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Charlie Watts, the rock who held the Rolling Stones together, writes CHRISTOPHER STEVENS 


Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died yesterday at the age of 80. His publicist Bernard Doherty said the ‘beloved’ musician ‘passed away peacefully in a London hospital surrounded by his family’. Watts, who in 2004 was successfully treated for throat cancer, said this month he would miss the Stones’ US tour as he recovered from an unspecified medical procedure. Last night tributes poured in from the music world and beyond. 

This is the eternal image of the Rolling Stones – Keith Richards grinding out the dirty guitar riffs, Mick Jagger prancing as he taunts the stadium crowd: ‘I know it’s only rock’n’roll but I like it, yes I do.’

Except Charlie Watts didn’t. The backbone of the band, the man whose driving rhythm was the tireless heartbeat of the greatest rock’n’roll group in the world, never had much affection for the music he played for 60 years.

His self-effacing patter and genial dismissal of everything he achieved has tempted some observers to take him at his word. Charlie Watts was estimated to be worth £165million – despite writing none of the Stones’ hits. He described himself as ‘just very lucky’.

But the rest of the band knew better. He was the keel that kept them from capsizing, the creative energy that stopped them getting stale and the talent that kept their music grooving.

If you’ve ever danced to a Rolling Stones song, you’ve danced to Charlie Watts.

His jazz-tinged beat was the magic that made them swing while other bands just stomped.

Though no cause has been stated, his death comes two weeks after he revealed that an emergency operation meant he would be unable to join the Stones on the rescheduled dates for the US leg of the band’s No Filter tour, which is due to open in St Louis, Missouri, on September 26.

Announcing the news, he joked: ‘For once, my timing’s a bit off.’

 Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died yesterday at the age of 80. His publicist Bernard Doherty said the ‘beloved’ musician ‘passed away peacefully in a London hospital surrounded by his family’. Pictured: The Rolling Stones, L-R: Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood

In the late Eighties, Watts (centre) summed up his career as 'five years of playing, 20 years of hanging around'. Pictured: The Rolling Stones onstage in 1989

In the late Eighties, Watts (centre) summed up his career as ‘five years of playing, 20 years of hanging around’. Pictured: The Rolling Stones onstage in 1989

He adored playing the drums. He lived for that. But rock 'n' roll wasn't the type of music that he aspired to make, nor that he listened to, given a choice. Pictured: Watts at the drum kit in 1968

He adored playing the drums. He lived for that. But rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t the type of music that he aspired to make, nor that he listened to, given a choice. Pictured: Watts at the drum kit in 1968

Pictured: Charlie Watts with his wife Shirley in 1964

Pictured: The couple in 2020

Charlie Watts was married to his wife Shirley for 57 years. Pictured left: The couple in 1964 and right, in 2020 

He adored playing the drums. He lived for that. But it wasn’t the type of music that he aspired to make, nor that he listened to, given a choice.

The best reason for recording new albums, over the past 30 years or so, was that ‘it gives us something different to play on stage,’ he said. ‘It’s not Brown Sugar again.’ The implication was that he was sick to death of the classic Stones catalogue. Asked to rate the best years of the band’s career across six decades, he would say – without hesitation – it was the brief period from 1969 to 1974 with Mick Taylor as lead guitarist, following the death of Brian Jones.

Those were the years that saw them record Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street. But asked to pick a few favourite tracks, Charlie would just shake his head.

‘I don’t listen to those LPs much,’ he always said.

His disdain for the traditions of rock included a hatred for festival crowds and stadiums. ‘I don’t want to do it,’ he shrugged, as the band prepared for a headline appearance at Glastonbury in 2015. ‘I don’t like playing outdoors and I certainly don’t like festivals. Glastonbury, it’s old hat really. It’s not what I’d like to do for a weekend, I can tell you.’ What he wanted to do was play jazz.

‘In jazz you’re closer. In a football stadium, you can’t say you’re closely knit together. It’s difficult to know what Mick’s up to when you can’t even see him. He’s half a mile away.’ He moaned just as much about going on tour. ‘I play drums,’ he said wearily.

‘The only way to play drums is to be away from home. It’s the blight of my life.

‘When I get a call from Mick or Keith, it’s a call to arms – five months on the road.’

