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Remembering The Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts: 5 Essential Performances By The Drum Legend

Charlie Watts in 1964

Photo: Jeremy Fletcher/Redferns via Getty Images

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Remembering The Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts: 5 Essential Performances By The Drum Legend

From his first cut with the Rolling Stones in 1964 to his final 2020 single with the World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band, Charlie Watts laid down the swinging foundation for his outrageous bandmates

GRAMMYs/Aug 26, 2021 - 12:15 am

Widely considered as one of the best drummers in the history of recorded music, the immense legacy and influence of Rolling Stones member Charlie Watts is hard to overstate.

In the announcement of his death on August 24th at 80 years old, his band deemed Watts to be "one of the greatest drummers of his generation." Paul McCartney said he was "steady as a rock." And Elton John called Watts "the ultimate drummer."

Watts leaves behind an acclaimed career with the Stones, including 12 GRAMMY nominations and three wins, their most recent GRAMMY being for Best Traditional Blues Album for Blue and Lonesome in 2017.

In the span of 30 albums, the band evolved throughout the generations, from its early-60s debut as young, scrappy rockers known for their bluesy covers, which then gave way to a brief experimental period sound before a transition to arena rock anthems like "Start Me Up."

As the decades went on, Watts and his bandmates reflected the sounds of modern music without sacrificing the sharp rock signature the Stones became famous for. Here are five essential songs that paint a musical portrait of Charlie Watts.

"Not Fade Away" (1964)

The year was 1964, and a ragtag bunch of musicians who were rapt fans of early American blues and rock were just beginning to break into the mainstream. One year after their first performance at London's Ealing Jazz Club, The Rolling Stones released their first American single: "Not Fade Away," a cover of the 1957 Buddy Holly classic made all their own.

American audiences' heads turned, and it became their first single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 48 , birthing a fervent fanbase. Not that it did anything for Watts, a consummate professional immune to such wiles.

"Girls chasing you down the street, screaming... horrible! I hated it," he once said in a 2000 interview of the early Stones hysteria. "It was quite flattering, I suppose. It's fantastic to play to audiences like that. For me, that was the whole point of being chased down the street... Playing the drums was all I was ever interested in."

"Honky Tonk Women" (1969)

One of the most iconic rock songs of all time, "Honky Tonk Women" kicks off solely with percussion. First, we hear Stones producer Jimmy Miller on cowbell, followed by Watts on his trusty Gertsch drum kit; the two continuing to propel the song forward.

The Hank Williams-inspired tune is a testament to the versatility of the Stones. In the span of the 1960s, they seamlessly transitioned from their blues-influenced roots to country climes. 

"Honky Tonk Women" was the No. 1 song in the country during the tumultuous summer of 1969 and its stature has only built since, with Rolling Stone calling it one of the greatest songs of all time. To boot, the hit was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 2014.

"Miss You" (1978)

Smack in the middle of the disco craze, the Rolling Stones expertly melded the club rhythms of the time with their trademark style. While 1978's "Miss You" has a dancefloor feel, the heart of it is a steady beat provided by Watts. 

It also has qualities of jazz, whether from frontman Mick Jagger's frenetic, spastic vocals to its smooth sax and riffing guitar. The result was a confluence of styles that perfectly fit Watts's musical voice. 

"My thing, whenever I play, is to make it a dance sound," he said in 2008. "It doesn't matter whether it's a blues or whatever; it should swing and bounce."

"Bewitched" (1993)

Despite becoming a global stadium icon with the Stones, Watts began his career enamored by jazz, an interest he never left behind. He explored it via side projects like the Charlie Watts Quintet, which was relaxed and understated—the antithesis of what The Rolling Stones became in their later years.

Launched in the early 90s, the Charlie Watts Quintet covered standards from the Great American Songbook, from the Cole Porter classic "You Go To My Head" to Rodgers and Hart's 1941 standard "Bewitched," with Bernard Fowler handling vocals.

"I just love [jazz]," he once said in an interview, citing Charlie Parker as an inspiration. "It was like kids hearing Jimi Hendrix: 'What the hell is he playing?' I heard [Parker] and thought, I want to be that. I want to do that in a club in New York."

"Living in a Ghost Town" (2020)

It’s a song that exemplifies the rare and stunning run Watts and his cohorts enjoyed. In the heat of the COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020, their single "Living in a Ghost Town" spoke to the global upheaval.

Sadly, the rollicking track turned out to be Watts's last release as a Stone following a recording career which lasted nearly 60 years. It was a duration Watts himself had never imagined.

