Charlie Watts Was the Coolest Rolling Stone

Trying to name the coolest member of the Rolling Stones is like picking a favorite child or sibling. But come on: it was obviously drummer Charlie Watts. In a band that defined glamour and excess, he was measured—the backbone of the group, musically and otherwise. What’s cooler than that?

With his death Tuesday, we’ve lost the man Keith Richards called “one of the greatest drummers the damn world is ever gonna see.” Watts was 80, and the news came a few weeks after it was announced that he’d be missing the Stones’s upcoming U.S. tour because of a recent surgery. Otherwise, he hadn’t sat out a show since he got the gig in 1963. In the six decades between, he burned the openings to songs like “Honky Tonk Women” and “Sympathy for the Devil” into our collective consciousness.

Even though he shared a stage with the biggest, most flamboyant personalities in all of human history, Watts was truly comfortable doing his own thing. On a stylistic level, as he told GQ in 2012, “I always felt totally out of place with the Rolling Stones. Not as a person—they never made me feel like that. I just mean the way I looked. Photos of the band would come back—I’ll have a pair of shoes on and they’ve got trainers [sneakers]. I hate trainers, even if they’re fashionable.” He opted for impeccable Savile Row suits, a fondness instilled in him by his working-class father, who took young Charlie along to the tailor’s.

Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Mick Jagger in 1994. 

Sonia Moskowitz / Getty Images

But performing is where he really stood out. When I saw the Stones a couple years back, Mick and Keith and Ronnie were all swanning around in their spiked hair and silks and pirate gear. Charlie, meanwhile, sat steadily at his drums in a dadcore blue button-down, the very portrait of aging gracefully. This, I thought, this is what real power looks like.

Watts in 2012.

Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images

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