Charlie Watts, the legendary drummer for the Rolling Stones, passed away this morning in London at the age of 80.
Earlier this month, he abruptly withdrew from the Stones’ upcoming U.S. tour, postponed due to the pandemic, for an unspecified medical procedure that was reported by Variety to have been “successful.” Surprisingly healthy for the crazy lifestyle the band famously led, Charlie Watts had beaten both addiction and throat cancer during his lifetime.
A statement from the band’s spokesperson read: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts. He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family.”
“Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also a member of the Rolling Stones one of the greatest drummers of his generation,” the statement continued. “We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.”
During his tenure with the Rolling Stones, Charlie is remembered for being one of the best rock drummers, with some calling his rhythms the “heart of the band.” He was ranked 12th on Rolling Stone‘s “100 Greatest Drummers of All Time” list from 2016.
“Watts has perfectly complemented Jagger, Richards and the rest of the gang with swinging grooves (“Brown Sugar”), taut four-on-the-floor rhythms (“Satisfaction”) and understated impressionism (“Sympathy for the Devil”), rarely showing off, for more than 50 year,” Rolling Stone wrote at the time.
Charlie Watts recorded over 25 albums with the Rolling Stones, culminating in an induction into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and success as one of the best-selling artists of all time.
Born in London in 1941, Charlie began drumming as a young teenager. In True Adventures of the Rolling Stones biography, he said that his parents bought him a drum kit after he tore up a banjo and started playing the pieces like a drum. His hard hitting snare drum and four-on-the-floor kick pattern helped bring the Stones to their first No. 1 in 1965 with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and it was only up from there.
His last live concert was in Miami on August 30, 2019, where the band was able to play a full show despite the rockers all aged into their seventies. Charlie Watts played a two-hour stadium set with the Stones at 78 years old, celebrating a 62-year-long career.
“So sad to hear about Charlie Watts,” Paul McCartney said in a touching video. “Condolences to the Stones, it will be a huge blow to them because Charlie was a rock. A fantastic drummer, steady as a rock. Love you Charlie. I’ve always loved you, beautiful man.”
“God bless Charlie Watts,” added Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. “We’re going to miss you man peace and love to the family.”
Tributes to the drummer began pouring in after new broke, as Charlie Watts was remembered by rock legends Gene Simmons, Axl Rose, Tony Iommi, Chuck D, Elton John, Graham Nash, Billy Idol, Danzig, Coldplay, Buddy Guy, Slash, writer Steven King, actor Hugh Laurie, and many, many more.
“Charlie Watts wept at Keith Moon’s funeral,” The Who’s guitarist Pete Townsend wrote of the time their drummer passed away. “I wish I was capable of such tears today.”
“The Rolling Stones have always been my favorite band, and Charlie was the engine of subtle and heavy grooves,” Pearl Jam’s lead guitarist Mike McCready said. “Any of us in a rock band wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for Charlie.”
Charlie Watts is survived by his wife, Shirley, their daughter Seraphina, and his granddaughter Charlotte.
What do you most remember about Charlie? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!