For over 50 years, Charlie Watts was the hardest working drummer in rock and roll. You sort of had to be when your band was The Rolling Stones. Often referred to as the band’s heartbeat, Watts not only provided a steady beat but a steady presence to a group that often seemed larger than life. Sadly, Watts passed away on Tuesday at the age of 80. No cause of death has been released. Watts is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, one daughter and one granddaughter.
Born in 1941, Watts' love for the drums started at a young age when he practiced on the kitchen table with forks and knives before his parents bought him a drum kit at 14. During this time, Watts fell in love with jazz and didn’t much care for the rock and roll music emerging in the 1950s.
While Watts went to Harrow Arts School for graphic design and spent some time working in advertising, music became his true calling. He joined the Rolling Stones in January 1963 after initially turning the offer down, and only once he was promised he would make £5 a week for his work. The band quickly found success and endured the constantly evolving scene to still be one of the biggest touring acts nearly 60 years later. Besides Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Watts appeared on every Stones studio record, all 30 of them.
When he wasn’t touring or recording with the Stones, Watts found time to pursue his love of jazz and formed both the Charlie Watts Orchestra and the Charlie Watts Quintet, preferring the smaller intimate spaces of jazz clubs to large rock arenas. Even in the Rolling Stones, Watts liked keeping to himself and didn’t care much about the spotlight, providing a nice balance to Jagger’s and Richards’ more flamboyant and outgoing personalities.
Watts is most remembered for the dedication he had for his art. He never missed a gig since joining the band, the Rolling Stone’s upcoming No Filter Tour was going to be the first time he missed a tour, a remarkable feat for any musician, much less one who’s endured half of what the Stones have.
In the wake of Watts’ passing, musicians have sent their support and condolences to his family and bandmates and shared some of their favorite memories of the beloved drummer.
Charlie Watts was one of the greatest musicians to ever live, and he will be sorely missed. Before we share some amazing Rolling Stones tattoos to commemorate, here’s a video of Watts doing what he did best.