Charlie Watts, famed drummer for British rock group The Rolling Stones, has died. He was 80.
Born in 1941, Watts was the son of a truck driver who soon discovered a passion for music, especially jazz, and began drumming in his teenage years. It wasn’t until he was recruited by original Stones members Keith Richards and Brian Jones that Watts developed the harder-edged R&B and rock style that became his signature, though he infused it with the stuttering, jazzy style that became a hallmark of the Rolling Stones rhythm section. And he never lost his passion for the style of music that first got him hooked on performing, recording a Big Band album for Columbia in 1986 and a series of jazz records with a quintet of musicians in the ’90s.
Widely acknowledged as one of the best rock drummers of all time, Watts earned international recognition as a member of The Rolling Stones, beginning with the group’s early successes in the mid-’60s, when their early habit of performing mostly covers soon gave way to their first chart-topping hit, 1965’s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” From there, the band began a steady stream of massively popular singles and albums (albeit with the latter undergoing some odd transformations in making their way across the pond, as the group’s American label revamped releases, often without the Stones’ approval) over the course of the following decades, particular in the ’60s and ’70s. And while the band would suffer the occasional critical and commercial misfire, a few lineup changes, as well as several periods of hiatus, Watts remained part of the core group, alongside Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, throughout the entirety of the band’s subsequent career.
In early August, it was announced that Watts would be sitting out the Stones’ upcoming resumption of its “No Filter” tour, due to a recent medical procedure. At the time, it seemed as though the drummer would simply require several weeks of rest and recuperation, with Watts himself sending out a message to Stones fans apologizing for his situation and approving a temporary replacement of Steve Jordan on drums during the tour. But a spokesman for the group announced that Watts had died Tuesday morning in London, with the following statement:
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.
We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.
Keith Richards, in his autobiography Life, describes Charlie Watts’ playing thusly: “There’s tremendous personality and subtlety in his playing. If you look at the size of his kit, it’s ludicrous compared with what most drummers use these days. They’ve got a fort with them. An incredible barrage of drums. Charlie, with just that one classico setup, can pull it all off… we’re damn lucky we got to work with Charlie Watts.”
No cause of death was given.