Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones drummer, dies at 80

He was a ‘husband, father, grandfather and one of the greatest drummers of his generation’

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has died in hospital at the age of 80, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

“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,” the spokesman said.

“Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also as a member of The Rolling Stones one of the greatest drummers of his generation.”

Born in London in 1941, Watts started playing drums in London’s rhythm and blues clubs in the early 1960s, before agreeing to join forces with Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards in their fledgling group, the Rolling Stones, in January 1963.


Finding initial success in Britain and the US with covers, the group achieved global fame with Jagger-Richards hits including (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Get Off of My Cloud and Paint It, Black, and the album Aftermath.

The Stones also went on to break records with multimillion-pound grossing global tours that continue to this day.

Watts played drums on all of the group’s 30 albums and on every tour, until he pulled out of the 13-date No Filter US tour due to start this September after an emergency medical procedure.

Alongside frontman Jagger and guitarist Richards, Watts was among the longest-standing members of the Stones, which has seen a shifting line-up of musicians including Mick Taylor, Ronnie Wood and Bill Wyman.

“God bless Charlie Watts, we’re going to miss you man, peace and love to the family, Ringo,” former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr tweeted. Paul McCartney meanwhile described Watts as a “fantastic drummer, steady as a rock”.

Watts was born in 1941 during the second World War and grew up in the Wembley area of northwest London, attending Harrow school of art before starting work as a graphic artist with an advertising agency.

Unlike his bandmates, Watts had been in a successful group before agreeing to join the Rolling Stones in 1963. While holding down the day job, Watts played in the evenings with Blues Incorporated led by Alexis Korner, alongside future Cream bassist Jack Bruce. He was replaced by future Cream drummer Ginger Baker when he left to join the Stones. He played his first gig with the Stones at the Ealing Blues Club in west London.

He married Shirley Ann Shepherd in 1964 and they remained together until his death.

Watts left the hell-raising that defined the Stones in the 1960s and ‘70s to the other members, but provided the heartbeat of the band, and with Wyman was considered one of the great rock rhythm sections.

“Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer,” Elton John posted on Twitter, calling this a very sad day. “The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to Shirley, Seraphina and Charlotte. And of course, The Rolling Stones,” he added, mentioning Watts’s wife, daughter and granddaughter.

Away from the Rolling Stones, Watts found the time to play jazz with several groups, including a 32-piece band, the Charlie Watts Orchestra, as well as to work with Rolling Stones pianist Ian Stewart in the band Rocket 88 during the 1980s.

In the 1990s, the Charlie Watts Quintet released several albums, including a tribute to jazz great Charlie Parker. In 2004, the quintet expanded to become Charlie Watts and the Tentet. – Reuters/PA