Drummer Charlie Watts, Heartbeat of the Rolling Stones, Dies at 80

Sean DiNicola , Science Editor

The Rolling Stones, one of the most popular rock bands in the world, have always had a unique and distinguished tone that set them apart from other bands. The lead singer and guitarists were
well-recognized, but one of the more underappreciated members
of the band was the drummer.

One of the reasons The Rolling Stones was so iconic and different from everyone else was because of their excellent drummer, Charles Watts. The influential drummer died in London in August at age 80 due to throat cancer.

Starting out as a jazz bandleader and drummer, he worked his way up to playing for The Rolling Stones and has easily become one of the most prominent figures in rock and roll/jazz history.

Watts took an interest in jazz at an early age and started his drumming career at 14. Having no formal training in music theory, Watts set out to become a jazz drummer, relying on his passion and a record player.

In an interview on rollingstones.com, he talked about how he developed his signature drumming style. “My whole life has been
copying,” he said. “I learned by watching the great drummers in London – Phil Seamen, people like that.” He added, “When you’re
young, to play jazz is very hard. You have to learn volumes, really.
It’s one of the hard things playing with great intensity, very quietly.
It’s very hard. But it’s one of the things you have to do to play the
music called jazz.”


Charlie Watts, drummer of the world-reknown band The Rolling Stones, died in August at the age of 80 after battling cancer. (RollingStones.com)

Before joining The Rolling Stones, Watts studied graphic design and while working as a designer, played in a band called Blues Incorporated. It was at a rhythm and blues club in London where he met his fellow members of The Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones. He left Blues Incorporated in 1963 to join The Stones.

Watts credits Keith Richards with helping him develop a love for rock music while they shared an apartment with Mick Jagger. Since they were unemployed at the time, they listened to records all day,
every day.

“Keith Richards taught me rock n’ roll,” Watts said. “I learned to love Muddy Waters and people like that through an intensive three-year crash course, you might say.”

The band played their first show in 1963 at the Ealing Jazz Club, where they debuted “Satisfaction,” which ended up being a number one hit in the U.S. by 1965. The rest, one might say, is history.

Charlie Watts has left a big legacy on the art of drumming and is an inspiration to many young musicians today including one of Archbishop Riordan’s own seniors, Javier Sanchez ’22. As a member of the talented concert band, Sanchez explains why Watts’ style of
playing is influential to him the most by stating, “When I listen to Charlie, I pay attention to how he elevates his songs through playing. I noticed that he has really clean sounds when he plays aggressively, so whenever I try playing aggressively or forcefully
I also try to keep the sound as crisp as possible so that it doesn’t
turn out as a clunky mess of sound.”

Watts was definitely one of the most unique drummers in
Rock ‘n’ Roll history. One of his biggest fans at Riordan, Spanish
teacher Armando Castillo, regards him as an outstanding drummer and explained, “Charlie Watts is one of the greatest drummers of all time. How could he not be? He’s been playing since the ’60s and no
one’s played longer than he has with as much skill.”