I guess I love this picture so much because Charlie Watts looks so happy in it. The arms of his mate wrapped around him. I'd never seen the picture before today and it's usually Keith who has his arm around Charlie. You can find pictures of Keith hugging him all the way back to the sixties. But you know- Keith is a hugger.
The first I remember hearing the Rolling Stones- I mean, specifically heard them to the point where I remember vividly. I was in my room in a house that we lived in in Winter Haven. Bad time for Mary Miller. That was me. My stepfather was still visiting me in my room at bedtime. Don't quite know how he got away with that. His and my mother's room was about seven feet away down a hall, bathroom in-between. The ruse, the story was that he was "telling me goodnight."
I was probably eleven, twelve. My mother was sick a lot. Headaches. Then pregnant. She stayed in bed days at a time. Considered her husband to be such a good father- look! He tells our little girl goodnight every night! He spends time with her.
I remember how the rattan rug felt on my knees when I got down on it to pray sometimes that things would get better. I was going through a Billy-Graham-on-TV inspired phase.
Jesus would help if I just asked.
No relief in that.
Then, one day She's a Rainbow came out of my wooden radio. Yes. Wood cabinet radio. Dial like a clock hand that rotated from the bottom center, controlled by a Bakelite knob. Two knobs. One to turn it on and control volume, one to inch the dial in infinitely tiny degrees to find the stations hidden within the static.
She comes in colors everywhere. She combs her hair. She's like a rainbow. Have you seen her dressed in gold? Like a queen in days of old. She shoots her colors all around. Like a sunset going down. Have you seen a lady fairer?
They were talking about a girl and it was just so purely sweet and so pretty and it wasn't like anything I'd ever heard before and it was a different world that I slipped into and felt like a different girl myself.
For a few minutes. While it played. A girl who was so shining that she could shoot colors everywhere. She combed her hair. Like a rainbow.
I've been crying off and on since I heard that Charlie Watts died this morning. Hell. He was eighty years old. Had cancer seventeen years ago. What did I think? He was immortal?
Yeah. Maybe. Probably.
Aren't all those Stones? Immortal? They've been here forever. Why should that change?
They never did one damn fucking thing they were supposed to do. Not one. They didn't even look the way they were supposed to. Those matching suits didn't last long with them. And you ever hear the term "ugly beautiful"? Yeah. Like that. Except for Brian Jones and he was crazy and they had to kick him out of his own band and then he died.
The Beatles? Even though their hair was shockingly long (for the time) you knew you could bring one of them home to meet your mother. She would have loved Paul McCartney. Ringo would have made her laugh. John would have charmed her with his intellect, his wit.
The Rolling Stones?
And wasn't that their charm? Wasn't that why we loved them? Even your mother would have known what they had on their minds. They teethed on blues music from America. They ingested it and digested it and copied it and jumped onstage and played it and then wrote their own songs with the juice they'd swallowed and it was rock and roll.
Little Red Rooster indeed.
Dirty. Filthy. Raw. Gender-bending. Sexually fluid to the point that who DIDN'T want to fuck them?
My stepfather quit coming to my room. I think I got too old for his interest. Wasn't long after that that boys my own age started showing interest. This, however, felt very, very different. I realized that I had control over...something. I may not have known that I too was like a rainbow but I knew that boys might look at me as if I were. The Rolling Stones told me that boys liked girls that liked what they were singing about. My mama may not have known I could bite like that, but Mick Jagger did. He gave it his seal of approval. And I could bite or kiss whoever I wanted. Because it was my choice. It was my body.
When I was finally allowed to date at the age of sixteen and I remember my stepfather crying when I went on my first real date with a guy a year older than me, big and hulky, a football player.
Too bad. Weep away, DAD. You don't own me.
But Charlie Watts. He died today. He was already playing with a successful band when the Stones hired him. They had to pay him because you know- he was already making money. Keith Richards says they shoplifted food to eat to be able to afford to pay Charlie five pounds a week.
He married his wife Shirley in 1964.
That's saying a lot in that he was in a band with Keith Richards.
He was a Rolling Stone. There were really only four of them left. Three, if you count the true originals.
But that's what I'm thinking tonight which is different from any other night since the day I heard She's a Rainbow on my radio. For me.