Watts' father, a lorry driver, bought him his first drum kitPictured: Charlie Watts (centre) with his parents in London circa 1943

Watts’ father, a lorry driver, bought him his first drum kitPictured: Charlie Watts (centre) with his parents in London circa 1943

Pictured:  Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones at Park Aveny Hotel in Goteborg in 1965

Watts was the most unlikely rocker in music history. Yet he was also the mainstay, the man who kept the group together – both on and off stage. Pictured: Charlie Watts at Park Aveny Hotel in Goteborg in 1965

No matter how wrecked Keith (right) was, or if a backstage row meant none of the band were talking to each other, Charlie (left) was always rock solid and imperturbable. Pictured: The Rolling Stones looking especially clean cut in 1963

No matter how wrecked Keith (right) was, or if a backstage row meant none of the band were talking to each other, Charlie (left) was always rock solid and imperturbable. Pictured: The Rolling Stones looking especially clean cut in 1963

He hated the spotlight too, rarely giving interviews or hanging out with celebrities. ‘The only time I love attention is when I walk onstage,’ he said. ‘When I walk off, I don’t want it.’ That contempt for rock’s shallow rewards extended to his love life. While the rest of the band enjoyed notorious and very public affairs with supermodels and actresses, Charlie married his wife Shirley in 1964 and was unshakeably faithful to her.

Bassist Bill Wyman recalled in his memoirs a band meeting in 1965 when all the Stones, then surfing their first tidal wave of fame, compared how many groupies they’d slept with in the past two years: ‘I’d had 278 girls, Brian [Jones] 130, Mick about 30, Keith 6, and Charlie none.’

The rock life bored him. He and Shirley shunned the bright lights of London and New York, instead opting for life at Halsdon Manor, near Dolton, a rural village in north Devon, where they owned an Arabian horse stud farm.

In the late Eighties, Watts summed up his career as ‘five years of playing, 20 years of hanging around’. By the Noughties, he had another way to describe it: ‘Four decades of seeing Mick’s bum running around in front of me.’ And then there was the way he looked and dressed. Even when the rest of the band were in tie-dye and kaftans, Charlie wore his suit and tie.

All in all, he was the most unlikely rocker in music history. Yet he was also the mainstay, the man who kept the group together – both on and off stage.

No matter how wrecked Keith was, or if a backstage row meant none of the band were talking to each other, Charlie was always rock solid and imperturbable.

Asked how he kept Jagger and Richards from strangling each other, he shrugged and replied: ‘Oh, that. Brothers, innit. Brothers in arms. You just let it take its course, really.’ 

Alongside frontman Sir Mick and guitarist Keith Richards, Watts (pictured centre) 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

Alongside frontman Sir Mick and guitarist Keith Richards, Watts (pictured centre) 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

Pictured: Watts (centre) with his wife Shirley (left) and daughter Seraphina (right) at Mick Jagger's 50th birthday party in 1993

Pictured: Watts (centre) with his wife Shirley (left) and daughter Seraphina (right) at Mick Jagger’s 50th birthday party in 1993

The rock life bored Watts. He and his wife Shirley shunned the bright lights of London and New York, instead opting for life at Halsdon Manor, near Dolton, a rural village in north Devon, where they owned an Arabian horse stud farm. Pictured: The Rolling Stones in 1968

The rock life bored Watts. He and his wife Shirley shunned the bright lights of London and New York, instead opting for life at Halsdon Manor, near Dolton, a rural village in north Devon, where they owned an Arabian horse stud farm. Pictured: The Rolling Stones in 1968

Born on June 2, 1941, Watts grew up in a prefab house in Kingsbury, north-west London, after his family’s neighbourhood was razed during the Blitz. As a boy he was a gifted artist and earned a place at Harrow Art School before taking a job as a graphic designer.

That passion for drawing never left him, and he produced cartoons and comic strips for some of the band’s album covers – as well as making a sketch, he claimed, of practically every hotel room he ever stayed in.

But despite his artistic talent, it was jazz that obsessed him. He listened incessantly to the New Orleans ragtime pianist Jelly Roll Morton and big band leader Duke Ellington, before discovering modern jazz through bebop stylist Charlie Parker.

His father, a lorry driver, bought him his first drum kit and Charlie began to play at coffee shops and local clubs with bands such as the Jo Jones All Stars (who, despite their name, were all complete unknowns). His break came when the broadcaster Alexis Korner asked him to sit in with his band, Blues Incorporated. Watts claimed that he’d never heard of ‘rhythm and blues’, and assumed it meant slow jazz.

