IN MEMORIAM: Charlie Watts (1941-2021)



NEW YORK TIMES: Indeed, Mr. Watts was a man of contradictions — a jazzman in the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band, an old-fashioned gentleman among pirates and bad boys, a homebody who spent much of his work life on the road. It was also his contradictions — his loose, swinging style combined with his love of precision; his idiosyncratic technique combined with his remarkable versatility — that made him such an exceptional drummer, and the perfect musical partner for Keith Richards in forging the Stones’s signature sound.

As the band’s former bass player Bill Wyman recalled: “Every band follows the drummer. We don’t follow Charlie. Charlie follows Keith. So the drums are very slightly behind Keith. It’s only fractional. Seconds. Minuscule.” But it makes the Stones impossible to copy.

The propulsive drive of “Get Off My Cloud”; the manic, percussive beat of “19th Nervous Breakdown”; the gathering sense of menace in “Gimme Shelter”; the jazzy syncopation of “Start Me Up”; the lovely, laconic swing of “Beast of Burden” — all were testaments to Mr. Watts’s gift for modulating the mood of a track to create a musical conversation with Mr. Richards’s galvanic guitar and punctuate Mr. Jagger’s vocals and performance. The drummer had a minimalist’s instinct for how to make the most emotional impact with the most economical of licks, when to withhold and when to step on the gas, and how to effortlessly shift gears between the languid and the urgent, between savage immediacy and elegant formality. MORE