Charlie Watts 1941-2021

Shine A Light On You

I am a child of the 1980’s. I say that with a sense of nostalgia mixed with some pride. Proud mostly of the fact that I actually survived a time when people didn’t lock their front doors at night much less wear seat belts. My father was a policeman with the local P.D. and my mom worked in the accounting department of a large manufacturer. I played football, Little League baseball, and began dabbling in theater.

As a 12 year old I began my quest to find some semblance of relevance in the world. Like we all do. And one of the things I found was the drums. I loved playing. The drums were loud. I could be noticed with little effort which was perfect for the twelve year old version of myself who would rather sit at home and watch TV than actually socialize. Yep. I was a loner.

At 12, I wasn’t very good, but I was undeterred. I would watch bands on MTV (back when MTV actually played music videos and had Video Jockeys like Martha Quinn) and try to emulate the style of the various drummers like: Neal Peart (Rush), with his elaborate set and intricate style, Larry Mullen Jr. (U2) with his driving, marching beats, the simple approach of Mike Joyce (The Smiths), the quirky and creative Andy Anderson (The Cure), and finally my favorite of all time Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones.

I listened to Charlie Watts constantly and attempted to pattern my style after his. Tight, conservative, precise, yet powerful. He had a dynamic range from the bluesy “Midnight Rambler” to the straightforward classic rock beat of “Start Me Up”. One of the qualities I admired about Charlie Watts was the cool expression on his face. While most drummers in bands I liked were grimacing or making “bug-eyed” expressions into the camera like they were passing a kidney stone, Charlie Watts always looked cool, calm and in control, nonplussed by his own talent and unfazed by his enormous fame.

Charlie Watts (Ghetty Images)

As the drummer for The Rolling Stones for 50 years, he was most likely the source of consistency and stability in the group, given the mercurial temperaments of his band mates. He was married to his wife for 57 years, AND HE WAS THE DRUMMER FOR ARGUABLY THE BEST BAND OF ALL TIME. (Sorry, Beatles fans. It’s the Stones all the way.) As an adult and far removed (well most of the time) from my 12 year old self, this is what I admired the most about Charlie Watts: his ability to soar to these heights of fame with all the trappings that I am sure come with the territory, and he remained committed to his wife of 57 years. This was truly a testament to the strength of their partnership.

My wife and I have been married for 28 years. Being a husband to her and a father to my daughter are the two things I treasure most.

At 50, I look back at the challenges that life has brought my way. But in spite of those things, I must admit that I am blessed and as David Sedaris said, “I’ve had a charmed life.” Yet aside from being a husband and father, and a person of faith, the drums are the only other thing in my life that I’ve committed to for any substantial length of time. Since age 12, my opportunities to play drums have waxed and waned. But after 38 years, I still love it.

I’ll never play for a band like The Rolling Stones. Yes, I’ve put that dream away. But for me, playing drums has been that connection to the care-free world of my 12 year old self. The drums are a way for me to remember that “husky” kid in Junior High school watching Charlie Watts on MTV.

I regularly listen to Rob Lowe’s podcast “Literally!” and in a recent episode he was discussing 1980’s nostalgia. And I have to admit, I sometimes drive by my childhood home and wonder what it would be like to be 12 again and go back to a time before the cares and responsibilities of adulthood settled in.

But if you always look to the past with rosy retrospection, then you’ll miss everything that’s happening in the present, and you’ll overlook the beauty of what is right in front of you.

But if you always look to the past with rosy retrospection, then you’ll miss everything that’s happening in the present, and you’ll overlook the beauty of what is right in front of you.

So for now I’ll keep playing the drums. Grateful now to my parents for insisting that I keep up my drum lessons. I’m thankful for the opportunity to still play the drums. And at times like these, I remember the life of Charlie Watts, and how he inspired the 12 year old me to continue playing. Rest In Peace Charlie Watts 1941 – 2021.

“May the Good Lord, Shine a light on you, Warm as the evening sun.

Angels beating all their wings in time, With smiles on their faces, and a gleam right in their eyes.

Whoah, thought I heard one sigh for you, Come on up, Come on up now, Come on up now.”

“Shine A Light” The Rolling Stones from the album “Exile On Main Street”