Instead, he found himself in Britain’s first electric blues band, playing at the Ealing Club to an ecstatic audience that included a teenage Rod Stewart, Jimmy Page and Paul Jones.

Watts (right) once gave Jagger (left) a right hook for referring to him as 'my drummer'. Pictured: Watts with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger in 2014

Watts (right) once gave Jagger (left) a right hook for referring to him as ‘my drummer’. Pictured: Watts with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger in 2014

Even when the rest of the band were in tie-dye and kaftans, Charlie wore his suit and tie. Pictured: Watts meets Princess Diana after a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1983

Even when the rest of the band were in tie-dye and kaftans, Charlie wore his suit and tie. Pictured: Watts meets Princess Diana after a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1983

Pictured: The Rolling Stones perform together for the last time over Zoom during the One World: Together at Home concert in 2020

Pictured: The Rolling Stones perform together for the last time over Zoom during the One World: Together at Home concert in 2020

Through those gigs, Charlie started playing for laughs with a bunch of young blues aficionados, including a grammar school boy called Mick and his mates Keith and Brian, as well as piano player Ian Stewart. Joined a year later by Wyman on bass, they played their first gig at the Marquee Club in July 1962.

He had already met his wife, who used to come to the Blues Inc rehearsals. Shirley shared Charlie’s indomitable streak, but while he showed it by quietly doing his own thing, she was never afraid of a confrontation.

When Jagger decided to ban girlfriends from Stones recording sessions Shirley simply ignored him.

Touching Farewell from the Legends 

Ringo Starr

 

‘God bless Charlie Watts, we’re going to miss you man, peace and love to the family.’ 

 

Paul McCartney

 

‘So sad to hear about Charlie Watts… He was a lovely guy. Charlie was a fantastic drummer, steady as a rock. Love you Charlie, I’ve always loved you, beautiful man.’

 

Elton John 

 

 

‘A very sad day. Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to Shirley, Seraphina, and, of course, the Rolling Stones.’

She and Chrissie Shrimpton, who was Mick’s girlfriend in the mid-Sixties, turned up at the studio and refused to leave.

‘We sat there,’ Chrissie remembered, ‘with Mick pulling faces at us through the control room glass.’

It was his wife’s no-nonsense attitude that gave Charlie his confidence in the face of the other bandmates’ prima-donna excesses. ‘She is an incredible woman,’ he said. ‘The one regret I have of this life is that I was never home enough. But she always says when I come off tour that I am a nightmare and tells me to go back out.’

Shirley didn’t enjoy the band’s most famous gig, the free concert in Hyde Park in 1969, two days after Brian Jones was found face down in his swimming pool.

His wife’s dudgeon was Watts’ chief memory of the concert: ‘She got hit with a stale sandwich, on the back. I remember her going mad with that. It obviously hurt.’

He also remembered the debacle with the butterflies. At the climax of the show, Jagger released a boxful, to symbolise the ascent of Brian’s spirit to another dimension (or something like that).

Unfortunately, after hours in an unventilated container, most of the butterflies had suffocated. ‘I didn’t like that,’ Charlie said. ‘The casualty rate was worse than the Somme. Half of them were dead.’

It was Shirley and their daughter Seraphina who saved his life, when he seemed in danger of succumbing to the excesses that were ordinary aspects of life to other rockers.

Throughout the Seventies, when Richards and Mick Taylor were steeped in heroin addiction, Charlie didn’t even bother with debauchery. ‘Bill and I decided to grow beards,’ he said. ‘The effort left us exhausted.’

But in the early Eighties, ‘I became totally another person. At the end of two years on speed and heroin, I was very ill.

‘My daughter used to tell me I looked like Dracula. I nearly lost my wife and everything over my behaviour. I went mad, really. I nearly killed myself.’

Even Keith was concerned. After Charlie passed out in the studio, the guitarist brought him round and warned him he was overdoing it. Worse, he was being unprofessional.

That shook him. ‘This is Keith, who I’ve seen in all sorts of states doing all sorts of things.’ But the decision to sober up came when he broke his ankle while playing the drums at Ronnie Scott’s jazz nightclub.

‘I had to get straight. So I just stopped cold – for me and my wife.’

