Sir Tim Rice pays tribute to ‘the rock of The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts

Sir Tim Rice has remembered musician Charlie Watts as the “rock of the Rolling Stones” following his death aged 80.

Watts, the long-time drummer of the famous band, was also known throughout his career for a love of tailored suits, cricket and his deep obsession with jazz music.

A statement on Tuesday from his London publicist Bernard Doherty said Watts was a “cherished husband, father and grandfather” and “one of the greatest drummers of his generation”.

It added that Watts had “passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family”.

Watts and Sir Tim shared a love of cricket, with the Rolling Stones star joining the renowned lyricist as his guest at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London on occasion.

Sir Tim told the PA news agency: “I’m happy to say that when I met him on quite a few occasions over the years, he was always charming and polite and beautifully dressed.

“He was a great lover of the magnificent English sport of cricket, as I am, and he was my guest on one or two occasions at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

“And he was a man who could talk about many things besides music – art, fashion, sport, all these things.

“But above all, of course, he was the rock of the Rolling Stones at the back, and the drive and punch and consistency that he provided for so many years, was just as important to the Stones’ success as the glamour and excitement upfront.

“It was a perfect combination of total reliability and drive. It wasn’t boring, it was magnificent. But that coupled with the brilliance of the performers in the front line of the Rolling Stones made the band, quite rightly, the greatest rock and roll band in the world.”

The Rolling Stones
Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones (Ian West/PA)

Outside of the music he made alongside The Rolling Stones, Watts was a lover of jazz, and often performed as part of various jazz combos including The ABC&D Of Boogie Woogie.

Sir Tim recalled: “I saw his jazz band on several occasions. I remember seeing his excellent band playing in a club and it was just as exciting as the Stones in many ways. Totally different, intimate atmosphere, but just as punchy and just as exciting.”

Asked about Watts’ legacy in the music world, Sir Tim praised him for being an “original character”.

He explained: “He’s proven that you don’t have to be totally wild man to be a great rocker. I’m not sure whether he would actually like that. He was such an original character… as is true of an awful lot of rock stars.

“It’s interesting that he and the Stones, when they first appeared in the so-called swinging 60s, pop stars were in those days meant to have entertainment lifespans of three years, if you’re lucky.

“And the Stones and of course, the Beatles, and many others who emerged at that time proved that, like great jazz men, great singers, like Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald – I’m not saying they were like them musically, but they proved that rock music could have a history, could have a life.

“The actual art of rock music was… pre- the 60s, or pop music as it was probably known completely then, was considered something very ephemeral, something very brief. But Charlie and the Stones, and the Beatles, proved that that was not the case.

“And (they) were still going strong, you know, in their 70s and 80s, it’s extraordinary. It wasn’t until really the sort of late 60s, early 70s, that people began to write seriously about rock music as if it was an art form.

“It wasn’t considered an art form until and Charlie and co were crucial in proving that it was.”

Sir Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood have also all paid poignant tributes to Watts following the news of his death.