The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has died at the age of 80.
His London publicist Bernard Doherty confirmed the news in a statement provided to the PA news agency today (August 24).
Watts had played in The Rolling Stones since 1963. He was the only member of the legendary British rock band alongside Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to have featured on all of their studio albums to date, the last being the 2016 covers record ‘Blue & Lonesome‘.
Earlier this month members of the band showed their support for Watts after he pulled out of their upcoming US tour to “rest and recuperate” following a medical procedure.
— The Rolling Stones (@RollingStones) August 24, 2021
A statement from his 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.”
It added that he was “a cherished husband, father and grandfather” and “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.”
Watts’ cause of death is not known at this stage. He was previously treated for throat cancer in 2004.
Part of a biography provided to NME about Watts states that “his first and most enduring passion was jazz” and when he wasn’t touring with the Stones the drummer “enjoyed gigging with his own jazz combo, appreciating the low-key informality in stark contrast to the circus extravagance that surrounded a Stones tour”.
The Rolling Stones lacked a regular drummer after forming in the early 1960s, and didn’t have a set percussionist for their first gig in the summer of 1962 at London’s Marquee Club. Watts had initially turned down an invitation to join them, as the biography notes, preferring “to keep his secure day job as a graphic designer in an advertising agency”.
Following six months of campaigning to Watts to join the group permanently, Jagger, Richards and Brain Jones “eventually got their man”.
Watts made his first appearance with the Stones in January 1963 at the Flamingo club in London’s Soho. “Even then he refused to give up his day job and it was not until the summer of that year, after the Stones had signed to Decca Records, that he turned fully professional.”
The biography added: “The Rolling Stones rode the losses of early members Brian Jones and Bill Wyman and guitarist Mick Taylor – but Keith and Mick knew Watts was part of the band’s indispensable core and was always at pains to point out that there could ‘never be a Rolling Stones without Charlie’.”
Tributes have started to pour in for Watts, including from The Beatles‘ Paul McCartney who posted a tribute video. In the clip he gives his condolences, saying the he was aware that Watts was unwell but “didn’t know he was this ill”.
He then goes on to say: “Charlie was a rock and a fantastic drummer – steady as a rock.”
Paul on Charlie Watts ❤️ pic.twitter.com/rn2elK6cFE
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) August 24, 2021
McCartney’s fellow ex-Beatles bandmate Ringo Starr added on Twitter: #God bless Charlie Watts we’re going to miss you man peace and love to the family Ringo 😎✌️🌟❤️🌈🎶☮️”
— #RingoStarr (@ringostarrmusic) August 24, 2021
The Kinks‘ Dave Davies wrote online: “In total shock Charlie Watts was a lovely guy. He will be sorely missed. Deepest sympathy to his wife, the band and all his family and friends.”
— Dave Davies (@davedavieskinks) August 24, 2021
Sir Elton John said it’s a “very sad day”. “Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to Shirley, Seraphina and Charlotte. And of course, The Rolling Stones. @therollingstones #CharlieWatts #RIP.”
A very sad day. Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to Shirley, Seraphina and Charlotte. And of course, The Rolling Stones.
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) August 24, 2021
Nile Rodgers added: “Rest In Power #CharlieWatts RIP. You are a smooth brother. Thanks for all the great music.”
— Nile Rodgers (@nilerodgers) August 24, 2021
The Who shared a simple tribute by posting a picture of the late musician.
— The Who (@TheWho) August 24, 2021
Pete Townshend, guitarist/vocalist of The Who, added his own tribute via his Instagram.
I’m just shocked to hear about Charlie Watts. I don’t know what to say, I feel terrible for Charlie’s family. Charlie was a great drummer and I loved the Stones music, they made great records. Love & Mercy. pic.twitter.com/C4q2zXvVKo
— Brian Wilson (@BrianWilsonLive) August 24, 2021
Godspeed, Charlie. pic.twitter.com/5QOEDCvCKJ
— Debbie Harry/BLONDIE (@BlondieOfficial) August 24, 2021
RIP CHARLIE WATTS
— Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) August 24, 2021
So long, maestro 💔 pic.twitter.com/1IkfQpJKqo
— Tim Burgess (@Tim_Burgess) August 24, 2021
So sad to hear Charlie Watts is gone. I learned how to play drums rocking out to Stones albums. RIP Charlie!
— Garbage (@garbage) August 24, 2021
— Liz Phair (@PhizLair) August 24, 2021
Charlie watts, my absolute favorite – much love and respect to you on your journey home – https://t.co/2fsjgWg5BK my thoughts go out to your loved ones and those that love you – RIP pic.twitter.com/RpTuldCHbU
— anton newcombe (@antonnewcombe) August 24, 2021
All of my hi hat technique I owe to Charlie . Thank you and RIP Charlie Watts.
— Lol Tolhurst (@LolTolhurst) August 24, 2021
Charlie Watts, drummer of the Rolling Stones, has died today. (August 24, 2021)
— Roy Orbison Jr (@Royorbisonjr) August 24, 2021
RIP Charlie Watts. 😥
— nathan followill (@doctorfollowill) August 24, 2021
Say it ain’t so! God.
There are no words.
Love to his family and band mates.
He was always so kind.
We’ve all lost a part of our musical souls.
— Richard Lewis (@TheRichardLewis) August 24, 2021
RIP Charlie Watts. X
— Sleaford Mods (@sleafordmods) August 24, 2021
What a man! Top drummer, dresser, gentleman & what a legacy Charlie has left us. Thank you, Mr. Watts… – Paul pic.twitter.com/G8XGe3w8Zg
— Paul Weller (@paulwellerHQ) August 24, 2021
RIP Charlie. One of the all time greats. It took a lot of work to get the Stones to Glastonbury and apparently Charlie wasn’t keen on playing festivals. After their momentous gig in 2013 he wrote this message, which we have up at home. What an honour it was to have him play here. pic.twitter.com/UEACp4nq4A
— Emily Eavis (@emilyeavis) August 24, 2021
This is a developing story – check back for updates