Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has died at age 80


Legendary drummer of the Rolling Stones Charlie Watts has died, according to his publicist at the age of 80.

Watts “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 for more than 50 years was one of the greatest drummers of his generation,” Doherty said.

Watts had announced previously he would not tour with the Stones in 2021 because of an undefined health issue. His last concert with the group took place in Miami on August 30, 2019.

Universally recognized as one of the greatest rock drummers of all time, Watts and guitarist Keith Richards have been the core of the Rolling Stones’ instrumental sound: Richards spends upwards of half the group’s concerts turned around, facing Watts, bobbing his head to the drummer’s rhythm.

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He provided nimble, energetic support on the band’s long run of dirty, blues- and R&B-based hits of the early and mid-‘60s. He reached the pinnacle of his prowess on a series of mature recordings, made with producer Jimmy Miller in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, in which his sharp playing caromed off Richards’ serrated guitar riffs.

The quiet yet 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. He joined the Stones early in 1963 and remained over the next 60 years, ranked just behind Mick Jagger (Yet to comment on Charlie’s passing) at time of posting and Keith Richards as the group’s longest lasting and most essential member.

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts back in 2018 talking live plans, a new album and the end of the band



Watts said of how The Stones formed, “as white blokes from England playing Black American music” but quickly evolved their own distinctive sound. Watts 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, and Wyman, as the bassist liked to say, “fattening the sound.” Watts’ speed, power and time keeping 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.

Watts was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Stones in 1989.

He was born June 2, 1941, in London; 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.

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Dan Dunn
Dan Dunn
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Editor and Admin at MarkMeets since Nov 2012. Columnist, reviewer and entertainment writer and oversees all of the section's news, features and interviews. During his career, he has written for numerous magazines.

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