For close to 60 years, Charlie Watts was the beating heart of The Rolling Stones until he sadly passed away in 2021. Few people knew him better than Keith Richards, and recently, the guitarist opened up on Charlie’s final days.
Watts’ presence in The Stones flew under the radar, which was precisely how he liked it. He preferred hiding in the shadows and allowing the Glimmer Twins to soak up the applause, which left him behind the drum kit in relative peace. If Watts didn’t have this in his character, then he’d probably never have been cut out to survive in the group.
Keith Richards once stated, “Charlie Watts gives me the freedom to fly on stage,” which perfectly epitomised Watts’ selfless greatness in a sentence. After his death, fans are rightly putting the respect on Watts’ name that he deserved, but the humble soul is likely glad he’s not here to see people doting over his talents.
While he wasn’t a founding member of The Stones, Richards knew that he was the perfect drummer for the band from his very first rehearsal. Seeing him at the bitter end was a tough pill to swallow for the guitarist, and the loss of Charlie has left an irreplaceable hole in not just the band but in the lives of everybody who knew him.
“It did to me, absolutely,” Richards said to CBS about the death of Watts arriving as a “surprise”. “I think he’d been trying to keep it under wraps for a while last year so it came as quite a shock,” the guitarist painfully added.
“He had a round with cancer a year or two before, but he beat that one. He just got hit with the double whammy. Bless his soul,” Richards revealed while looking visibly moved.
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At the time of his death, The Rolling Stones were soon set to embark on a tour, and momentarily, it looked like the band’s future was up in the air. Richards admitted that “for a brief moment”, they considered halting the tour before concluding that Watts would have hated for him to be why they split. “I think Charlie wanted us to go on the road. He wanted the tour to happen. That was my feeling from the last time I spoke to him,” he explained.
The guitarist still isn’t used to performing without his trusted sticksman behind him. He added: “It’s strange. To turn suddenly, and after all these years, you just expect that face.”
Even at the end, when his health had significantly deteriorated, Watts was still thinking about others, and it’s heartening to know that one of his dying wishes was for The Rolling Stones to continue.