Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, widely regarded as one of the coolest men in rock, a jazz enthusiast and a snappy dresser, died on Tuesday just three weeks after pulling out of the band’s upcoming U.S. tour for health reasons. He was 80 years old.
“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,” Watts’ spokesperson said in a statement.
Among the first British bands to properly crack the American market and a symbol of 1960s London, the Rolling Stones lineup of Watts, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman produced a string of hit records. The Stones also went on to break records with multimillion-pound grossing global tours.
Former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr described Watts as a “beautiful human being” and said he was shocked by Watts’ death.
“I knew he wasn’t doing well, but it was a shock to me,” Starr, who joined the Beatles in August 1962, five months before Watts became a member of the Rolling Stones, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview after Watts’ death.
Watts played drums on all of the group’s 30 albums and on every tour. No cause of death was given for his passing, but the announcement followed an Aug. 4 statement by the band that the drummer was pulling out of its rescheduled No Filter U.S. tour because he needed time to recuperate after an unspecified emergency medical procedure.
Bandmates had expected Watts to rejoin the band. “We really look forward to welcoming Charlie back as soon as he is fully recovered,” Jagger tweeted on Aug. 4.
The death of Watts brought tributes from musicians ranging from Paul McCartney to country singer Rosanne Cash.
“Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer,” Elton John posted on Twitter. “The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company.
McCartney sent condolences in a video message. “I knew he was ill but I didn’t know he was this ill… It’s a huge blow to them because Charlie was a rock and a fantastic drummer.”
Watts was born in 1941 during World War Two and grew up in the Wembley area of northwest London, attending Harrow school of Art before starting work as a graphic artist with an advertising agency.