With Charlie in bad shape, the Stones were closer to disintegration than they had ever been. Jagger was forging a solo career, and the drummer saw that as cashing in on the band’s reputation.

He agreed to play on Mick’s first album, as did Keith, but didn’t turn up for the initial recording session.

Jagger was fuming and, drinking in his hotel around 5am, phoned Charlie’s room. ‘Where’s my drummer?’ he demanded.

Charlie put the phone down. Half an hour later, he knocked on Mick’s door.

Keith opened it: ‘He walked straight past me. Savile Row suit, perfectly dressed. Tie. Shaved. The whole bit. I could smell the cologne.

‘He got ahold of Mick and said, ‘Never call me your drummer again. You’re my singer.’ Then he gave him a right hook.’

Within 12 hours, Charlie had returned to the studio. ‘It takes a lot to wind that man up,’ Richards mused.

For all the ructions, he never lost his respect for his bandmates. The Stones were better than all their rivals, he believed, because ‘we’ve always been about playing properly.

‘I don’t mean technically brilliant. But Mick wouldn’t dance well if the sound was bad. Mick is the show, really. We back him. You know, the costumes you’re wearing, that’s candyfloss, it’s froth. What you’re really doing is playing the drums.’

The rest of the band knew they owed it all to him. When the last note has died away, says Keith, ‘I want to be buried next to Charlie Watts.’

For all the ructions, Watts never lost his respect for his bandmates. The Stones were better than all their rivals, he believed, because 'we've always been about playing properly. Pictured: The Rolling Stones onstage in 2019

For all the ructions, Watts never lost his respect for his bandmates. The Stones were better than all their rivals, he believed, because ‘we’ve always been about playing properly. Pictured: The Rolling Stones onstage in 2019

‘The ultimate drummer’: Rock greats pay tribute to Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts after his death aged 80 surrounded by his family in hospital – weeks after he pulled out of US tour to recover from emergency surgery

 By James Robinson for MailOnline

  • Charlie Watts has died at the age of 80, his London publicist Bernard Doherty said in a statement today
  • The London-born drummer joined fledgling band in 1963 and featured on all of the band’s studio albums
  • A statement released today said Watts, who recently had surgery, ‘died peacefully surrounded by his family’
  • Watts had to pull out of the band’s US tour scheduled for later this year to allow him to recover from surgery  

The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has died at the age of 80, it has today been announced. 

The London-born drummer joined the then-fledgling band in 1963 after meeting Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones while playing in rhythm and blues clubs.

Along with Jagger and Richards, Watts featured on every one of the band’s studio albums. He was widely regarded as one of the greatest drummers of all time. 

Known for his deadpan wit, understated conversational style and love of tailored suits, his low-key style was much at odds with the flamboyant lifestyle of band mates such as Jagger and Richards.

He had one wife, Shirley, with whom who he married in 1964 before the band shot to superstardom. The couple, who lived together in a rural village in Devon, last year rescued a greyhound from an Oxford animal sanctuary. 

Watts was due to tour the US with the band later this year as part of their ‘No Filter’ tour. But it was announced earlier this month he would not feature as he needed to recover from a recent emergency surgery.

Watts is the first long-stay member of The Rolling Stones to die of age-related illness. Founder and leader of the band, Jones, died in 1969, shortly after being kicked out of the band, from accidental drowning.

Today Watts’ London publicist, Bernard Doherty, 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.

The London-born drummer (left) joined the then-fledgling band in 1963 after meeting Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones while playing in rhythm and blues clubs

The London-born drummer (left) joined the then-fledgling band in 1963 after meeting Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones while playing in rhythm and blues clubs

Alongside frontman Sir Mick and guitarist Keith Richards, Watts (pictured centre) 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

Alongside frontman Sir Mick and guitarist Keith Richards, Watts (pictured centre) 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

Drummer Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones pictured in the 1970s at a British concert and sporting a David Bowie style feather cut

Drummer Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones pictured in the 1970s at a British concert and sporting a David Bowie style feather cut

Pictured: The last image of Charlie Watts with his wife Shirley and their rescue greyhound Suzie who was rescued from Forever Hounds Trust

Pictured: The last image of Charlie Watts with his wife Shirley and their rescue greyhound Suzie who was rescued from Forever Hounds Trust

Watts (pictured in 2007) was due to tour the US with the band later this year.

