The music community is mourning the loss of a beloved rock star. Today, it was announced that famed Rolling Stones drummer, Charlie Watts, has passed away at age 80. According to his publicist Bernard Doughty, Watts “passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family.”
Watts, who his publicist described as a “cherished husband, father and grandfather,” rose to prominence with The Rolling Stones having joined the band over 60 years ago. Widely regarded as one of the greatest drummers of all time, his name is often mentioned with the likes of Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and John Bonham. Watts joined The Rolling Stones back in 1963 and was behind only Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in tenure with the band.
Watts, a self-described lover of jazz music, incorporated his jazz and rhythm background from his childhood days into his drum playing to create a swinging, idiosyncratic style that brought him and The Rolling Stones worldwide acclaim. Watts, along with Jagger and Richards, are the only members of the band to be featured on all studio albums. Originally not even a fan of rock and the blues, Watts came to understand and appreciate the genres after interactions with Richards in the early days of the band.
Never quite losing his affinity for his first love, Watts toured with his own jazz band, the Charlie Watts Quintet, and had various other side projects. Not a typical rock star, Watts was notorious for his methodical, if unflashy, style on the stage and his steady presence off of it. Unlike his fellow band mates and their attraction to fame, Watts shied away from the limelight and acted as the even-keel foil to his flamboyant counterparts.
He did, however, have some eccentricities too. As a hobby, Watts collected cars even though he couldn’t drive. Watts also had a penchant for fashion and was known for his impressive wardrobe that won him awards from various publications. As a way to pass time between seeing his family, he would even sketch the hotel rooms while the band was on tour.
Watts masterfully adapted his style to the ever changing sound of The Rolling Stones, who outlasted multiple generations of bands. From ballads to disco, Watts was able to change his sound while remaining authentic and quintessentially himself.
Well respected and admired by his band mates, Watts was nicknamed “the key” by Richards for his importance on and off the stage. Besides his drumming, Watts would sometimes help with stage design for the group’s tours. He even penned the name and back cover illustration of the 1967 album Between the Buttons.
Born in London in 1941, Watts full name was Charles Robert Watts. It was announced earlier this year that Watts, who was a survivor of throat cancer, would not tour with The Rolling Stones in 2021 due to an undisclosed health issue.
The Rolling Stones are scheduled to go on tour later next month. This will be the first time the band will be hitting the road since the COVID pandemic. Earlier this year, guitarist Ronnie Wood announced that that he battled cancer again during the pandemic but has since been cleared. Wood had a previous bout with lung cancer in 2017-2018.