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Celebrating the life of legendary Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts5 min read

August 26, 2021 4 min read


Celebrating the life of legendary Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In 1962, five college students and bohemians came together to play distinct music before a live audience in clubs in London. This unassuming group went on to take over the music scene becoming what is called the greatest rock and roll band of all time— The Rolling Stones. The members, rebellious in appearance and daring with their music, emerged on the scene in 1965 and have consistently remained significant for fifty years! The band comprises lead singer Mick Jagger, the guitarist Keith Richard, multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones, bassist Bill Wyman, the pianist Ian Stewart, and the drummer Charlie Watts. According to another rockstar, Bruce Springsteen, the band came to be known for Jagger’s voice, Keith’s guitar, and Watts’ snare…

From left: Mr. Watts, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian. Image: New York Times

On Tuesday, August 24th, Charlie Watts breathed his last in London at the age of eighty.

And today, Owliver remembers the drummer whose powerful presence in the band lasted over fifty years, giving generation after generation an anthem to call their own!

The start of the bang

Watts was born in London on June 2, 1941 to  Lillian Charlotte Eaves and Charles Richard Watts. Watts’ father served in the Royal Air Force, and after World War II, became a truck driver for the British Railways. His first instrument was a banjo. troubled by the rings needed to play it, he converted it into a snare drum.

Watts went on to graduate from the Harrow School of Art, and began working as a graphic designer. He continued to play drums. His heart was set on jazz. He went on to join the rhythm-and-blues collective, Blues Incorporated. He began drawing a regular salary from his gigs. This is when he was spotted by the newly formed The Rolling Stones (then called Rollin’ Stones) who worked hard to convince him to join the band. They promised a regular salary of five pounds a week and got Watts to join the band, which went on to top music charts across years.

The rolling journey

Watts moved in with his bandmates and committed to Chicago blues record. In the 1960s, the band rose from electric-blue fame to one of the biggest bands from Britain on the global stage.

His drumming style which was often slightly behind the beat gave a certain drag that became characteristic of their sound.

While the other members were known for their eccentricity, Watts remained neutral in the face of fame, even when the band started to be called as the world’s greatest rock and roll band.

In 1964, he married the art student and sculptor, Shirley Ann Shepherd. They had a daughter, Seraphina, in 1968.

He also used his background in art and design to work on stage-sets and album covers for the bands. The band went on to release an album every four years followed by massively successful world tours. Watts drew every bed that he slept on during these tours starting 1967.

Watts also starred on many album covers for the band. Image: New York Times

Watts moved with his family to southwestern England where they bred prizewinning Arabian horses. He also developed an interest in Georgian silver and began collecting vintage cars, though he never learnt to drive.

The twilight years

Watts love for jazz remained supreme and he always found time for it. He filled in time between tours playing with jazz bands like Charlie Watts Quintet, the Charlie Watts Tentet, the Charlie Watts Orchestra.

Even a bout of throat cancer in 2004 could not come in the way of creating music for him.

Watts at a concert in 2019. Image: The Guardian

The Rolling Stones made 30 albums. Nine of them topped American charts, and ten of them topped British charts. They were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. In the Bigger Bang tour, they grossed over half a billion dollars between 2005-2007.

For his indomitable spirit, and love for music, Watts is an inspiration for aspiring and established drummers, and musicians, alike.

With excerpts from New York Times, New York Times, and The Guardian

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