London – full hair, straight body and seemingly never tired: The Rolling Stones were considered the epitome of the desire for eternal youth. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and, until recently, Charlie Watts rocked the stages of the world for almost 60 years – but now the drummer has passed away at the age of 80. More gentleman than rebellious, always well dressed and always reliable, he was seen as the driving force of the group beyond the musical level.

As if they couldn’t quite figure it out on their own, Jagger and Richards’ reactions were initially wordless. Jagger posted a photo of Watts behind his drums. With Richards, it was just a picture of a drums without commentary with a sign saying “Closed”. Guitarist Ronnie Wood was the first to regain his tongue: “I will miss you a lot – you are the best,” he posted on Instagram. The band’s website only featured a large portrait of Watts. The tailor-made costume lover, dressed in the finest yarn, smiles at the camera with his arms crossed.

Reviews from all parts of the music world and beyond were all the more wordy. “Condolences to the Stones. It’s a blow to them because Charlie was a rock,” ex-Beatle Paul McCartney said in a video message. Watts was a “fantastic drummer”. Former band member and McCartney drummer Ringo Starr wrote, “God bless Charlie Watts we will miss you man”.

Kinks frontman Ray Davies said he was “shocked” by the news of Watts’ death. He was classy and unmistakable in style, was a great guy and will be sorely missed, Davies continued.

Queen guitarist Brian May described Watts as “the friendliest person you can imagine.” He was a “strong pillar” for the Rolling Stones, to whom he had given “a touch of jazz and a mountain of pure class,” continued May.

Pop star Elton John wrote: “Charlie Watts was the quintessential drummer. He was the most stylish of all men and with him you were in good company.”

British media have already speculated that the Stones could go out of step or even overthrow them altogether. Was it possible that the aura of immortality, with which they shaped the attitude to life of an entire generation and even inspired their grandchildren, was damaged with Watts’ death?

British journalist and author Tony Barrell speculated that the rest of the band might end their careers “out of respect” for the drummer. It is of course possible to continue, Barrell told the PA News Agency. But the sound would never be the same again. The group themselves initially did not comment on their future plans.

For health reasons, Watts should be replaced for the planned US tour anyway. Steve Jordan, who has already been heard on several solo albums by guitarist Keith Richards, will speak. But it remains to be seen whether the Stones will be able to continuously develop their magic without the Watts Clock Generator. (dpa)