Mick Jagger reflected on his work and friendship with Charlie Watts during an interview Wednesday with Howard Stern.
Stern noted that the Rolling Stones kicked off their North American tour in St. Louis with a video tribute to Watts that primarily featured footage of the late drummer not dazzling crowds with crazy fills or solos, but keeping a steady beat. “Charlie was the heartbeat for the band, and also a very steady personality,” Jagger said in response. “He was not to be perturbed. He was a very reliable person, wasn’t a diva — that’s the last thing you want in a drummer.” (“Enough divas in that band,” Stern quipped in response, and even Jagger had to laugh.)
Jagger went on to speak about the way Watts imbued his rock and roll drumming with the subtleties he gleaned from jazz, while he also praised Watts’ dry sense of humor and their relationship outside the Stones.
“I miss Charlie because he had a great sense of humor and we also were, outside of the band, we used to hang out quite a lot and have interesting times. We liked sports, we’d go to football, we’d go to cricket games, and we had other interests apart from music.”
Jagger was also candid about what it’s been like embarking on a new era without Watts. He noted that in some ways, Watts remains a prominent presence: “Every time we get together now and rehearse, we say, ‘Oh, Charlie would say this, then he would do that.’” But Jagger also pointed out that Watts – before his death, when he was forced to drop off the band’s upcoming tour – was adamant the Stones keep going without him.
“We did so many shows with him and so many tours and so many recording sessions, it’s strange being without him,” Jagger said. “And he said, when he was sick, he said, ‘You’ve gotta just carry on and do this tour. Don’t stop because of me.’ So we did.”