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Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dead at age 80

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Ursula Düren/picture alliance via Getty Images

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, who kept the beat for the legendary British rockers since joining the band in January 1963, has died at the age of 80.

A statement from Watts’ spokesperson provided to ABC News reads, “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 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.”

Watts’ passing follows an announcement from The Stones earlier this month that he likely wouldn’t be able to join the band when they kicked off their 2021 No Filter Tour of North America because he was recovering from an unspecified medical procedure.

A longtime jazz aficionado, Watts developed a rock-steady style and swing that was the perfect complement to The Stones’ blues and R&B-influenced rock.

Other than frontman Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, Charlie was the only member of the band to appear on every Rolling Stones album.

Here’s just a small sampling of the classic Stones hits featuring Watts: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Paint It, Black,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Brown Sugar,” “Angie,” “Miss You” and “Start Me Up.”

Watts was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Rolling Stones in 1989. Outside of the band, Watts has released albums with various jazz, blues and boogie woogie groups, including Rocket 88, The Charlie Watts Orchestra, The Charlie Watts Quintet, The Charlie Watts Tentet and The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie.

In addition to his drumming skills, Charlie was known for being a stylish dresser who enjoyed wearing tasteful suits. In 2006, he was chosen for Vanity Fair‘s International Best Dressed Hall of Fame List.

Contrary to The Rolling Stones’ bad boy image, Watts was a devoted husband who was married to his wife, Shirley, for over 56 years. The couple have one daughter, Seraphina, born in 1968.

In 2004, Watts was diagnosed with throat cancer, but after receiving radiotherapy treatment, the disease went into remission.

In a 2008 video interview posted on The Stones’ YouTube channel, Charlie reflected on his drumming style, noting, “My thing, whenever I play, is to make it a dance sound. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a blues or whatever, it should swing and bounce.”

Richards was one of the most passionate and vocal fans of Watts’ drumming. In a 2019 interview with U.K. newspaper The Sun, Keith gushed, “He’s absolutely amazing. It’s indescribable to find a drummer like Charlie Watts, exceptionally brilliant.”

 

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