New Delhi: Charlie Watts, the drummer who provided the backbone to American rock band Rolling Stones’ songs for more than half a century, has died at the age of 80.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, his publicist, Bernard Doherty, in a statement on Tuesday said that Watts “passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family.”
He added, “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”
— The Rolling Stones (@RollingStones) August 24, 2021
The same statement was also shared on the official Twitter handle of The Rolling Stones.
Concerns about Watts’ health came up earlier this year when he announced that, despite being the band’s resident drummer since 1963, he would be sitting out the band’s 2021 U.S. ‘No Filter’ tour in order to recover from an undisclosed medical procedure.
“Charlie has had a procedure which was completely successful, but his doctors this week concluded that he now needs proper rest and recuperation. With rehearsals starting in a couple of weeks it’s very disappointing, to say the least, but it’s also fair to say no one saw this coming,” a spokesperson told Variety, at the time.
The quiet, elegantly dressed Watts was often ranked with Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, and a handful of others as a premier rock drummer, respected worldwide for his muscular, swinging style as the band rose from its scruffy beginnings to international superstardom.
Watts was born on June 2, 1941, in London and his father was a truck driver for the English rail system. Raised in Wembley, he gravitated as a youth to the music of early jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton and bop saxophonist Charlie Parker. He was an indifferent music student in school but began playing at 14 or 15.
He joined the Stones early in 1963 and remained there over the next 60 years, ranked just behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as the group’s longest lasting and most essential member.
Watts said that The Rolling Stones began “as white blokes from England playing Black American music” but quickly evolved their own distinctive sound. He was a jazz drummer in his early years and never lost his affinity for the music he first loved, heading his own jazz band and taking on numerous other side projects.
A classic Stones song like ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Start Me Up’ often began with a hard guitar riff from Richards, with Watts following closely behind.
Watts’ speed, power, and timekeeping were never better showcased than during the concert documentary ‘Shine a Light’ when director Martin Scorsese filmed ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ from where he drummed toward the back of the stage.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Stones in 1989. As per Variety, Watts is survived by his wife and daughter Serafina.