It Was A Sad Day When Charlie Watts Passed Away

© Ursula Düren/dpa

The 24th of August, 2021 was a sad day for millions of people, mostly baby boomers such as myself, because Charlie Watts, the drummer of The Rolling Stones, left this mortal coil on that date. I felt as if I was gut-punched when I read the news. And I shed a few tears too. The backbone and heartbeat of one of my favorite bands, he was in my life for nearly 60 years, though of course I didn’t know him. And now he’s gone.

Charlie Watts lived to the nicely ripe old age of 80. Still, his death came unexpectedly, at least to the public, seeing that he had been gearing up, initially, to join his fellow Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood) on a stadium tour of the States this autumn.

But in early August, about two weeks after the tour was announced, he bowed out due to health issues. With his OK, a temporary replacement drummer was hired. The expectation was for Charlie, after a period of recuperation, to be back on his drum stool next year and beyond, pounding away on the skins and cymbals. And why think otherwise? I mean, the Stones seemed to be eternal, powering down the rock and roll highway since the early 1960s.

Well, the remaining Stones, though shaken to their bones I’m sure, are going ahead with the tour (it begins on September 26). This doesn’t seem right to me. Charlie Watts was a fixture, an icon. Cool, calm and collected, he was as important to the band as Jagger and Richards. Can The Rolling Stones really be The Rolling Stones without Charlie Watts in their future? The answer, I believe, is a profound no.

Charlie’s passing nearly marks the end of an era for me, which is not a happy realization. That’s because he was one of my musical heroes, a direct link to my young and innocent days. Few of my musical heroes remain among us. What’s more, his death stopped me in my tracks, causing me to ponder a subject that I don’t enjoy. Namely, the final curtain. My final curtain, to be precise.

Yeah, we all know that our ends are coming. Their arrival dates are up in the air, sure, but arrive they eventually will. Yet, you know what? As old as I’ve become — I’m well into my 70s — I still find it kind of hard to believe that my days are diminishing, that there are far more grains of sand at the bottom of my hourglass than there are at its top. Shit, I’d like to go on forever. That would be cool, especially if famine, violence, intolerance, etc. weren’t part of the picture. Alas, the game is designed way differently. What a f*cking, f*cking drag.

And we all also know that we should make good use of our time, an irreplaceable commodity. Helping others and being kind, loving and trustworthy are paramount. Obviously. Absolutely. And not far behind, for some of us, is grooving in the arms of music, something that I’ve been doing for a long, long time and have no plans to stop. It’s liberating and mind-expanding, taking me to planes that I don’t otherwise visit. Charlie Watts has aided me in this pursuit over the years.

On that note I’ll leave you with a beautiful song, released in 1974, from The Rolling Stones catalog: Time Waits For No One, a Jagger and Richards composition. Time Waits For No One laments life’s fleetingness, life’s finiteness. Even so, Jagger, Richards and Watts , who were young when they and the other Stones at the time (Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor) put the song on wax, probably would have been amazed back then to learn that their common journey was destined to continue for decades more (Wyman and Taylor left the group ages ago. Wood signed up in 1975). As you listen, focus on Charlie Watts’ drum work. It is precise and gripping. He and his mates will carry you away.

138 thoughts on “It Was A Sad Day When Charlie Watts Passed Away

  1. Life...One Big Adventure September 1, 2021 / 12:13 am

    He always look slightly bemused, like he was wondering when the concert would be over and he could then go home and read a good book!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. JOAN W BLUMBERG September 1, 2021 / 12:19 am

    This was a great column, Neil. . The drum uses so many different sounds, even sophisticated, like when drummers were like that. Excellent words from you.Joan

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Joe September 1, 2021 / 12:26 am

    Poignant tribute to a legend, Neil. Charlie Watts was the pulse of the Stones. As the band’s timekeeper, he maintained the tempo for their timeless music. He is completely irreplaceable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 9:46 am

