In case you didn’t know, I was born in 1968. I’m 53 years old. For the entirety of my life, the Rolling Stones have existed as a band. For every one of those years, Mick Jagger sang and Keith Richards played guitar in the Rolling Stones, and up until yesterday, Charlie Watts played the drums.
Through all of those years, and the comings and goings of other members, Mick, Keith, and Charlie have been in the Rolling Stones. There have been other members come and go, Brian Jones, Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman, eventually Ronnie Wood, but through all of that Charlie Watts played the drums.
Through all of my 53 years on earth, plus a few more before that, through all of the drama that the band lived through, and caused, through all the havoc of being in the biggest Rock and Roll band in the world, Charlie Watts played the drums.
He brought very little drama to the gig himself, even as everyone around him melted down in their own drama. He sought very little attention, rejected most of the usual trappings of being a “Rock Star”, and genuinely seemed more than happy to let his more flamboyant bandmates strut and pose, and seek all of that same attention. He maintained his own sense of who he was and remained happy being just that.
In the midst of all that the Rolling Stones were, and went through, Charlie Watts played the drums. He kept the beat going, and kept the time for every song, at every show, for more years than most of us have been alive.
I’m willing to bet someone on your team, right now, is playing the drums. They don’t seek out attention, they don’t often speak up in meetings, and they don’t cause much of a fuss about anything. Without them, however, your team has no beat, there’s no one keeping time. It’s all out of rhythm. You might not even really notice them, but the people who know, the other drummers in the world, and the other team members who rely on them, they notice.
We know that every flashy, attention-grabbing, and wildly successful team has a member who plays the drums, happily.
That’s what Charlie Watts meant to me, the reminder that no matter how much flash you’ve got, someone needs to play the drums and be the steady backbeat that keeps the song going. Without it, you’re just making noise. We’d do well to remember that.
Rest in Peace Charlie.