Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich has joined the growing chorus of rock musicians paying tribute to Charlie Watts after the longtime Rolling Stones drummer died at age 80 on Tuesday (Aug. 24).
Ulrich perhaps understands the career of Watts better than most, seeing as how the two musicians were each the rhythmic linchpins of their respective band’s sound as it evolved over the decades. The Metallica member is also a Rolling Stones fan himself, lending even more weight to his words on Watts’ death, which came almost 60 years after the English percussionist joined the Mick Jagger-led rockers in 1963.
The death of Watts “hits hard on many levels,” Ulrich told Rolling Stone. “Obviously, as a Stones fan, it’s sort of the end of at least an era within that band, because he was the only drummer that ever recorded with them. He was such a significant part of their sound and an underrated part of their sound. In a band where the spotlight would go to especially Mick and Keith, a lot of people truly didn’t understand how valuable he was.”
The Metallica drummer continued, “Charlie has always been that driving force. He could kick these songs and make them swing, make them swagger, still make them have that attitude, that pocket. Seeing him do that way deep into his seventies has been such a life-affirming thing. [Metallica are] a good 20, 25 years behind, but it’s given me a lot of faith in the possibilities of what it can continue to be — music, concerts, connecting to fans, connecting to each other as a band. There’s nobody above them on that pyramid, and there’s nobody above Charlie on that pyramid. Of course, there are a couple of incredible jazz drummers who played into their eighties, but there’s been nobody above Charlie in the rock ‘n’ roll pyramid in terms of being out there and doing it.”
Another notable drummer, Matt Cameron from Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, also praised Watts’ work this week, saying in an open letter that the Stones stickman “had a beautifully greasy swagger in his drumming that was completely his own thing.”
Survivng Stones members themselves also saluted Watts.
Despite his death, The Rolling Stones have already announced that their scheduled 2021 U.S. tour will take place as planned, a decision that dovetailed with another Ulrich thought.
“They don’t need the money or exposure,” the Metallica drummer added, “so one can only imagine the reason [the Stones] kept going is because they loved what they were doing. And that has always been so relatable to me and to our band.”