"I thought they'd last three months, then a year, then three years," he once mused of that improbable, almost six-decade run. "Then I stopped counting."

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Iggy Pop Announces New Album, 'Free', Shares Title Track

Iggy Pop

Photo: Harmony Korine

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Iggy Pop Announces New Album, 'Free', Shares Title Track

"By the end of the tours following Post Pop Depression, I felt sure that I had rid myself of the problem of chronic insecurity that had dogged my life and career for too long. But I also felt drained… I wanted to be free," the Godfather of Punk explained

GRAMMYs/Jul 18, 2019 - 11:47 pm

Today, GRAMMY-nominated punk forbearer Iggy Pop revealed the details for his forthcoming 18th solo studio album, along with its short—at under two minutes—yet spacious title track, "Free." The 10-track LP is due out Sept. 6 and follow's 2016's GRAMMY-nominated Post Pop Depression.

"This is an album in which other artists speak for me, but I lend my voice," Pop explains in a press release.

The statement notes jazz trumpeter Leron Thomas and L.A.-based electric guitarist Noveller as the "principal players" collaborating with Pop on this exploratory new project. On "Free," Thomas' horn and Noveller's guitar add layers of depth, somberness and exploration, as Pop's echoing voice cuts through twice to proclaim, "I want to be free."

Pop adds that his last tour left him feeling exhausted but ready for change, and the shifts eventually led him to these new sounds:

"By the end of the tours following Post Pop Depression, I felt sure that I had rid myself of the problem of chronic insecurity that had dogged my life and career for too long. But I also felt drained. And I felt like I wanted to put on shades, turn my back, and walk away. I wanted to be free. I know that's an illusion, and that freedom is only something you feel, but I have lived my life thus far in the belief that that feeling is all that is worth pursuing; all that you need—not happiness or love necessarily, but the feeling of being free. So this album just kind of happened to me, and I let it happen."

Post Pop Depression earned the former Stooges frontman his second GRAMMY nod, at the 59th GRAMMY Awards for Best Alternative Music Album. It was produced by GRAMMY winner Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and as a tribute of sorts to David Bowie, Pop's longtime friend the producer of his first two solo albums, and was released shortly after Bowie's surprising passing.

As the press release states, "While it follows the highest charting album of Iggy's career, Free has virtually nothing in common sonically with its predecessor—or with any other Iggy Pop album."

You can pre-order and pre-save the new album now for the Sept. 6 release here. You can also check out Pop's new book, 'Til Wrong Feels Right, on Sept. 26.

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Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

Fleetwood Mac in 1975

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Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

"Dreams" experienced a charming viral moment on TikTok after a man posted a video skateboarding to the classic track, and now it's back on the charts, 43 years later

GRAMMYs/Oct 16, 2020 - 04:00 am

In honor of Fleetwood Mac's ethereal '70s rock classic "Dreams," which recently returned to the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to a viral TikTok skateboard video from Nathan Apodaca, we want to know which of the legendary group's songs is your favorite!

Beyond their ubiquitous 1977 No. 1 hit "Dreams," there are so many other gems from the iconic GRAMMY-winning album Rumours, as well as across their entire catalog. There's the oft-covered sentimental ballad "Landslide" from their 1975 self-titled album, the jubilant, sparkling Tango in the Night cut "Everywhere" and Stevie Nicks' triumphant anthem for the people "Gypsy," from 1982's Mirage, among many others.

Vote below in our latest GRAMMY.com poll to let us know which you love most.

Related: Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" Back On Charts Thanks To Viral Skateboard Video On TikTok

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Poll: What's Your Favorite Van Halen Song?

The Making Of Paramore's "Ain't It Fun"
Paramore's Jeremy Davis, Hayley Williams and Taylor York

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The Making Of Paramore's "Ain't It Fun"

Hayley Williams and Taylor York recall the creative process for their first GRAMMY-winning song, including an unexpected emotional element

GRAMMYs/May 8, 2015 - 02:08 am

(The Making Of GRAMMY-Winning Recordings … series presents firsthand accounts of the creative process behind some of music's biggest recordings. The series' current installments present in-depth insight and details about recordings that won 57th GRAMMY Awards.)