But it was announced earlier this month Watts (pictured with The Rolling Stones in 1969) would not feature due to a recent emergency surgery

Watts (pictured left in 2007) was due to tour the US with the band later this year. But it was announced earlier this month Watts (pictured right with The Rolling Stones in 1969) would not feature due to a recent emergency surgery

Left to right: Ron Wood, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones wave to the crowd at the Historic Atlantic City Convention Hall (now Boardwalk Hall) in Atlantic City in 1989

Left to right: Ron Wood, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones wave to the crowd at the Historic Atlantic City Convention Hall (now Boardwalk Hall) in Atlantic City in 1989

‘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.’

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.

The London-born drummer joined the then-fledgling band in January 1963 after meeting Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones while playing in rhythm and blues clubs

Along with Jagger and Richards, Watts featured on every one of the band's studio albums

The London-born drummer joined the then-fledgling band in January 1963 after meeting Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones while playing in rhythm and blues clubs. Along with Jagger and Richards, Watts featured on every one of the band’s studio albums.

The Rolling Stones (L-R) Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts arrive by yacht at Chelsea Piers in New York to kick-off their "Voodoo Lounge " world tour in 1994

The Rolling Stones (L-R) Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts arrive by yacht at Chelsea Piers in New York to kick-off their “Voodoo Lounge ” world tour in 1994

Japanese actress Yoko Ono, Julian Lennon and his father John Lennon (of the Beatles) at the rehearsal of the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, at the Intertel Studios, Wembley, in 1968

Japanese actress Yoko Ono, Julian Lennon and his father John Lennon (of the Beatles) at the rehearsal of the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, at the Intertel Studios, Wembley, in 1968

The Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman and his girlfriend, and drummer Charlie Watts (pictured in the background) arriving at Newcastle Central Station for the first concert in a series of UK dates in 1971

The Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman and his girlfriend, and drummer Charlie Watts (pictured in the background) arriving at Newcastle Central Station for the first concert in a series of UK dates in 1971

The Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman, left, - a poster of missing member Keith Richards who was detained in Canada on drugs charges at the time, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts, during the launch of their new live album "Love You Live," recorded in Toronto and Paris in 1977

The Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman, left, – a poster of missing member Keith Richards who was detained in Canada on drugs charges at the time, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts, during the launch of their new live album “Love You Live,” recorded in Toronto and Paris in 1977

Often at odds with his flamboyant band, The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts was the quiet, considered and skilful force that kept his group in time

He was also known for his deadpan wit, understated conversational style, love of tailored suits and deep obsession with jazz music

Often at odds with his flamboyant band, The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts was the quiet, considered and skilful force that kept his group in time. He was also known for his deadpan wit, understated conversational style, love of tailored suits and deep obsession with jazz music

Members of the Rolling Stones, from left, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger appear at a party celebrating the opening of their film "Let's Spend The Night Together," in New York in 1983

Members of the Rolling Stones, from left, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger appear at a party celebrating the opening of their film “Let’s Spend The Night Together,” in New York in 1983

Here Charlie Watts is pictured with The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, who posted a touching tribute to The Rolling Stones star following the news of his death, aged 80

Here Charlie Watts is pictured with The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, who posted a touching tribute to The Rolling Stones star following the news of his death, aged 80

Pictured:  Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones at Park Aveny Hotel in Goteborg in 1965

Charlie Watts, pictured here during rehearsals for an episode of the Friday night TV pop/rock show 'Ready Steady Go!', at Associated-Rediffusion's Television House studios in London in 1965

Pictured left: Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones at Park Aveny Hotel in Goteborg in 1965. Pictured right: Watts during rehearsals for an episode of the Friday night TV pop/rock show ‘Ready Steady Go!’, at Associated-Rediffusion’s Television House studios in London in 1965

Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones and his wife Shirley at the graveside of Brian Jones. former guitarist with the group, whose funeral took place in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones and his wife Shirley at the graveside of Brian Jones. former guitarist with the group, whose funeral took place in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

The Rolling Stones. (left to right) Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts in 1964

The Rolling Stones. (left to right) Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts in 1964

In 2004, Watts (pictured centre in 2019) 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

In 2004, Watts (pictured centre in 2019) 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 

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

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

Watts (pictured left), 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

Watts (pictured left), 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 

Charlie Watts, of the Rolling Stones, performs during a concert of the group's No Filter Europe Tour at U Arena in Nanterre, outside Paris, France, in 2017

Ever the snappy dresser. Pictured: Charlie Watts congratulates jockey Eddie Ahern after securing victory in the King Edward VII Stakes on Father Time at Ascot Racecourse, Berkshire, in 2009

Pictured left: Charlie Watts, of the Rolling Stones, performs during a concert of the group’s No Filter Europe Tour at U Arena in Nanterre, outside Paris, France, in 2017. Pictured right:  Ever the snappy dresser, Charlie Watts congratulates jockey Eddie Ahern after securing victory in the King Edward VII Stakes on Father Time at Ascot Racecourse, Berkshire, in 2009

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.

