Charlie Watts: Rolling Stones drummer dies in hospital aged 80

The drummer joined the legendary British rock group in 1963

The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts performs on stage during their "No Filter" tour at NRG Stadium on July 27, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by SUZANNE CORDEIRO / AFP)

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has passed away at a London hospital, aged 80.

The musician had been with the British rock group since 1963, ranked right behind the group's longest-serving members, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

His death was confirmed on Tuesday by his publicist, Bernard Doherty, who 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.

“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.’’

This month, it was announced that Watts was to miss the band’s forthcoming US tour after suffering from an unspecified health issue.

Watts said at the time: “For once, my timing has been a little off. I am working hard to get fully fit but I have today accepted on the advice of the experts that this will take a while.”

A representative said then that Watts’s procedure had been “completely successful” but that he needed time to recuperate.

Born in London in 1941, Watts started drumming in London's rhythm and blues clubs before joining the fledgling Rolling Stones.

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

Tributes for Watts flooded in on social media from some of the music industry's biggest names after news of his death broke.

Elton John said on Twitter: “A very sad day. Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company.”

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys wrote: “Charlie was a great drummer and I loved The Stones' music, they made great records.”

In 2004, Watts was treated for throat cancer at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital and he was given the all-clear after a four-month battle with the disease, involving six weeks of intensive radiotherapy treatment.

Watts was diagnosed after discovering a lump on the left side of his neck. Doctors performed a biopsy which confirmed the tumour was malignant and he was diagnosed with throat cancer in June of that year.

His spokesman said at the time that Watts’s treatment had “not interfered with any tour or recording plans for the group, who have been ‘relaxing between work commitments’”.

Following his recovery, the band began work on their 22nd studio album, A Bigger Bang.

Watts, who reportedly gave up smoking in the 1980s, said during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine at the time that he felt “very lucky” doctors had caught the cancer early.

Updated: August 25th 2021, 9:18 AM
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