Earlier this month, the Rolling Stones announced that Watts wouldn't be a part of the band's upcoming tour "No Filter."
Charlie Watts, the legendary drummer who powered the Rolling Stones for more than 50 years, passed away on Tuesday. His publicist, Bernard Doherty, announced that the musician died at a hospital in London at the age of 80, reports The New York Times. Earlier this month, the Rolling Stones announced that Watts wouldn't be a part of the band's upcoming "No Filter" tour of the United States due to an unspecified emergency medical procedure that he had undergone. At the time, the band's representatives said that the procedure had been a success.
"It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts," read a statement according to BBC. It continued that the rock 'n' roll star was "a cherished husband, father, and grandfather" and "one of the greatest drummers of his generation."
Charles Robert Watts was born on June 2, 1941, in London to Lillian Charlotte Eaves and Charles Richard Watts. While his mother was a homemaker, Watts' father was in the Royal Air Force. But after World War II, he became a truck driver for British Railways. Banjo was the first musical instrument that the star ever laid his fingers on. But soon realized that he was more interested in its body and converted it into a snare drum after removing the neck. At 12, he stumbled upon jazz and became a huge fan of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Miles Davis. After graduating from the Harrow School of Art in 1960, he began working as a graphic artist for an advertising agency.
During this time, he wrote and illustrated a children's book, Ode to a Highflying Bird, which was about the jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. But at nights he would play the drums with various groups. While most of them were jazz combos, he was invited to join Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. Watts reportedly rejected the invitation as he was leaving England to work in Scandinavia as a graphic designer. A few months later, he joined the group and began performing many gigs for a good sum of money. The newly formed Rolling Stones needed a good drummer however they also knew they couldn't afford Watts. "We starved ourselves to pay for him! Literally. We went shoplifting to get Charlie Watts," wrote guitarist Keith Richards.
Paul on Charlie Watts ❤️ pic.twitter.com/rn2elK6cFE— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) August 24, 2021
Finally, he joined the band in early 1963 and played a vital role in their success. Despite the fame, Watts said it wasn't something that he craved or ever wanted. "I loved playing with Keith and the band — I still do — but I wasn’t interested in being a pop idol sitting there with girls screaming. It’s not the world I come from. It’s not what I wanted to be, and I still think it’s silly," he shared in 2003. Unlike most rockstars, Watts was never a flamboyant personality, rather he remained reserved and dignified throughout his career. He was happy just being one of the finest rock drummers of his generations who possibly helped the band to attain stardom with his jazz-inflected swing style.
Our world just lost its much loved and respected beat. pic.twitter.com/dAv2CLguh6— AC/DC (@acdc) August 25, 2021
Maybe that's why Richards said, "Charlie Watts has always been the bed that I lie on musically," in his 2010 autobiography, Life. While most rock drummers focus on the volume, Watts chose to make everyone groove with his subtle swings. "As much as Mick’s (Mick Jagger) voice and Keith’s guitar, Charlie Watts’s snare sound is the Rolling Stones. When Mick sings, ‘It’s only rock ’n’ roll but I like it,’ Charlie’s in back showing you why!" wrote Bruce Springsteen in an introduction to the 1991 edition of the drummer Max Weinberg’s book The Big Beat.
Rock n roll would not be rock n roll without the rhythm, the style, the VIBE of this incredible musician. Rest In Peace #CharlieWatts, one of the greatest and most important architects of the music we love. pic.twitter.com/xEfzaSLCba— Tom Morello (@tmorello) August 24, 2021
He is survived by his wife Shirley, daughter Seraphina and granddaughter Charlotte.
Cover image source: Getty | Photo by Kevin Winter