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.

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

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

Charlie Watts (L), Mick Jagger (2L), Ron Wood (2R) and Keith Richards (R) of the Rolling Stones pose after arriving in front of a blimp with a Rolling Stones logo, at Van Cortland Park in the Bronx section of New York City in 2002

Charlie Watts (L), Mick Jagger (2L), Ron Wood (2R) and Keith Richards (R) of the Rolling Stones pose after arriving in front of a blimp with a Rolling Stones logo, at Van Cortland Park in the Bronx section of New York City in 2002

The Rolling Stones band members (L-R) Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards perform on stage during their "No Filter" tour at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, in 2019

The Rolling Stones band members (L-R) Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards perform on stage during their “No Filter” tour at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, in 2019

The Rolling Stones (L-R) Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards and Ron Wood, are pictured upon landing in Montevideo in 2016

The Rolling Stones (L-R) Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards and Ron Wood, are pictured upon landing in Montevideo in 2016

Snappy dresser.  While his band mates in The Rolling Stones leaned to a more flamboyant style, drummer Charlie Watts preferred a tailored suit and was often seen wearing one - even during the band's heydey

Snappy dresser. While his band mates in The Rolling Stones leaned to a more flamboyant style, drummer Charlie Watts preferred a tailored suit and was often seen wearing one - even during the band's heydey

Snappy dresser. While his band mates in The Rolling Stones leaned to a more flamboyant style, drummer Charlie Watts preferred a tailored suit and was often seen wearing one – even during the band’s heydey 

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.

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.

Today tributes flooded in for the star drummer, including from The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, who said in a post on Twitter: ‘God bless Charlie Watts we’re going to miss you man. Peace and love to the family, Ringo.’

Another music legend, Elton John, today said in a statement on Twitter: ‘A very sad day. Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The most stylish of men and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to Shirley, Seraphina and Charlotte. And of course, The Rolling Stones.’

Canadian musician Bryan Adams today joined the procession of stars Tweeting tributes. He said: ‘RIP Charlie Watts. One of the greatest rock drummers ever and a real gentleman. Condolences to his family and the band.’ 

American jazz singer Curtis Stigers also paid tribute, saying: ‘My mom always claimed I was conceived during the chorus of ‘Satisfaction’ by the Rolling Stones. Thank you Charlie Watts. I owe you my life. Rest in peace.’

And in a touching video tribute, The Beatles star Paul McCartney said: ‘So sad to hear about Charlie Watts, the Stones drummer, dying. He was a lovely guy. I knew he was ill but I didn’t know it was this. So, lots of love to his family, his wife and kids, and to his extended family.

‘And condolences to the Stones, it will be a huge blow to them because Charlie was a rock and a fantastic drummer. Love you Charlie, always loved you, beautiful man.’

The man who kept the Stones In Time: Sharp-dressed jazz fan Charlie took six months to agree to join the band  

Often at odds with his flamboyant band, The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts was the quiet, considered and skilful force that kept his group in time.

The drummer, who has died aged 80, was known for his sophisticated and inventive playing on classic tracks including Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Women and Brown Sugar.

Often at odds with his flamboyant band, The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (pictured right with the band in 1964) was the quiet, considered and skilful force that kept his group in time.

Often at odds with his flamboyant band, The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (pictured right with the band in 1964) was the quiet, considered and skilful force that kept his group in time.

However, he was also known for his deadpan wit, understated conversational style, love of tailored suits and deep obsession with jazz music.

Charles Robert Watts was born on June 2 1941 and grew up in Wembley, north-west London.

His father, also Charles Watts, was a lorry driver while his mother Lillian was a homemaker and the couple shared two children – Charlie and his sister Linda.

