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Watts Charlie

Musicians or bands:

The Rolling Stones

Biography and commentary:

Charlie Watts is the Rolling Stones drummer (born in 1941 in England) almost since their beginnings (which proves that his playing is inseparable from the sound of the group), from jazz training (and professional advertising designer in his beginnings), the oldest member of the group and one of the first pop-rock drummers (and even funk and disco). Unlike most rock drummers, he favors efficiency and stoicism on rough and "messy" playing (an opposition interesting to note in relation to Mick Jagger, who is really a son of R'N'B and inspirer of hard rock). With the Beatles, the Rolling Stones were among the first bands of English rock'n roll (first group: 1962, joining of Charlie in the band: 1963, debut album: "The Rolling Stones", 1964). Charlie Watts is one of the first drummers (with Bernard Purdie, a specialist in the mixing of blues, jazz, funk and rock as well) to play rock in "double swing" (decomposition of each time in 9 equal beats (triplets of eighth-note triplets) on the song "Time is on my side" (which was played for the first time in big band but in 3/4 swung by the orchestra of Kai Winding in 1963 and covered in song the same year as the Stones (1964) by soul singer Irma Thomas). This type of accompanying rhythms is for me a kind of peak of sophistication of blues and rock, which represents well the demanding, the avant-garde and culture that may have the Stones since their early days (even if they content themselves here just with following the vanguard of the American R & B), and explains the popular impact (first single of the Stones in the top ten of the US charts, the Rolling Stones have now sold over 200 million albums), far from the stereotypes of some historians who amalgamate in general the popular success to simplism. The performance of Charlie on "Stray Cat Blues" (1968) is very close to the disco style (Marc Cerrone) before the letter. Though always partly improvised, many songs have specific mnemonic details, a trademark of the British pop music, like the Beatles, principle since used by everyone in “variety” music. The use of breaks beats (example: "Gimme Shelter" on "Let It Bleed", 1969), ghost notes and rolls (tras, ras), is not without reminding of the funk of Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown). Charlie is capable to play a subtle swing between binary and ternary (typical of folk-blues, of Ringo Starr, Bernard Purdie and Steve Gadd). The passion for jazz of Charlie never left him, it is attested by his album "Flight to Sidney", in 1986, alongside Elvin Jones and Lee Konitz or "From One Charlie", a tribute to the saxophonist Charlie Parker (1993) or also recently "Live at Scott's" (2004), which brilliantly mixes various musical influences, but completely instrumental and acoustic.

Marc De Douvan, publication in French: January 3, 2006 (for the translation in English: July 12, 2015)

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© 2005 Marc de Douvan Crédits Mentions légales