      Hey there, Joe. It will be fascinating to see if Jagger and Richards and Wood decide to continue after this upcoming tour.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Michael P Lacolla September 1, 2021 / 12:53 am

    Charlie was a quiet and humble guy in a band gone wild over the years. Seldom gave interviews and was married to same woman since 64. Had these pleasure of seeing him and his All Star band playing jazz at Academy of Music in Philly. Charlie just sat playing his drums with a big smile probably getting away from the Stones grind made him happy. RIP!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. KT Workman September 1, 2021 / 1:14 am

    Damn, that is a good song! I hadn’t heard it before. I think you picked a perfect tribute for Charlie Watts.
    Speaking of drumming, I became friends with a drummer several years ago, a dinosaur like me, and after listening to him talk about high hats, drum fills, and such—and explaining them to me—I became aware as I never had before as to the importance of the drummer in a band. Since then, when I listen to music, my ear is always attuned to the beat.
    Thanks for sharing…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lynette d'Arty-Cross September 1, 2021 / 2:34 am

    Great post and a very appropriate music choice! It seems that he was in good health until shortly and really pretty amazing that he was planning to tour at age 80. It bothers me as well that they are resuming the tour (or is this reminder of their mortality driving them to keep going, perhaps?). Seems rather disrespectful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 11:24 am

      I know. It doesn’t feel right. He had OKed the replacement drummer for the tour. But his passing changes the situation. I read that the remaining Stones plan to honor him at the shows, so we’ll see how it all goes.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. johnlmalone September 1, 2021 / 3:15 am

    Hi Neil: I feel Charlie’s loss too; he was an integral part of the Stones; they will all miss him; heaven knows how we’ll cope when Mick and Keith shuffle off this mortal coil —-

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 11:27 am

      You know, I’m not sure if it always has been true, but Charlie Watts has been my favorite person in the Stones for a long time. He was someone you could relate to.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Basia Korzeniowska September 1, 2021 / 3:22 am

    Brilliant obituary. I grew up a stone’s throw away from the Stones in London. Mick Jagger was of course my hero and the music is still so powerful.
    Should they still go on your despite the loss of Charlie Watts. I think so. Yes. Charlie’s memory will live on better that way I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 11:29 am

      Hi, Basia. Did you ever cross paths with any of them on the street, in a store, etc.?

      Like

      • Basia Korzeniowska September 1, 2021 / 11:49 am

        My parents rented a flat opposite South Kensington Station which was very near Chelsea the hun of rock star life in the sixties. I was young and naive but Sid Barrett of Pink floyd had a flat downstairs for about a year. His friends were numerous so we would occasionally bump into all sorts of pop people in the lift. Paul McCartney and Jane Asher frequently. Mick jaggers brother lived nearby in Cheyne Walk. And then the notorious Roman Polanski made a film: Repulsion in the lift of the flats itself I remember talking to him ans seeing Catherine deneuve and Sharon Tate. I was about ten so had no idea about anything. But I saw the film for the first time a few years ago and it brought back many memories. But I never met Mick Jagger. Though my husband sat next to him in a plane once! Does that count?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. swabby429 September 1, 2021 / 4:49 am

    Your tribute hit the mark. Our music heroes are indeed mortal and so are we.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jane Sturgeon September 1, 2021 / 4:57 am

    Beautiful words and a loving tribute to Charlie. I hadn’t heard this track before, so thank you, Neil. The words and music are fitting. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  11. rivertoprambles September 1, 2021 / 8:17 am

    In the stream of cultural life, it does feel like a stone has shifted from beneath our feet & we’re suddenly drifting out. We should cling to the life raft of the music & continue to enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Paddy Tobin September 1, 2021 / 8:21 am

    Very nicely expressed, Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Robert Parker September 1, 2021 / 9:20 am