Watts attended Tyler Croft Secondary Modern School from 1952 to 1956 and as a schoolboy enjoyed art, cricket and football.

His parents gave him his first drum kit in 1955, allowing him to play along to his favourite jazz records, which included those by Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.

By the age of 16, he was drumming in jazz groups and a regular on the London club scene, which was then focused on the parallel worlds of jazz and blues rock.

Alexis Korner, sometimes referred to as “the founding father of British blues”, invited Watts to join his band Blues Incorporated, which featured a number of future stars.

It was then that he met Mick Jagger, who would guest as a vocalist occasionally.

Alexis Korner, sometimes referred to as "the founding father of British blues", invited Watts (pictured right next to Mick Jagger (centre) in 1964) to join his band Blues Incorporated, which featured a number of future stars. It was then that he met Mick Jagger, who would guest as a vocalist occasionally

Alexis Korner, sometimes referred to as “the founding father of British blues”, invited Watts (pictured right next to Mick Jagger (centre) in 1964) to join his band Blues Incorporated, which featured a number of future stars. It was then that he met Mick Jagger, who would guest as a vocalist occasionally

Jagger also had his own group with Keith Richards and Brian Jones but lacked a regular drummer.

Watts, ever sensible, initially turned down an invitation to join them in favour of his day job as a graphic designer at an advertising agency.

A six-month campaign eventually convinced him to join and Watts made his first appearance with the Rolling Stones in January 1963 at the Flamingo club in London’s Soho.

However, even then he refused to give up his day job, only doing so once the band had signed to Decca Records.

His time living in the band’s infamously squalid flat in Edith Grove, Chelsea, was short lived.

Once the band had recorded their first chart hits – Come On and I Wanna Be Your Man – he moved into an flat overlooking Regent’s Park.

He married his girlfriend, Shirley Shepherd, a sculpture student at the Royal College of Art who he met before finding fame, in 1964.

Of all the group, Watts (pictured left with The Rolling Stones in 2006) was reportedly the one that struggled most when they went into tax exile in France during the recording of their 1972 album Exile on Main St, so much did he miss England

Of all the group, Watts (pictured left with The Rolling Stones in 2006) was reportedly the one that struggled most when they went into tax exile in France during the recording of their 1972 album Exile on Main St, so much did he miss England

Watts’ fashion sense was often at odds with his bandmates, preferring finely-tailored suits over the bohemian chic of Jagger and Richards.

He said once: “To me the 1960s was Miles Davis and three-button suits.”

An enduring passion was cricket, which saw him regularly attend Lord’s Cricket Ground and other matches, sometimes with his bandmates.

Of all the group, he was reportedly the one that struggled most when they went into tax exile in France during the recording of their 1972 album Exile on Main St, so much did he miss England.

The year 1989 saw him inducted into the Rock on Roll Hall of Fame alongside the rest of the Rolling Stones and in 2006 he was voted in the Modern Drummer Hall, joining a roll call of famous names including Sir Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and Buddy Rich.

In 2016, Watts was ranked 12th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest drummers of all time.

He leaves behind his wife Shirley (nee Shepherd), daughter Seraphina, born in 1968, and granddaughter Charlotte, born in 1996.

The Rolling Stones: Where are they now? 

Mick Jagger

Lead singer and one of the founding members of The Rolling Stones, Sir Mick, 78, remains very much the face of the band.

The frontman, originally from Datford, Kent, helped form the Stones in the early 1960s.

He left the London School of Economics to pursue his music career.

After huge success with The Stones, he began a solo career, but continued to tour with the band. 

More than 50-years on from the formation of The Stones, he still tours with the band and was the frontman for their European and North American ‘No Filter Tour’ – which began in 2017.

The tour was due to finish in 2020, but was postponed due to Covid. It is due to pick up again in American in September.

Jagger, whose net worth is estimated at around £260million, has been married and divorced once. He has eight children with five women.

Last year it was reported that the veteran rocker had purchased a £1million Florida property for his 33-year-old girlfriend Melanie Hamrick, with whom he has a son.

Along with the property, Sir Mick owns homes in Mustique, Los Angeles and a castle in France.

Last month it was reported that Jagger broke travel quarantine rules after flying from France to watch England versus Denmark Wembley at Euro 2020. 

At the time France was on the amber list and Jagger therefore should have quarantined for up to 10 days. But he was seen at Wembley less than 24 hours after his arrival.

