2021 Took Charlie Watts, But His Beat Goes On

Our 2021 Annual Report continues with a look at one of music's biggest losses this year

Charlie Watts
Charlie Watts, photo by photo by Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    Our 2021 Annual Report continues with a look at one of music’s biggest losses this year. As December rolls along, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of 2021. You can find it all in one place here.

    During most of the band’s nearly 60 years, a Rolling Stones concert began with Keith Richards playing one of those famous guitar licks. But that changed on the fall leg of the group’s continuing ”No Filter Tour.”

    It had to.

    The first sound audiences heard this time out was Charlie Watts playing the drums, and the first image they saw was Watts on the video screen, larger than life (but not reputation), before any of The Stones walked on the stage. Emerging to open with “Tumbling Dice,” the band dedicated each show to the late drummer.  It was an appropriate, and necessary, homage to the man Mick Jagger said was “the rock the rest of it was built around.”


    Watts’ passing on August 24th, at the age of 80 — just three weeks after announcing he would be sitting out a tour for his first time during his tenure with The Stones — shook the world in a way that few have before. It was a death in the family, a cause for universal mourning even beyond the music world. Network news programs reported on it. Tributes poured in from all corners of the world. There was a genuine recognition that a legend had left our midst, and that both The Rolling Stones and rock ‘n’ roll as a whole would never be the same.

    “Charlie was a great guy, a lot of fun — and he had a harder band to keep together!” the Beatles’ Ringo Starr recalled a few weeks later. “We’ll miss Charlie. He was a beautiful human being. He was, like, the quiet man.”