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Charlie Watts and life lessons to be learned

by Hans Ebert

It’s been around three days since we lost Charlie Watts. The tributes and stories are still pouring in with many of us learning more about the drummer in these past few days than we ever did before.

There’s a new respect and appreciation for Charlie Watts, as a drummer, as the quiet leader of the Rolling Stones with his comrade in arms Keef, and as a human being.

It’s taken his passing to also hold a mirror to many of us. It’s a strange feeling to see what’s there. It’s reminding us of who we have become as opposed to maybe who we should be.

What we’re seeing over and over again in Charlie Watts was a decent human being- a giving person who enjoyed his work with the band, but enjoyed his married life far more. He was being true to himself and his married life. He was comfortable in his own skin, which made living life in this world a full one.

Er ist nicht nur das eleganteste Bandmitglied, auch hält er die Rolling Stones seit Jahren zusammen: Drummer Charlie Watts feiert heute seinen 75. Geburtstag. (Archiv)

Charlie Watts wasn’t a petty man. His world was not about being seen as a big man like some do on that sometimes strange place Facebook where old time jealousies often bubble to the top.

This silly competitiveness, sometimes going back to school days, is funnily sad.

For me, what was interesting was putting the following message out on Twitter this week:

“Never thought I would be so impacted as I am by the passing of Charlie Watts. It’s made me think twice about what I do with my time, who I wish to be around and prioritising everything. Wondering if anyone else feels the same.”

The one reply received said it all:

“Interesting how milestone events such as this make us reflect as individuals. It really is a changing of the guard time with so many of the constants in our lives changing. The thing about the likes of Charlie is that in memory he is now immortal…that is a true legacy. Stay safe.”

Thanks for that, JT.

There’s a video out there of a ‘live’ performance of “Jumping Jack Flash”. It’s from the documentary that filmmaker Martin Scorsese made of the band.

Instead of showing Jagger prancing and strutting around the stage and play acting at being the character in the song, the camera never leaves Charlie Watts. There’s so much to learn from this about his drumming. Like in the way he holds his sticks. It’s not the way a Rock drummer would hold them.

It’s not like Bonham, Moon, Ginger Baker would hold their sticks and get ready to wallop the hell out of their drum kits.

Charlie holds them as if he was playing brushes- like a Jazz drummer would. Like Max Weinberg did when backing Springsteen as part of the E Street Band.

Like the also nattily dressed Weinberg, there’s nothing delicate about the sound that comes out from Charlie Watts’ drums. It’s pure Rock’N Roll.

It’s totally in sync with the chunky rhythms that the guitars are laying down. There’s a laidback creative power to everything he’s playing- “Get Off Of My Cloud”, “Satisfaction”, “Jumping Jack Flash”, “Honky Tonk Women”, “Paint It Black”, “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”, “Brown Sugar”, “Street Fighting Man”, “Miss You”...

It must have been something Scorsese picked up on and knew that it was worth showing. Nothing escapes the director. He learned much about music from working with Robbie Robertson. He also learned much from listening to the Stones.

Some of us have been fortunate enough to meet the Stones. The focus almost always was on Mick and Keith. The Glimmer Twins were whom we wanted to talk.

A few of us have sat down and chatted to them and smiled looking at their extremely different riders.

Charlie Watts floated in and out of those interviews with a Hello and a wry smile. He didn’t seem to have much to say.

How wrong we were to think that. He knew it all. And probably more.

He had also learned the importance of balance in life- and how life was not just about what happened under the big tent of the Rock And Roll Circus Of The Rolling Stones.

Right now, we’re making up for lost time and what we might have learned from this unassuming urbane gentleman who held many of the band’s secrets and answers to questions.

His is a multi layered legacy.

There’s much to be said about enrolling in the Charlie Watts School Of Life.

After all, in life, one never stops learning. Never.

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