Charlie Watts, RIP

Here’s an obit from Variety. I’m sure in the next few days we’ll see many more.

He was one of the best drummers, in rock or outside it, and equally, the coolest drummer in rock by far. He dressed for the job he wanted, and the job he had.

And while there are any number of performances of his to list as the best, here’s my personal favorite, from “Start Me Up,” where the initial snare hit is as iconic as the opening guitar riff. It all works exactly as it should, and Watts makes a magnificently on-point drum performance look like no big deal. It’s a big deal, folks. Behind the preening of Jagger in the video is Watts’ rock-solid beat. You couldn’t have the first without the second.

— JS

19 Comments on “Charlie Watts, RIP”

  1. Charlie was a perfect example of how a jazz drummer could improve a rock band without really trying

    No offence to any rock drummer implied here at all – but Bill Bruford, Jon Hiseman, Brian (Blinky) Davison are some other examples

  2. The best part of that video, imho, is the silent conversation between Watts and Wyman. Watts looks like he can barely keep from cracking up all through it. Definitely a Do-you-believe-this vibe…

  3. I literally just finished watching “Count Me In,” a documentary about rock drumming that I saw on Netflix. RIP, Mr. Watts.


  4. Because you and you Kristine need a good, slow dance.
    And you need to be reminded that Charlie wasn’t just about rock and roll.

    [URL deleted because it was making a mess of the display — JS]

  5. Mick’s soft-waisted pants make me think this is a commercial for that new exercise smash hit- Jaggercise!

  6. I learned from one of Rick Beato’s videos that Charlie Watts skips the high hat when he hits the snare. Now I can’t help but notice it every time I listen to a Rolling Stones song.

  7. Watts consistently sits just behind the beat in so many Rolling Stones songs. He didn’t clutter up the empty space, generally leaving the guitar front and center, because when you’ve got Keith Richards in your band, that’s the clear choice. But while his playing was extraordinarily musical, that musicality was never showy. Take that first snare hit in Start Me Up, for example: it’s on the “one,” kicking things off in an unexpected, counter-intuitive, but utterly simple single beat. I don’t think he comes back to that move again for the rest of the song, because why would he? And by the second four-bar phrase, things have settled into the groove we know and love. It’s spot on.

  8. I’m self described as ‘musically challenged’ but really gets to me is that Charlie Watts and the Rolling Stones were contemporaries of the Beatles. One had their decade of everlasting fame, the other is still touring and expected to be immortal.

  9. My opinion: the very best thing about Start Me Up is the repeated line “You make a grown man cry,” which I thought was all too appropriate in the theme song for Windows 95.

  10. “A band is only as good as its drummer” as Joe Strummer from the Clash once said. It’s so true.

    RIP, Charlie

  11. The Stones performed during lockdown on British TV. Charlie didn’t have a drum kit where he was, but was there on his webcam, eyes closed, keeping perfect time to the backing track on an imaginary set and obviously having the time of his life. He will be sorely missed.

  12. Watts, first and foremost a jazz drummer, once told an interviewer that his performance on Sympathy for the Devil was inspired by Kenny Clarke’s performance on Art Blakey’s A Night in Tunisia.

    See what you think.

  13. One time, Mick Jagger woke Charlie in the middle of the night, screaming down the phone at him “Where’s my fucking drummer?”

    So Charlie got up, washed, shaved, put on a suit and tie and a pair of freshly polished shoes, then walked to Mick’s place. Upon the door being opened, Charlie punched the face, said “Don’t ever call me ‘your drummer’ again. You’re my fucking singer”, and went home.


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