Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dead at 80

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has died in hospital at the age of 80, according to his publicist.

Watts 'passed away peacefully' in hospital surrounded by family, says publicist

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dead at 80

1 year ago
Duration 2:12
Charlie Watts, who spent more than 60 years as the drummer for the Rolling Stones, has died at 80 after an unknown illness.

Charlie Watts, the self-effacing and unshakeable Rolling Stones drummer who helped anchor one of rock's greatest rhythms sections and used his "day job" to support his enduring love of jazz, has died, according to his publicist. He was 80. 

Bernard Doherty said Tuesday that Watts "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," Doherty said.

Watts had announced he would not tour with the Stones in 2021 because of an undefined health issue.

The quiet, elegantly dressed Watts was often ranked with Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and a handful of others as a premier rock drummer, respected worldwide for his muscular, swinging style as the band rose from its scruffy beginnings to international superstardom.

Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones performs on Oct. 14, 2016, in Indio, Calif. Watts died on Tuesday 'surrounded by his family,' his publicist said. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

He joined the Stones early in 1963 and remained over the next 60 years, ranked just behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as the group's longest-lasting and most essential member.

The Stones began, Watts said, "as white blokes from England playing Black American music" but quickly evolved their own distinctive sound. Watts was a jazz drummer in his early years and never lost his affinity for the music he first loved, heading his own jazz band and taking on numerous other side projects.

A classic Stones song like Brown Sugar and Start Me Up often began with a hard guitar riff from Richards, with Watts following closely behind, and Bill Wyman, as the bassist liked to say, "fattening the sound." Watts's speed, power and time-keeping were never better showcased than during the concert documentary Shine a Light, when director Martin Scorsese filmed Jumpin' Jack Flash from where he drummed toward the back of the stage.

'He was a lovely guy': Musicians share condolences

As news spread of Watts's death, several music legends expressed their condolences over social media.

Paul McCartney posted a video tribute to the late drummer on Twitter.

"Condolences to the Stones. This will be a huge blow to them because Charlie was a rock, a fantastic drummer," McCartney said, calling Watts a "lovely guy."

McCartney's bandmate and Beatles drummer Ringo Starr shared his sympathies as well.

"God bless Charlie Watts," Starr's tweet read. "We're going to miss you man[.] Peace and love to the family[.]"

Brian Wilson, a founding member of the Beach Boys, said he was "shocked" to hear about Watts's death.

Elton John tweeted that it was "a very sad day."

"Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company," the singer wrote.

Joan Jett called Watts "one of a kind" in a tweet posted on Tuesday afternoon.

Canadian musician Robbie Robertson said that Watts's drumming is "powerful and unique," while Lenny Kravitz called him "the beat of The Stones." 


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?