The Immaculate Percussion
Until recently, I greeted news of every death with the hope that it wasn’t COVID. This was a strange superstition about how our dreaded plague somehow drowned out the possibility of anything else deadly happening around here.
Not so, obviously.
Am I more pissed off that John Prine died of COVID than that Charlie Watts died, at all?
I truly don’t know. Both hurt.
Charlie’s passing hit hard.
For context, the first show-biz death I truly mourned was Nat King Cole, Feb. 15, 1965; and I never got to see him sing except on black and white TV.
I’ve only seen three Rolling Stones shows; and the last one, at Albany’s Times Union Center in Sept. 2005, was by far the best.
That was right after Charlie beat throat cancer, and relief at this reprieve uplifted the whole band. That feel, that unified force they projected, proved how central he was to their sound, their energy, their power.
In all three of those shows, though, Keith visibly relied on Charlie not just for the groove but for everything. He often drifted back on the stage to stand facing Charlie and away from the audience. He’d sync his rhythm guitar slams with Charlie’s snare or kick-drum, deep in the pocket.
Imagine digging the Grand Canyon with two hands and two feet: That’s what Charlie did, every night.
Charlie, Ringo, Earl Palmer from New Orleans then the Wrecking Crew in LA and Clyde Stubblefield in James Brown’s band; those guys are IT in rock and roll drumming.