Legendary Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has died aged 80: “A fantastic drummer, steady as a rock”

The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has died at the age of 80.

His London publicist Bernard Doherty confirmed the news in a statement provided to the PA news agency today (August 24).

Watts had played in The Rolling Stones since 1963. He was the only member of the legendary British rock band alongside Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to have featured on all of their studio albums to date, the last being the 2016 covers record ‘Blue & Lonesome‘.

Earlier this month members of the band showed their support for Watts after he pulled out of their upcoming US tour to “rest and recuperate” following a medical procedure.

A statement from his spokesperson read: “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.”

It added that he was “a cherished husband, father and grandfather” and “one of the greatest drummers of his generation”.

Charlie Watts
Charlie Watts. CREDIT: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

The statement continued: “We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.”

Watts’ cause of death is not known at this stage. He was previously treated for throat cancer in 2004.

Part of a biography provided to NME about Watts states that “his first and most enduring passion was jazz” and when he wasn’t touring with the Stones the drummer “enjoyed gigging with his own jazz combo, appreciating the low-key informality in stark contrast to the circus extravagance that surrounded a Stones tour”.

The Rolling Stones lacked a regular drummer after forming in the early 1960s, and didn’t have a set percussionist for their first gig in the summer of 1962 at London’s Marquee Club. Watts had initially turned down an invitation to join them, as the biography notes, preferring “to keep his secure day job as a graphic designer in an advertising agency”.

Following six months of campaigning to Watts to join the group permanently, Jagger, Richards and Brain Jones “eventually got their man”.







Watts made his first appearance with the Stones in January 1963 at the Flamingo club in London’s Soho. “Even then he refused to give up his day job and it was not until the summer of that year, after the Stones had signed to Decca Records, that he turned fully professional.”

The biography added: “The Rolling Stones rode the losses of early members Brian Jones and Bill Wyman and guitarist Mick Taylor – but Keith and Mick knew Watts was part of the band’s indispensable core and was always at pains to point out that there could ‘never be a Rolling Stones without Charlie’.”

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts “unlikely” to join US tour
The Rolling Stones performing in 2019. Credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images.

Tributes have started to pour in for Watts, including from The Beatles‘ Paul McCartney who posted a tribute video. In the clip he gives his condolences, saying the he was aware that Watts was unwell but “didn’t know he was this ill”.

He then goes on to say: “Charlie was a rock and a fantastic drummer – steady as a rock.”

McCartney’s fellow ex-Beatles bandmate Ringo Starr added on Twitter: #God bless Charlie Watts we’re going to miss you man peace and love to the family Ringo 😎✌️🌟❤️🌈🎶☮️”

The Kinks‘ Dave Davies wrote online: “In total shock Charlie Watts was a lovely guy. He will be sorely missed. Deepest sympathy to his wife, the band and all his family and friends.”

Sir Elton John said it’s a “very sad day”. “Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to Shirley, Seraphina and Charlotte. And of course, The Rolling Stones. @therollingstones #CharlieWatts #RIP.”

Nile Rodgers added: “Rest In Power #CharlieWatts RIP. You are a smooth brother. Thanks for all the great music.”

The Who shared a simple tribute by posting a picture of the late musician.

Pete Townshend, guitarist/vocalist of The Who, added his own tribute via his Instagram.

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A post shared by pete townshend (@yaggerdang)

See more tributes below, including from Brian Wilson, Blondie, Patti Smith, Liam Gallagher, Tim Burgess, Garbage, Paul Weller and Liz Phair.

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A post shared by This is Patti Smith (@thisispattismith)

This is a developing story – check back for updates