Charlie Watts hailed as ‘one of the greatest drummers’ following his death at 80

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The Rolling Stones star Charlie Watts has been hailed as “one of the greatest drummers of his generation” following his death at the age of 80.

The musician, who marked his birthday in June, had been a member of the rock group since 1963 and played on classic tracks including (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Paint It Black, Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Brown Sugar.

Sir Paul McCartney described Watts as a “fantastic drummer, steady as a rock” while Sir Elton John called him “the ultimate drummer” in tributes posted on social media.

His counterpart in the Beatles, Sir Ringo Starr, also tweeted a picture, writing: “God bless Charlie Watts, we’re going to miss you man, peace and love to the family, Ringo.”

Other famous names paying tribute included Queen drummer Roger Taylor, Stewart Copeland, who played drums in rock band The Police, and Bryan Adams.

A statement from Watts’ London publicist Bernard Doherty to the PA news agency on Tuesday 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.

“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.

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.”

 Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones
Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones (Ian West/PA)

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.

The Rolling Stones announce tour
Charlie Watts with The Rolling Stones (PA)

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.

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.

Rolling Stones gig
Charlie Watts with The Rolling Stones during a gig at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

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 talented musician grew up in Wembley, north London, and as a youngster was listening to music from greats like Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker, and said it was the record Walking Shoes – by saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and drummer Chico Hamilton – that inspired him to want to become a drummer.

As a teenager, he was invited to join Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, where he would meet a young Mick Jagger who occasionally sang with the band.

In 1989, alongside the rest of The Rolling Stones he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2006 was voted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame by Modern Drummer magazine.

Watts, a lover of cricket, married his girlfriend Shirley – who was a sculpture student at the Royal College of Art – in 1964 and the pair had one daughter, Seraphina.

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