What’s Next for The Rolling Stones After Drummer Charlie Watt’s Death?

The Rolling Stones have been going strong for the last sixty years, and up until recently, they showed no signs of slowing down. Their long-time drummer and faithful backbeat, Charlie Watts, has just died at the age of 80 years old. While mourning his death, they probably won’t be thinking about the fate of their band, but could this be the beginning of the end for The Rolling Stones?

The Rolling Stones performing on their "No Filter" tour 2021.
The Rolling Stones | Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones recently replaced Charlie Watts on tour

In his 2010 memoir, Life, Keith Richards called Watts “the essence of the whole thing.” Yet that essence hasn’t been with the band for the last couple of months.

According to USA Today, Watts was forced to back out of the remainder of The Rolling Stones’ North American leg of their current “No Filter” tour this past fall due to a medical procedure for an unknown condition. They got drummer Steve Jordan to replace him, and he’s supposed to start with a gig on Sept. 26 in St. Louis.

Watts feared that fans would be disappointed he wasn’t there with the rest of the band but gave his blessing to Jordan nonetheless. This wasn’t the first time Watts had a health scare. He fought throat cancer after he was diagnosed in 2004.

“I thought I was going to die when they told me I had it, which is what most people go through,” Watts told the Mirror in 2012. “You think, ‘Ah, well, that’s it.’ I didn’t know how to deal with it. The lowest point was the moment he told me I had cancer.” He recovered and soon reunited with the band to record The Rolling Stones’ last studio album, A Bigger Bang.

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Will The Rolling Stones continue their tour?

No matter what is going on with the band, at least physically, they’ve always continued to tour. Their current “No Filter” tour was delayed, but that was because of the pandemic in 2020. After Mick Jagger had heart surgery in 2019, he was dancing around on stage in a matter of months.

Likewise, when Watts was diagnosed with throat cancer, it hardly slowed down the band. There was never a thought of throwing in the towel. So if those serious, life-threatening events didn’t put The Rolling Stones into retirement, we’re not sure what will.

As of this writing, there’s been no word on whether or not the band will continue with their tour. They already canceled some tour dates even before Watts died on Aug. 24. They still have twelve tour dates scheduled all over America, and according to the ticket website, Vivid Seats, you can still buy tickets, although it’s not advisable. The Rolling Stones might cancel at any moment.

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Will The Rolling Stones retire after Charlie Watts’ death?

As stated, it would take a lot for The Rolling Stones to quit once and for all. Between their own health issues and world affairs, nothing has stopped them. They’ve always eventually returned. Not even the death of past members like Brian Jones stopped them. So it’s doubtful that they’ll retire because of Watts’ death, even though he’ll likely leave a gaping hole in the band.

According to one British journalist, that gaping hole might actually cause The Rolling Stones to bleed out. Tony Barrell, journalist and author of Born To Drum: The Truth About The World’s Greatest Drummers, suggested that the band might “call it a day” after Watts left the tour last fall.

Speaking to the PA news agency (per the Irish News), Barrell said, “When I heard they had to replace the drummer for their new tour, I thought, ‘Oh, can they just carry on?’ Bands have done it, bands have lost important members and carried on.

“If I was the Stones, I’d say ‘no’ and jack it in out of respect for Charlie. Because it wouldn’t ever sound the same without him.” On the other hand, Barrell said the band could “go on forever” and they did following the death of Brian Jones in 1969. But in his opinion, they should end it all out of respect to Watts.

The Rolling Stones performing in Toronto.
The Rolling Stones | KMazur/WireImage

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“They could carry on again. I don’t know, it remains to be seen what Jagger, Richards and the rest of them think, really. But if I was them, out of respect, I’d call it a day.”

One thing’s for sure; Watts kept the band together, musically and physically. If The Rolling Stones do go on, they probably will sound different. They just have to figure out whether or not carrying on is what they want and what Watts would have wanted.