nightmare ‘”.
See also on The HuffPost: The Rolling Stones Delivered A Breathtaking Concert From Home