Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has passed away at the age of 80. The musician, who was widely considered to be one of the best drummers of his generation, passed away surrounded by family on August 24, 2021.
In a statement, Watts’ publicist Bernard Doherty 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 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
News of Watts’ death comes weeks after the Rolling Stones announced he’d be missing their upcoming North American tour to recover from a medical procedure for an unknown condition. In a statement to PEOPLE, he said he made the decision out of a desire to not disappoint the band’s fans.
“After all the fans’ suffering caused by COVID, I really do not want the many [Rolling Stones] fans who have been holding tickets for this tour to be disappointed by another postponement or cancellation. I have therefore asked my great friend Steve Jordan to stand in for me.”
Watts had previously undergone treatment for throat cancer in 2004.
Tributes have been rolling in from fans and those within the music industry, including Ringo Starr, Elton John and Paul McCartney.
Paul on Charlie Watts ❤️ pic.twitter.com/rn2elK6cFE
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) August 24, 2021
— #RingoStarr (@ringostarrmusic) August 24, 2021
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.
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) August 24, 2021
Watts had been a member of the Rolling Stones since January 1963. The band’s drummer for more than half a century, he lent his skills to such hits as “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Paint It Black” and “Sympathy for the Devil.”
The famed drummer was born in 1941 and grew up in the west London suburb of Wembley. He had a passion for music from a young age and taught himself to play the drums after receiving his own kit at 14.
Watts had an innate love of jazz, performing at nightclubs and releasing a children’s book dedicated to the music genre, Ode to a High Flying Bird. After seeing success with the Rolling Stones, he went on to release several jazz albums with The Charlie Watts Quintet.
Before joining the Rolling Stones, Watts played in a band with Alexis Korner, the founding father of the British blues scene. When Mick Jagger, pianist Ian Stewart and guitarists Keith Richard and Dick Taylor formed the band in 1962, Watts initially turned them down. However, he eventually agreed to join and performed his first show with them at the Flamingo Club in 1963.
The band shot to stardom when their cover of Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now” reached the top spot on the British pop charts in 1964. Their prolific rise afforded them worldwide success, and they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
The Rolling Stones’ latest studio album, Blue & Lonesome, was released in 2016.