Charlie Watts dies aged 80: Stars pay tribute to Rolling Stones rocker

‘Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer’: Elton John, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Ben Stiller lead the emotional celebrity tributes to Rolling Stones rocker after his death aged 80

  • Charlie Watts has died at the age of 80, his London publicist Bernard Doherty said in a statement today 
  • The London-born drummer joined fledgling band in 1963 and featured on all of the band’s studio albums 
  • A statement released today said Watts, who recently had surgery, ‘died peacefully surrounded by his family’ 
  • Watts had to pull out of the band’s US tour scheduled for later this year to allow him to recover from surgery 

Celebrities including Elton John, Bryan Adams and Beatles legend Ringo Starr have paid tribute to Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts after his death aged 80.

The death of the London-born drummer was announced on Tuesday – with a statement saying he had ‘passed away peacefully in hospital surrounded by his family’.

Elton, 74, took to Instagram to pen a heartfelt message to Charlie, accompanied by a throwback snap of the pair in the 1970s, branding him ‘the ultimate drummer.’ 

Rest In Peace: Celebrities including Elton John, Bryan Adams and Beatles legend Ringo Starr have paid tribute to Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts after his death aged 80 (Charlie pictured in 2017) 

Sad: The death of the London-born drummer was announced on Tuesday – with a statement saying he had ‘passed away peacefully in hospital surrounded by his family (pictured with the Rolling Stones in 2016)

He wrote: ‘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.’

Beatles drummer Ringo, 81, also posted a poignant snap of the pair comparing drumsticks, and wrote: ‘God bless Charlie Watts we’re going to miss you man peace and love to the family Ringo.’ 

Canadian musician Bryan Adams wrote: ‘RIP Charlie Watts, one of the greatest rock drummers ever and a real gentleman. Condolences to his family and the band.’

Actor Ben Stiller also shared his condolences on social media, as did Nile Rodgers, who wrote: ‘You are a smooth brother. Thanks for all the great music.’

Singer Joan Armatrading added: ‘Why am I crying ? Because Charlie Watts has died. Who knew that any of the Rolling Stones musicians would ever leave this earth,’ while Curtis Stigers added: ‘My mom always claimed I was conceived during the chorus of Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones. Thank you, Charlie Watts. I owe you my life. Rest In Peace.’

Missed: Elton, 74, took to social media to pen a heartfelt message to Charlie, accompanied by a throwback snap of the pair in the 1970s, branding him ‘the ultimate drummer

Condolences: Actor Ben Stiller also shared his condolences on social media

Video: Paul McCartney shared a video on Twitter after the news of Watts’ death broke, telling his followers: ‘So sad to hear about Charlie Watts’

Paul McCartney shared a video on Twitter after the news of Watts’ death broke, telling his followers: ‘So sad to hear about Charlie Watts. He was a lovely guy, and I knew he was ill, but I didn’t know he was this ill.’

The Beatles star continued: ‘So lots of love to his family and condolences to the Stones. It will be a huge blow to them because Charlie was a rock and a fantastic drummer.’

He concluded: ‘Love you Charlie. I’ll always love you. Beautiful man. Great condolences and sympathies.’  

Joan Jett tweeted: ‘Charlie Watts was the most elegant and dignified drummer in rock and roll. He played exactly what was needed – no more – no less. He is one of a kind.’

Lenny Kravitz added: ‘The beat of The Stones. There are no words, every groove has spoken for itself.’ 

The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson took to social media to say: ‘I’m just shocked to hear about Charlie Watts. I don’t know what to say, I feel terrible for Charlie’s family. Charlie was a great drummer and I loved the Stones music, they made great records. Love & Mercy.’

Duran Duran penned: ‘So saddened to hear about the passing of Charlie Watts . An absolute inspiration to a legion of drummers since the 1960’s. A man of grace , style , dignity and composure.’ 

Drummers: Beatles drummer Ringo, 81, also posted a poignant snap of the pair comparing drumsticks, and wrote: ‘God bless Charlie Watts we’re going to miss you man peace and love to the family Ringo’

Joan Jett tweeted: ‘Charlie Watts was the most elegant and dignified drummer in rock and roll. He played exactly what was needed – no more – no less. He is one of a kind’

Lenny Kravitz added: ‘The beat of The Stones. There are no words, every groove has spoken for itself’

Brian Wilson wrote: ‘I’m just shocked to hear about Charlie Watts. I don’t know what to say, I feel terrible for Charlie’s family. Charlie was a great drummer and I loved the Stones music, they made great records. Love & Mercy’

Duran Duran penned: ‘So saddened to hear about the passing of Charlie Watts . An absolute inspiration to a legion of drummers since the 1960’s’

Charlie joined the then-fledgling band in 1963 after meeting Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones while playing in rhythm and blues clubs.

Along with Jagger and Richards, Watts featured on every one of the band’s studio albums. He was widely regarded as one of the greatest drummers of all time.  

Watts was due to tour the US with the band later this year. But it was announced earlier this month he would not feature due to a recent emergency surgery.

His London publicist, Bernard Doherty, said in a statement this evening: ‘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.’

Earlier this month, it was announced that Watts was to miss the band’s forthcoming US tour.

Heartfelt: Musician Bryan Adams set his condolences to the family and friends of Charlie

Curtis Stigers added: ‘My mom always claimed I was conceived during the chorus of Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones. Thank you, Charlie Watts. I owe you my life. Rest In Peace’

Emotional: Singer Joan Armatrading added: ‘Why am I crying ? Because Charlie Watts has died. Who knew that any of the Rolling Stones musicians would ever leave this earth’

A spokesman for him said at the time he was ‘unlikely to be available for the resumption of the Rolling Stones USA No Filter Tour this fall’ as he recovered from an unspecified medical procedure.   

