Legendary Rolling Stone drummer Charlie Watts has died aged 80.
Watts had been a member of the Stones since January 1963, when he joined Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones.
In the wake of the Beatles’ success, the Rolling Stones quickly became one of the biggest bands in the British Invasion of the 1960s.
A statement from his London publicist, Bernard Doherty, to the PA Media news agency said: ‘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.’
Charlie Watts was widely regarded as the ‘beating heart’ of the Rolling Stones. In 1979, bandmate Keith Richards said: ‘Everybody thinks Mick and Keith are the Rolling Stones. If Charlie wasn’t doing what he’s doing on drums, that wouldn’t be true at all. You’d find out that Charlie Watts is the Stones.’
Outside of being the drummer in the band, Watts worked with Mick Jagger on the ever more spectacular stage designs for the group’s tours. He also provided illustrations for the back cover of the acclaimed 1967 album Between the Buttons and inadvertently gave the record its title.
It was reported just a few weeks ago that Charlie was likely to miss the band’s upcoming US tour to allow him to recover from an unspecified medical procedure.
A spokesperson at time said that the procedure was ‘completely successful’ but that the 80-year-old drummer needed time to recuperate.
Watts’ many musical peers have taken to Twitter to pay their respects to the drummer.
Sir Elton John wrote: ‘A very sad day. Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company.’
Sir Paul McCartney said: ‘He was a lovely guy. I knew he was ill, but I didn’t know he was this ill … Charlie was a rock, and a fantastic drummer … Love you Charlie, I’ve always loved you – a beautiful man.’
Ronnie Wood has also shared his thoughts, writing: ‘I love you my fellow Gemini... I will dearly miss you... you are the best.’