His publicist said in a statement, “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.”
Earlier this year, Watts announced he had to pull out of the group’s upcoming No Filter tour after undergoing a medical procedure, and that he needed to “rest and recuperate”.
Born in Bloomsbury, London in 1941, Watts began playing drums as a kid after hearing jazz drummer Chico Hamilton, and would play along with jazz records. In 1961, he began playing with the band Blues Incorporated while beginning a career as a graphic designer, and just a year later he’d meet Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Ian “Stu” Stewart. In 1963, he’d end up joining their band, The Rolling Stones.
Watts has performed on all of the band’s studio albums, from 1964’s The Rolling Stones up to 2008’s Shine a Light. He’s long had a complicated relationship to touring and expressed disinterest in living a stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. In 2001, he told the BBC that he’s compulsively made sketches of every hotel room he’s ever stayed in on tour, and he was added to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame by Vanity Fair.
Watts said of his playing style in a 2008 interview with If It Ain’t Got That Swing, “I was brought up on the theory that the drummer is an accompanist. I don’t like drum solos. I admire some people that do them, but generally I prefer drummers playing with the band. The challenge with rock and roll is the regularity of it. My thing is to make it a dance sound; it should swing and bounce.”