The band are due to resume the tour Stateside in September, following its postponement last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Session and touring musician Steve Jordan was previously announced as Watts’ temporary replacement on drums.

Watts said at the time that ‘For once my timing has been a little off. I am working hard to get fully fit but I have today accepted on the advice of the experts that this will take a while.’

Icons: Along with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Watts featured on every one of the band’s studio albums. Pictured: Watts (right) with Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger (pictured 2016)

Legendary: Alongside frontman Sir Mick and guitarist Keith Richards, Watts was among the longest-standing members of the Stones, which has seen a shifting line-up of musicians including Mick Taylor, Ronnie Wood and Bill Wyman (pictured 2002)

A spokesperson said then that Watts’ procedure had been ‘completely successful’ but that he needed time to recuperate.

Following the news, Sir Mick Jagger welcomed Jordan, who will join the band when the tour starts in St Louis on September 26, with dates also scheduled for Pittsburgh, Nashville, Minneapolis, Dallas and more

Alongside frontman Sir Mick and guitarist Keith Richards, Watts was among the longest-standing members of the Stones, which has seen a shifting line-up of musicians including Mick Taylor, Ronnie Wood and Bill Wyman.

In 2004, Watts was treated for throat cancer at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital and he was given the all-clear after a four-month battle with the disease, involving six weeks of intensive radiotherapy treatment.

Watts was diagnosed after discovering a lump on the left side of his neck.


Watts (pictured left in 2007) was due to tour the US with the band later this year. But it was announced earlier this month Watts (pictured right with The Rolling Stones in 1969) would not feature due to a recent emergency surgery

Doctors performed a biopsy which confirmed the tumour was malignant and he was diagnosed with throat cancer in June that year.

His spokesman said at the time that Watts’ treatment had ‘not interfered with any tour or recording plans for the group, who have been ‘relaxing between work commitments”.

Following his recovery, the band began work on their 22nd studio album, A Bigger Bang.

Watts, who reportedly gave up smoking in the 1980s, said during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine at the time that he felt ‘very lucky’ doctors had caught the cancer early. 

The man who kept the Stones In Time: Sharp-dressed jazz fan Charlie took six months to agree to join the band

Often at odds with his flamboyant band, The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (pictured right with the band in 1964) was the quiet, considered and skilful force that kept his group in time.

Often at odds with his flamboyant band, The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts was the quiet, considered and skilful force that kept his group in time.

The drummer, who has died aged 80, was known for his sophisticated and inventive playing on classic tracks including Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Women and Brown Sugar.

However, he was also known for his deadpan wit, understated conversational style, love of tailored suits and deep obsession with jazz music.

Charles Robert Watts was born on June 2 1941 and grew up in Wembley, north-west London.

His father, also Charles Watts, was a lorry driver while his mother Lillian was a homemaker and the couple shared two children – Charlie and his sister Linda.

Watts attended Tyler Croft Secondary Modern School from 1952 to 1956 and as a schoolboy enjoyed art, cricket and football.

His parents gave him his first drum kit in 1955, allowing him to play along to his favourite jazz records, which included those by Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.

By the age of 16, he was drumming in jazz groups and a regular on the London club scene, which was then focused on the parallel worlds of jazz and blues rock.

Alexis Korner, sometimes referred to as ‘the founding father of British blues’, invited Watts to join his band Blues Incorporated, which featured a number of future stars.

It was then that he met Mick Jagger, who would guest as a vocalist occasionally.

Alexis Korner, sometimes referred to as ‘the founding father of British blues’, invited Watts (pictured right next to Mick Jagger (centre) in 1964) to join his band Blues Incorporated, which featured a number of future stars. It was then that he met Mick Jagger, who would guest as a vocalist occasionally

Jagger also had his own group with Keith Richards and Brian Jones but lacked a regular drummer.

Watts, ever sensible, initially turned down an invitation to join them in favour of his day job as a graphic designer at an advertising agency.

A six-month campaign eventually convinced him to join and Watts made his first appearance with the Rolling Stones in January 1963 at the Flamingo club in London’s Soho.

However, even then he refused to give up his day job, only doing so once the band had signed to Decca Records.

His time living in the band’s infamously squalid flat in Edith Grove, Chelsea, was short lived.

Once the band had recorded their first chart hits – Come On and I Wanna Be Your Man – he moved into an flat overlooking Regent’s Park.

He married his girlfriend, Shirley Shepherd, a sculpture student at the Royal College of Art who he met before finding fame, in 1964.

Of all the group, Watts (pictured left with The Rolling Stones in 2006) was reportedly the one that struggled most when they went into tax exile in France during the recording of their 1972 album Exile on Main St, so much did he miss England

Watts’ fashion sense was often at odds with his bandmates, preferring finely-tailored suits over the bohemian chic of Jagger and Richards.

He said once: ‘To me the 1960s was Miles Davis and three-button suits.’

An enduring passion was cricket, which saw him regularly attend Lord’s Cricket Ground and other matches, sometimes with his bandmates.

Of all the group, he was reportedly the one that struggled most when they went into tax exile in France during the recording of their 1972 album Exile on Main St, so much did he miss England.

The year 1989 saw him inducted into the Rock on Roll Hall of Fame alongside the rest of the Rolling Stones and in 2006 he was voted in the Modern Drummer Hall, joining a roll call of famous names including Sir Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and Buddy Rich.

In 2016, Watts was ranked 12th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest drummers of all time.

He leaves behind his wife Shirley (nee Shepherd), daughter Seraphina, born in 1968, and granddaughter Charlotte, born in 1996.

Family: Watts leaves behind his wife Shirley (nee Shepherd), daughter Seraphina, born in 1968, and granddaughter Charlotte, born in 1996 (pictured 2016)

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