Charlie Watts, the longtime drummer of the Rolling Stones, died today at a London hospital, his spokesperson announced. A cause of death was not provided. The drummer’s death comes just a few weeks after the band announced he would not participate in the upcoming No Filter tour. Charlie Watts was 80 years old.
Charles Robert Watts was born in London in June 1941. He became interested in drumming after befriending his neighbor Dave Green, now a jazz bassist. “I bought a banjo, and I didn’t like the dots on the neck,” Watts once said. “So I took the neck off, and at the same time I heard a drummer called Chico Hamilton, who played with Gerry Mulligan, and I wanted to play like that, with brushes. I didn’t have a snare drum, so I put the banjo head on a stand.”
Watts drummed in local jazz bands in the late 1950s before he joined Alexis Korner’s band Blues Incorporated in 1961. One night in 1962, so the story goes, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards went to a club in Ealing, West London, where Blues Incorporated were performing. Jagger and Richards left the show impressed with Watts and his bandmates Brian Jones and Ian Stewart, who also made their way into the Rolling Stones.
Watts joined the Rolling Stones in 1963 and played on their 1964 debut. Watts’ work with the Stones stretched across decades and earned him three Grammy Awards. He and the band were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
Figures across the music world have paid tribute to Watts. “Charlie was a rock and a fantastic drummer,” Paul McCartney said in a video message. “Steady as a rock.”
Elton John called Watts “the ultimate drummer,” and Radiohead’s Philip Selway said Watts was his hero. On Twitter, Brian Wilson wrote, “Charlie was a great drummer and I loved the Stones music, they made great records.” Janet Weiss, Patti Smith, Liz Phair, Sheila E., Jason Isbell, Ringo Starr, Joan Jett, Robbie Robertson, Bootsy Collins, Questlove, Ariel Rechtshaid, and countless other figures have also shared remembrances or statements in memory of Charlie Watts.
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