(As told to Chuck Crisafulli)

Taylor York: This song was a complete surprise. I came up with a lot of ideas that I thought sounded like what we were supposed to write — big rock guitar riffs that would have fit on our earlier records. As I played each idea for Hayley she'd say, "Yeah, that's cool but what else do you have?" I went through everything I had until I got to the last idea — one that I wasn't planning on showing her because I thought she'd hate it. But it was all I had left. She got excited about it and from there the song just built organically and naturally. It all came together in a sound and a style that we had never really explored. The fact that "Ain't It Fun" came together so easily and worked so well really was the turning point for the writing process of the whole record, and it helped us fall in love with the writing and recording process at a new level. The music was something that I had felt connected to, but I didn't think it was Paramore. It turned out that whatever we feel connected to absolutely is Paramore.


Hayley Williams: I remember walking into Taylor's hotel room one of the first days [after] our move to L.A. to make our next album. He played that little marimba part on a loop. I thought it was so cool — I went straight back to my room to get pens and a notebook. By the time I got there I already had a melody, and by the time I got back to Taylor's room I already had the first few lines of lyrics.

We started demoing vocal parts in Taylor's room and when we got to the bridge we felt like we needed to hold on a root note and let the tension build with a lot of voices. Taylor and I stacked our voices about 10 different times and it sounded unbelievable — but not in a good way. We decided that we needed really good singers to come in and get it right. A couple of months later we're recording at Sunset Sound and a local gospel choir comes in, and by the second practice run-through it was perfect. I welled up with tears because I've loved gospel music all my life and to hear a choir singing our parts — belting out that harmony — it just felt insane to be in a band that could have that kind of amazing moment as part of our song. All of a sudden we felt big, like we had really made it. Yes, we've got a gospel choir on our record. This is really happening.

(At the 57th GRAMMY Awards, Paramore's Hayley Williams and Taylor York won Best Rock Song for "Ain't It Fun," marking the first GRAMMY wins of their respective careers. Paramore are scheduled to kick off a U.S. theater tour on April 27 in Augusta, Ga.)

(Chuck Crisafulli is an L.A.-based journalist and author whose most recent works include Go To Hell: A Heated History Of The Underworld, Me And A Guy Named Elvis and Elvis: My Best Man.)

Remembering Poco's Rusty Young, A Country-Rock Trailblazer

Rusty Young 

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Remembering Poco's Rusty Young, A Country-Rock Trailblazer

Rusty Young "was an innovator on the steel guitar and carried the name Poco on for more than 50 years," Poco co-founder Richie Furay said

GRAMMYs/Apr 20, 2021 - 01:08 am

Rusty Young, one of country-rock's originators and founder of the GRAMMY-nominated band Poco, has died. He was 75.

Young's death on April 14 was confirmed by his publicist, Mike Farley, who said he succumbed to a heart attack. 

In a statement to Variety, Poco co-founder Richie Furay said he was saddened by the loss: "Our friendship was real and he will be deeply missed. My prayers are with his wife, Mary, and his children Sara and Will."

As a member of Poco, Young's love for country music and ability to play several country instruments helped architect what today is known as country-rock. Poco, founded in 1968, was formed after Furay's former band Buffalo Springfield, which Neil Young was a part of, split. Furay met Young and bassist/producer Jim Messina after working together on Furay's  "Kind Woman," which meshed elements of country and rock.

"Richie was a rock and roll guy, Jimmy’s a brilliant technician and guitar player, and I played all these country instruments," Young told Spotlight Central in 2018. 

Poco, like Buffalo Springfield, was among the first bands to bring the country and rock sounds together.

"Our concept was to take rock and roll lyrics and melodies, chord changes, and add country instruments as the color around them, because I play steel guitar and banjo and mandolin, all the country instruments I could add that color and Jimmy played that James Burton, Ricky Nelson-kind of guitar," Young told Rock Cellar Magazine in 2017. "We could use this kind of country colors palette to choose from, and have it be rock and roll."

Born in Long Beach, California on Feb. 23, 1946, Norman Russell Young was raised in Colorado. Growing up, Young was surrounded by music; His grandparents were musicians and his parents would take him to country music bars. At the age of six, he began playing the pedal steel guitar.

"I think it’s a beautiful instrument! And I went on to learn to play a lot of other instruments, but I’ve always played lap steel and I still really enjoy it," he told Spotlight Central

"He was an innovator on the steel guitar and carried the name Poco on for more than 50 years," Furay said in a statement.

Furay and Messina ultimately left the band, but Young remained a member of Poco for more than five decades and even became one of its vocalists. Young wrote and sang the band's biggest hit "Crazy Love," released in 1979—The song reached No. 1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Chart. The band also earned a GRAMMY nomination years later in 1982 for their performance of "Feudin' (Track)."

Young is survived by his wife, Mary, and his children, Sara and Will.

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