    Hi Neil – excellent tribute, excellent tune. I love music too, and appreciate the places it takes me, you expressed this very well, “liberating and mind-expanding.” Re his lifespan and fretting about the grains of sand in the hourglass – there’s no end of random trolls nowadays, who delight in disparaging anyone & everyone just for the judgmental pleasure of it, and I’m not taking shots at Watts for the joy of it, he had not just skill but backbone, and his passing is a real loss, just that it makes sense to factor in years of drug abuse and reckon he would’ve had more than eighty years without that stuff. And all of us would’ve enjoyed his skilled drumming for another decade. Not to speak ill of the dead, just to take an honest look.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 11:47 am

      Hi. You make a good point. I suppose that a pretty high percentage of celebrities get caught up in drugs and other excesses. The temptations are around them a good deal of the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Fictionophile September 1, 2021 / 9:46 am

    I’m so glad that you composed a tribute post for Charlie Watts. Like you, I’m a boomer who found the news of his passing very difficult. I was privileged to hear the Stones live during their “Bigger Bang” tour in 2005. THE most fantastic concert I’ve ever attended. Even the lead up bands were fantastic (The Tragically Hip and Maroon 5) When the Stones made their ‘bigger bang’ entrance the price of admission was fully realized within the first 2 minutes. FANTASTIC!
    Charlie Watts was always the ‘grown-up’ of the group. A classy and quiet family man with his bespoke suits and unassuming manner…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 11:52 am

      Thanks for adding your thoughts and observations, Lynne. I’ve read interviews with Charlie Watts in which he said that he hates living our of suitcases and dislikes all the other inconveniences that go with touring. Still, he bit the bullet and went on tour time after time, because he liked being on stage and playing the music!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Helen Devries September 1, 2021 / 9:59 am

    No Watts on the drums…no group. Not for me.
    II saw them at the Epsom Baths Hall while they were still doing small gigs in the 60s..I followed them that moment onwards. Watts was the stable one…apart from a couple of years on the drugs trip which he stopped in order to save his marriage to the woman he met and married when young. I wish he had written a book on drumming technique as Keith did for guitar work in his autobiography

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Platypus Man September 1, 2021 / 10:14 am

    Nice tribute, and thoughtful reflections on the journey that awaits us all. Your choice of song to mark Charlie’s passing is so appropriate.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Paula B September 1, 2021 / 10:58 am

    As a longtime drummer with a poster of Charlie on my office wall throughout my work life, I can say that this hit me hard, too. Neil, I think your song selection is perfect. Just listen to how Charlie uses each piece of his austere drumkit, at various times, in the most simple and emotionally appropriate way.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. JOYCE HAMILTON September 1, 2021 / 11:06 am

    Yes very sad! Rolling Stones on top of my list of favorites. Good post and good song.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 12:01 pm

      Thanks, Joyce. Yeah, the Stones have been a big part of the lives of millions and millions of people.

      Like

  19. greenpete58 September 1, 2021 / 11:31 am

    Saw the Stones in 2002 on their Forty Licks tour (with my 12-year-old boy). My memory of Charlie came during their blues set, when they strolled out on a long platform to a miniature stage, middle of crowd. Charlie came down the platform smiling the whole time and high-fiving the crowd. Solid drummer, classy guy.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. liliannemilgrom September 1, 2021 / 11:40 am

    Was fortunate enough to see the Stones in concert about 8 years ago…But your blog also touched on our vulnerability and mortality – I unexpectedly contracted COVID (fully vaccinated) on my recent trip to France. Makes one think about when the final curtain’s going to come down….!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. eden baylee September 1, 2021 / 12:22 pm

    Nice tribute Neil. Glad you wrote it. My husband thinks they should pack it in too, while they’re “on top.” But … he’s also a musician and torn about it.

    As a musician, you want to perform, and I think they should for as long as they can, and as long as they want to.

    I’ve seen the band once and was happy I did, but for those who don’t know the Stones well, it still gives them an opportunity to see them, sadly without Charlie.