He is there.
Weeping again tonight reading your tribute Mary. Thank you. Thank you.ReplyDelete
Beautifully written dear Mary. Weeping with you.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Barbara.Delete
beautiful tribute to a true star, a stellar human, and a sliver of our lives that will be sorely missed. A little piece of my heart missing..........ReplyDelete
A little piece of the rhythm of the world missing.Delete
A truly cool guy. Feeling sad as Susan said and I'm not one to be star struck.ReplyDelete
Well- there are stars and then there are stars.Delete
This is beautiful and wrenching, a worthy tribute to the man whose drumbeat helped reclaim you, thank you for writing this as only you could. When I heard, I wanted most of all to come here. He gave so much, humbly. Thank you.ReplyDelete
It meant so much to me to be able to write this. Thank you, sweet friend.Delete
One of the greatest essayists of our time and here you are, keeping chickens. I love you. Hugs and sympathy and more hugs.ReplyDelete
Oh my goodness! Well, thank you elf. So very much.Delete
I thought of you when I heard about Charlie Watts today. Your writing is just so beautiful. Thank you. I started crying all over again.ReplyDelete
I appreciate that, Terry.Delete
You need to publish this.ReplyDelete
Ah well. It's published here. But thank you.Delete
when i heard the news you were the first person i thought of.ReplyDelete
may his memory always be a blessing to you.
His music always will and that's for sure.Delete
As good or really better than any other piece I read anywhere today on Charlie. I knew you would have something worthy to say.ReplyDelete
Thank you. That means a lot.Delete
That was a really good tribute, Mary. My husband has been sad all day about Charlie's death. He was part of the reason Gregg was a drummer for so many years--a major inspiration.ReplyDelete
Oh, I love that, Jennifer! Please tell Gregg that I know his heart must hurt too.Delete
You were the first person I thought of when I read that he had died. He had a great life, didn't he!ReplyDelete
I think he really did! I hope so.Delete
What a wonderful tribute.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Liz.Delete
A great Tribute. Sometimes you forget how old they all are, they're just so timelessly and agelessly immortal in our Minds, aren't they?ReplyDelete
Yes. And with the lens of love, they do not look so old. Or at least not "traditionally" old. You know?Delete
My thought was also for you when I heard the news yesterday. I knew you would be so upset. What a wonderful tribute your post is!ReplyDelete
I may have told you this before, but my husband turned down tickets to see the ( very new) Rolling Stones at his college because the tickets were too expensive ( he thought!) It would have been mid 60s.
He has regretted it ever since.
Oh my god! Your husband! Yes, that would be a regret. Ah well.Delete
I'm sorry. Understanding how much The RS means to you, I knew your heart would be hurting.ReplyDelete
It really did hurt. I think it will always ache a bit for dear Charlie.Delete
Like the others, you are the first person I thought of when I heard the news. I'm so sorry.ReplyDelete
I appreciate all the thoughts. I really do.Delete
so strange to have been part of the most iconic rock band ever and still aloof from it at the same time.ReplyDelete
Yes. I think they all stepped back and led their own lives for long periods of time. I suppose they had to. Although I think Keith would be perfectly happy touring at least six months of every year. He seems to love that part of it so much.Delete
An excellent tribute and I love how you wove your own story in with that of the band, showing how much they mean to you. Of course I thought of you immediately when I heard this news. I agree with Elizabeth -- this could be an article for a wider market.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Steve! This is why I could never do journalism. I could never keep myself out of the story. Part of me thinks this is very narcissistic and part of me thinks, well- we all have our own stories and we are allowed to write them if we want.Delete
I read your blog every day but hardly ever post. When I heard that Charlie passed my first thought was for you. Sending hugs and love. It’s a bitch getting old, with everyone around us dying. 💜💜💜
God, that's the truth. I think about people who are in their late eighties and nineties and how almost ALL of the people they have known and loved are gone. It must be such a lonely feeling.Delete
Likewise, when I heard that Charlie had died I immediately thought of you. You have written a beautiful tribute. And like they say moss don't grow on a rolling stone! RIP Charlie Watts!ReplyDelete
Rest in peace, indeed. Thank you.Delete