Today we’ve lost an absolute legend of rock: Charlie Watts, drummer of The Rolling Stones from 1963 through present day. He was 80. The Stones broke the news in a statement:
No cause of death was given. Charlie recently revealed that he would be sitting out the Stones’ upcoming North American tour because he was recovering from a “completely successful” medical procedure.
Born in 1941, Charlie was originally on a career path as a graphic artist but his love of jazz brought him into London’s rhythm and blues scene where he met Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones and in 1963 joined their just-started group, The Rolling Stones, and remained in the band through illness, band squabbles, addiction and other hurdles.
“To have a drummer from the beginning who could play with the sensibility of Charlie Watts is one of the best hidden assets I’ve had, because I never had to think about the drummer and what he’s going to do,” Keith Richards said in 2003 oral history According to the Rolling Stones. “I just say, ‘Charlie, it goes like this,’ and we’ll kick it around a bit and it’s done. I can throw him ideas and I never have to worry about the beat…It’s a blessing.”
When not playing with the Stones, Charlie maintained his love of jazz, leading the Charlie Watts Quintet, and in 1964 he published an illustrated tribute to Charlie Parker, Ode to a High Flying Bird.
Rest in peace, Charlie. The style you brought to the Stones — and to music in general — will live on forever.
Mick and Keith also posted this:
Watch some classic live Stones footage below…