Charlie Watts, the iconic drummer whose playing drove the Rolling Stones’ music for over 50 years, has died at the age of 80. According to his spokesperson, Watts died in a London hospital earlier today, surrounded by 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,” an official statement read.
Born in London in 1941, Watts began drumming as a teenager, and after a brief stint working in Copenhagen, joined Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’s then-fledgling band the Rolling Stones in 1963. From then on, Watts remained the group’s drummer for over half a century of recordings and touring, complementing Jagger’s vocals, Richards’s guitar work, and Bill Wyman’s bass with his Charlie Parker–inspired drumming to give the band its distinctive, blues-inflected sound. In addition to drumming, Watts applied his graphic-design training to design the Rolling Stones’ touring sets and record-sleeve artwork. Watts married his wife, Shirley, in 1964 and the couple remained together throughout his life. Earlier this August, Watts announced that he would not participate in the band’s No Filter tour, due to an unexpected medical procedure from which he was recuperating. “For once my timing has been a little off,” he said in a statement at the time. He had previously undergone treatment for throat cancer in 2004. Watts is survived by his wife and daughter.