Charlie Watts always had this look of an accountant who had wandered into a gig by accident and stumbled into the drummer’s stool. An elderly statesman looking with some bemusement at the rowdy children playing in front of him with a slightly puzzled, detached air while thinking of debits and credits and the ledger balance.
Until he started playing. With an implacable air and steady beat, he was an immovable object that played without unnecessary flourishes or histrionics.
It’s well known that Watts came from a jazz background, was older than the rest of the Rolling Stones and was never busted for drugs or lived a life on the front page of the tabloids. But for nearly sixty years he was the backbone, the spine of the Stones. And today, an era passed away.
A statement from his London publicist, Bernard Doherty, to the PA Media news agency said:
It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts. He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family. Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also, as a member of the Rolling Stones, one of the greatest drummers of his generation.
He was a fixture and an icon on the music scene – which can be attested by the reaction of musicians around the world. You can ready plenty about the details of his life and his membership of the Stones elsewhere, but we here at Backseat Mafia would like to acknowledge his stature and his part in shaping rock and roll history and what he means to many of us writers.
We are all on an traveling escalator with the end of the journey looming somewhere ahead, and it is always devastating when someone who has accompanied us on that journey with their invaluable music, reaches the end ahead of us. Vale Charlie.
Photograph: Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns