Music fans in Los Angeles paid tribute to Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, after the legendary musician died on Tuesday (August 24), just three weeks after pulling out of the band’s upcoming U.S. tour for health reasons. He was 80 years old.
Widely regarded as one of the coolest men in rock, a jazz enthusiast and a snappy dresser, Rolling Stones fans shopping at Los Angeles’ Amoeba records paid respect to the “greatest drummer of all time.”
“I saw the Stones, I think, 10, or 12 times, and Charlie Watts is the greatest drummer of all time. He wasn’t too showy, he used a simple four-piece kit. It was all about the jazz swing and the rhythm,” said Tom Rhodes, whose been a fan of the band for decades.
“It’s the end of a massive chapter and in all of our lives,” he added.
Among the first British bands to properly crack the American market and a symbol of 1960s London, the Rolling Stones lineup of Watts, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman produced a string of hit records. The Stones also went on to break records with multimillion-pound grossing global tours.
“It’s just sad because the Rolling Stones always seem to have been such a band of longevity, so it’s just kind of sad that now Charlie Watts, who really is one of the main members of the band, is gone,” said Dan Hartney, a 42-year-old Rolling Stones fan.
“I always considered him like the gentleman Stone. He was the guy that was always kind of above the all the fracas, you know, and kept to his thing. I also really appreciated that he had a genuine interest in jazz and in experimental music and stuff like that. And he kind of was the kind of cultural explorer of the group, more so than any of them. The others were kind of, they were straight on rock and roll but Charlie was, he was an intellect,” added Mark Beaver, a 59-year-old Stones fan.
Watts played drums on all of the group’s 30 albums and on every tour. No cause of death was given for his passing, but the announcement of his death followed an Aug. 4 statement by the band that the drummer was pulling out of its rescheduled No Filter U.S. tour because he needed time to recuperate after an unspecified emergency medical procedure.
Watts was born in 1941 during World War Two and grew up in the Wembley area of northwest London, attending Harrow school of Art before starting work as a graphic artist with an advertising agency.
Unlike his bandmates, Watts had been in a successful group before agreeing to join the Rolling Stones in 1963. He married Shirley Ann Shepherd in 1964 and they remained together until his death – the first regular member of the band to pass away since Jones in 1969.
Watts left the hell-raising that defined the Stones in the 1960s and ’70s to the other members, but provided the heartbeat of the band.
Away from the Rolling Stones, Watts found the time to play jazz with several groups including a 32-piece band, the Charlie Watts Orchestra, as well as to work with pianist Stewart in the band Rocket 88 during the 1980s.