    It will never be the same, but it will still be great music, and it will likely win over a new generation of listeners.

    eden

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 1:05 pm

      Without Charlie, it’s not really the Stones. He was there from 1962 or 63. After Keith Moon died, and then John Entwistle, The Who continued, but it isn’t really The Who. To me, anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. talebender September 1, 2021 / 12:26 pm

    A fond farewell…..and also a thoughtful pondering of life’s limits.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. shoreacres September 1, 2021 / 1:44 pm

    I hated to hear of his passing, too. Your tribute’s one of the best I’ve read. I do find myself on the other side of one fence from you, though. I’m glad they’re going on with the tour. Of course it will be different, but what we as fans think doesn’t matter as much as what the group thinks. It’s not impossible that Charlie wanted them to continue on, and that the tour itself is their tribute to him. One thing’s certain; Charlie won’t be forgotten, and the music will endure, even after the rest of them are playing with him in that great dive bar in the sky.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 3:48 pm

      Hi. Right, maybe Charlie at some point (either recently or in the past) told the others that he’d like them to continue if he passed away.

      Like

  24. Leah September 1, 2021 / 1:52 pm

    The Stones were a huge influence when I was in high school and they became my favorite band. The blues songs that they performed (“covered”, but that’s a word usage that bugs me, for whatever reasons), led me to look into Downbeat magazine and seek out the records of the original Delta and Chicago bluesmen.
    I loved the fact that they were still performing. Seeing all those earlier musical and artistic figures passing on is really sad for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 3:54 pm

      Thanks for adding your thoughts, Leah. Other well-known or pretty well-known musicians have died this year. Such as: Chick Corea; Lee “Scratch” Perry, a reggae musician; Nancy Griffith; Dusty Hill, from ZZ Top. .

      Liked by 1 person

  25. JT Twissel September 1, 2021 / 2:10 pm

    Wow – I don’t remember this song … I’ve lost three friends this year, one was younger than me. Soon I will have more than one foot in that other place and that’s what comforts me in a strange way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 3:56 pm

      The whole setup of life is bewildering. We’re here, and then we’re gone. And that’s true for every animal and plant.

      Like

  26. andrewcferguson September 1, 2021 / 2:15 pm

    Good piece, Neil. That thing about not knowing how long you’ve got? I just know you’re going to squeeze every last drop out of the (I hope long, long) time you have allocated. Carpe that f*cking diem, man!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Rosaliene Bacchus September 1, 2021 / 2:42 pm

    I’m not a Rolling Stones fan, but know the feeling of having one’s musical heroes pass away. As you say, a part of our youth dies. A reminder of our own mortality is never a welcome thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. sniderjerry September 1, 2021 / 2:56 pm

    Hey there Neil, This is one of your best essays. I play the drums and The Rolling Stones have always been a favorite to tap along with. Thanks for your eflections and I hope both of us rock on for a long time. All the best. Jerry

    Liked by 2 people

  29. kegarland September 1, 2021 / 3:36 pm

    Somehow, I knew you’d felt deeply about this. It’s funny how musicians’ deaths affect us all. I guess it’s because they kind of supplied the soundtrack of our lives.

    Sending condolences because I know this type of realization is hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 4:51 pm

      Right. Music can be very powerful. And we sometimes associate certain musics with lifestyles and with cultural/societal movements that mean a lot to us.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter September 1, 2021 / 5:09 pm

    I didn’t know that song – and I loved the appropriate ending. Charlie Watts is a classic and irreplaceable, but I’m glad the tour is carrying on. After all the disruption of the last couple of years it would be so hard on the fans to cancel.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 5:43 pm

      I appreciate your thoughts, Anabel. The Stones were scheduled to tour for a few months last year, but had to cancel all the shows because of the virus.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Ananda September 1, 2021 / 9:22 pm

    Lovely read 🙏. We are all an eternal presence wrapped into a passing story

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 10:58 pm

      Hello there. I thank you for the compliment and for adding your insight. Take care.

