With his death at 80, Charlie Watts becomes a rock ‘n’ roll immortal.
An actual legend, consigned to the history books, and to those 200 million Rolling Stones albums sold, which feature his tight-as-a-gnat’s-arse drumming.
For the music industry and drummers everywhere, Watts’ death can’t be overstated.
The Stones are, without argument, the greatest existing rock band. Watts was the engine room, a team player, always there, always on time, and never truly taking the spotlight from Mick Jagger and the talismanic Keith Richards and, later, Ronnie Wood.
Watts wasn’t a beast in the mold of Keith Moon, or a technical freak like Ginger Baker. He had his battles with cancer and drugs, true, but he didn’t create the melodrama that came with those other packages, instead leaving that job to the characters up front.
He made it easy for others, a social lubricant that enabled the superstars to shine and the whole to win. And he did so without game-changing gifts.
Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls team of the ‘90s are, like the Stones, the greatest of all time.
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Even for a casual sports fan, the Bulls and that brand of brilliance is still fresh, thanks to Netflix’ enormously popular series The Last Dance and the ABC’s excellent two-part Australian Story on the team’s giant Aussie centre, Luc Longley.
Longley, a critical part of three NBA championships with the Bulls, was sadly overlooked in the American series, despite delivering the goods every night over multiple marathon seasons.
Longley too was the engine room, always there, always working, always on time, and never truly taking the spotlight from the top guys up front, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
None of it was by accident. The Bulls’ then-coach Phil Jackson, a renowned thinker who introduced meditation and mindfulness into his camp, and earned the moniker as basketball’s Zen Master, had a plan for Longley.
Be like Charlie Watts.
Jackson “used to tell me to think of myself as Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones drummer,” Longley told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2015. “He’d say ‘Just keep the beat. Don’t try to be the lead singer’.
Not everyone who picks up a pair of sticks can become a John Bonham, few of us who lace up the boots can be like Mike. Some of us can aspire to be Charlie Watts.
The late rocker was the model for an artist, an athlete, or an executive, who wasn’t the best at anything, but he was a steady hand, he perfected what he did and became invaluable to the greatest outfit of them all.
Every outstanding team needs a Charlie Watts.