Charlie Watts, the drummer of the legendary British rock’n’roll band the Rolling Stones, died on Tuesday at the age of 80, his publicist said. “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,” publicist Bernard Doherty said in a statement. “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. “We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.”
Watts was known as the quiet man of the riotous band, which helped define the Swinging Sixties and then the hippie era with timeless hits such as “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. His level head off the stage was mirrored by his metronomic time-keeping on stage, counterbalancing the energy and charisma of singer Mick Jagger and guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. Icons from the music industry paid tribute. Beatles guitarist and singer Paul McCartney said he was “so sad to hear about Charlie Watts.
“He was a lovely guy, I knew he was ill, but I didn’t know he was this ill,” he said in a video message posted online. “Charlie was a rock and a fantastic drummer. Love you Charlie, beautiful man.” Fellow British star Elton John called it a “very sad day”. “Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer,” he wrote on Facebook.
“The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to Shirley, Seraphina and Charlotte (Watts’ widow, daughter and granddaughter). And of course, the Rolling Stones.” Reflecting the depth of Watts’ influence, Tom Morello, from alternative rockers Rage Against the Machine wrote on Twitter: “Rock n roll would not be rock n roll without the rhythm, the style, the VIBE of this incredible musician.”
Recent health issues
Watts announced earlier this month that he would miss the resumption of the Rolling Stones’ tour of the United States next month after undergoing a medical procedure. “Charlie has had a procedure which was completely successful, but I gather his doctors this week concluded that he now needs proper rest and recuperation,” a spokesman said at the time. Stones frontman Mick Jagger said at the time that the band “really look forward to welcoming Charlie back as soon as he is fully recovered”. The Sun tabloid reported that Watts underwent a procedure in London after “doctors spotted a problem during a routine check-up”.
Watts himself released a statement saying: “For once my timing has been a little off.” Born on June 2, 1941 in London, Charles Robert Watts discovered jazz around the age of 10, with the likes of Jelly Roll Morton and Charlie Parker. Exploring drumming as a boy, he converted an old banjo that had a skin covering into a snare drum, according to the official Rolling Stones website. He had no formal training and learned by watching great jazz drummers in London clubs.
After studying art, he found a job as a graphic designer and played with a variety of jazz bands in the evenings before joining the Rolling Stones in 1963. He was named the 12th greatest drummer of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in 2016. Watts was treated in the 1980s for alcohol and heroin abuse but said he had successfully come off them, and was treated for throat cancer in 2004. – AFP