      Like

  32. Cindy September 1, 2021 / 9:25 pm

    Splendid post, Neil! I was more of a Beatles fan (as you know), but Charlie was just always so…cool. That he was also a jazz drummer made him even more so! Time Waits for No One is a great tune. Charlie’s quiet tick-tocks at the very end of it made me smile, somewhat sadly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 1, 2021 / 11:01 pm

      Evening, Cindy. It’s a great song, and it has been stuck in my head for the last couple of days.

      Like

  33. cincinnatibabyhead September 1, 2021 / 11:55 pm

    Good pic on th tune Neil. Yeah from the sounds of it you dont get cheated on this life thing we’re doing. I dig your style and the frame of mind you carry. Thanks fella. By the way I was listening to “Time Is On My Side’ today. Love that tune.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. Ann Coleman September 2, 2021 / 9:17 am

    His death is a huge loss to the music world! And this is a touching tribute to a very talented drummer. It is hard when our icons begin to die, and to face our own mortality. It just doesn’t feel right, or natural.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 2, 2021 / 1:27 pm

      You know, a lot of folks have written about him since he passed. He meant a great deal to musicians and non-musicians alike.

      Liked by 1 person

  35. alhenry September 2, 2021 / 10:57 am

    Great post, Neil. Full of poignant, hard-to-face truths, and the wonderful gift that is remembering. RIP Charlie. You are not forgotten.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. tylerus September 2, 2021 / 2:33 pm

    A wonderful post and tribute. Only went to one the Stones concert in my lifetime (was never a fan, to be honest), but also saw Charlie and his quintet and thoroughly enjoyed the show. A truly talented man on so many levels.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. snakesinthegrass2014 September 2, 2021 / 3:09 pm

    Great post. So many of our heroes are passing on now, it’s heartbreaking. I agree that it’s hard to really see the Stones as the real deal without Charlie. I feel that way whenever I see the Who now also. When John Entwistle died, the band sort of ended for me. – Marty

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 2, 2021 / 4:28 pm

      On a related subject: I’m a big fan of The Kinks. They never officially broke up, but haven’t played a show since 1996 or so. Three of the original members are still with us. I wish they’d re-form.

      Liked by 1 person

  38. Laurie Graves September 3, 2021 / 11:53 am

    A beautiful, soulful post. Brought tears to my eyes. Farewell, Charlie Watts!

    Liked by 2 people

  39. stargazer September 3, 2021 / 4:57 pm

    You are right, certain events remind us painfully about our own mortality. I’ve never been a Stones fan (grew up with very different music), but I enjoyed reading your tribute. It really is the end of an era.

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Un po' di pepe September 3, 2021 / 9:31 pm

    I think his death hit a lot of people. The Stone are timeless and seemed immortal-until a few days ago! Ciao, Cristina

    Liked by 2 people

  41. selizabryangmailcom September 4, 2021 / 10:54 am

    That stinks, Neil.
    Their tour in the States will not have the same joy it used to have.
    But Watts left so many great memories for millions. More than I can say when I go, no doubt. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  42. viewfromoverthehill September 4, 2021 / 12:43 pm

    I always felt he looked like he didn’t take it all seriously. His passing reminds me I’m living in the ‘death zone.’ Cheers, Muriel

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Alyson September 4, 2021 / 6:36 pm

    Sad and unexpected – Somehow it felt like they would all go on forever. Definitely gives us a jolt when these things happen.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 4, 2021 / 8:50 pm

      Jagger, Richards and Watts had been together since 1963. They had a very long run together.

      Like

  44. Lisa at Micro of the Macro September 4, 2021 / 8:09 pm

    Great tribute, Neil. We were saddened by his passing as well. My life partner has always called the Stones his favorite band, and their music is about all he listens to! Enjoyed your song choice, although I’d never heard it. 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

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