The Rolling Stones are scheduled to hit the road in North America starting September 26th in St. Louis. This morning, tragic news hit the wire when the band’s publicist announced drummer and founding member Charlie Watts has died at 80. Fans are already worried that the spread of the Delta variant would push the tour back for a second time, and now this. What does it all mean? We’ll do our best to lay it out.
Charlie Watts Was Already Taking The Tour Off
Last month, Watts and the band announced he would be sitting out the first leg of the tour. They all expressed hope he’d be fit and ready to go next year when the tour hits other parts of the world. The announcements cited unspecified health reasons but at 80-years-old, that wasn’t much of a surprise. It also didn’t cause that much of a worry. Obviously, we sadly know now that Watts’ health was worse than it seemed at the time.
The Stones named longtime collaborator Steve Jordan as Watts’ temporary replacement for the tour. In theory, that means the band was already planning to go ahead with Jordan, and now, even with their legendary drummer gone, the tour could still happen. This wouldn’t even be the first time the Stones forged ahead after a member died before a gig.
The Stones Have A History Here
1969 was a tumultuous year for the world and for The Rolling Stones. After months of growing resentment towards Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Brian Jones, lead guitar player and another founder of the band, parted ways with his Glimmer Twin bandmates. Stories differ on what occurred, whether Jones for fired or whether he quit, but ultimately it doesn’t matter, everyone was unhappy about the situation in the band.
Sometime on the night of July 2nd or early in the morning on the 3rd, Brian Jones drowned in his swimming pool. The death certificate, in true English fashion, simply read “death by misadventure.” There have been a million conspiracy theories as to what happened. Did Jones get wasted and drown? Was he murdered? Both? No one really knows. What we do know is just two days later, on July 5th, The Rolling Stones played to a massive audience in Hyde Park, London, with their new lead guitarist, Mick Taylor.
The Rolling Stones Have Lost Other Members As Well.
Ian Stewart was the band’s original piano player, and while Stu, as he was known, wasn’t an “official” member of the band, he played on every album and every tour from the beginning until his death in 1985. While the 80s were a wild time for Stones, with Jagger and Richards often not even speaking to each other, Stewart’s death didn’t slow them down and they hit the road later that decade.
After the band’s Steel Wheels Tour in 1989/1990, original bassist Bill Wyman retired from the band. Wyman had had enough of the rock n roll lifestyle and preferred a simpler existence. By the time the band was ready to hit the road for the 1994 Voodoo Lounge tour, Wyman’s spot was taken by bassist Daryll Jones, who’s been with them ever since.
Other quasi-members of the band, like sax player Bobby Keys have also died and the band has charged on, but Charlie Watts is the man Keith Richards once called “the engine of The Rolling Stones,” so can they go on?
Will The Tour Go On?
Frankly, it’s very hard to say. Not only have they lost another core member of the band, but the specter of Covid-19 also hasn’t gone away. Many other tours scheduled for late summer and fall have been canceled. From Nine Inch Nails, to Stevie Nicks, artists are understandably concerned about large crowds gathering to see them perform. As for the Stones, the show usually does go on, but this might be a bridge (to Babylon) too far.