Like Jagger, Richards was born in Dartford, Kent, and the pair are said to have met on a train platform while Jagger headed for a lesson at London School of Economics

Like Jagger, Richards was born in Dartford, Kent, and the pair are said to have met on a train platform while Jagger headed for a lesson at London School of Economics

Keith Richards

The  co-founder, guitarist, secondary vocalist, and co-principal songwriter of The Rolling Stones, is another of the long-term members of the band.

Like Jagger, Richards was born in Dartford, Kent, and the pair are said to have met on a train platform while Jagger headed for a lesson at London School of Economics.

Also like Jagger, Richards went solo during the 1970s and 1980s while still touring with the band.

Richards, now 77, was notorious for illicit drug taking during his heydey and was tried on drug-related charges five times – the first of which led to a prison sentence.

He, and Jagger, who was also jailed for a drugs offence in the same raid on Richards’ Sussex estate, were released after just a day. Their sentences were later lowered to a conditional discharge on appeal.

Richards was also part of the No Filter tour and is due to tour with the band later this year. He starred as Captain Teague, the father of Jack Sparrow, in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

He has been married to model Patti Hansen since 1979 and the couple have two children. Richards has three children from previous relationships, though son Tara tragically died at just two months old.

Richards has an estate in Sussex, as well as a home in the Turks and Caicos. His main residence is in Weston, Connecticut.  

Ronnie Wood

A face synonymous with the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood was a late addition to the band, joining in 1975

A face synonymous with the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood was a late addition to the band, joining in 1975

A face synonymous with the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood was a late addition to the band, joining in 1975.

He had previously played in the Jeff Beck Group, before teaming up with Rod Stewart in Faces. A long-time friend of Richards, Wood joined The Stones after the departure of Mick Taylor. 

But while joining in 1975, he was not official inducted until 1993, the year of Bill Wyman’s departure.

Wood, 74, has six children from three different women. His youngest two children are from his current partner Sally Humphreys, a theatre production manager 31-years his junior, with whom he has been married since 2012.

In October last year Wood listed his five-storey Notting Hill town house for £3.85million. He also has a home in Hertfordshire.

In 2017 Wood was diagnosed with cancer, necessitating the partial removal of his lung. In April he announced he has small-cell cancer, but said doctors had deemed him ‘all clear’.

He was part of The Stones’ No Filter tour and was due to continue the tour in September.

Born William George Wyman in Lewisham, south London, Bill Wyman, was one of the early additions to the band, joining in 1962 as a bass player

Born William George Wyman in Lewisham, south London, Bill Wyman, was one of the early additions to the band, joining in 1962 as a bass player

Bill Wyman

Born William George Wyman in Lewisham, south London, Bill Wyman, was one of the early additions to the band, joining in 1962 as a bass player.

He was with the band until 1993 and during his time was particularly close with Brian Jones, the creator of The Stones, who tragically died in 1969.

Like his fellow band mates, Wyman had a string of relationships, starting with his marriage to first wife, Diane Cory in 1959. The couple had one son, before divorcing in 1969.

In 1989, aged 52, Wyman married 18-year-old pop star Mandy Smith. The marriage was particularly controversial and came amid claims the couple had first slept together when Smith was just 14. She confirmed this in an interview last year.

The couple divorced two years after their marriage. In 1993 Wyman married Suzanne Accosta, with whom he has three children.

Wyman has a house near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and a house in the south of France. In 2016 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but made a full recovery.

The founder and original leader of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones up the band as a British blues outfit in 1962 along with Richards and Jagger

The founder and original leader of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones up the band as a British blues outfit in 1962 along with Richards and Jagger

Brian Jones

The founder and original leader of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones up the band as a British blues outfit in 1962 along with Richards and Jagger. 

Jones, who was originally from Cheltenham, moved to London where he put an advert in a local pub for musicians, which brought forward his two future band mates.

But as the band progressed, Jones developed alcohol and drug problems. 

His performance in the studio became increasingly unreliable, leading to a diminished role within the band he had founded. 

He was dismissed in 1969 and replaced by Mick Taylor. Less than a month later he was found drowned in his swimming pool, aged 27. 

Mick Taylor

Raised in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, Taylor joined John Mayer's Bluesbreakers before being recommended to join The Stones

Raised in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, Taylor joined John Mayer’s Bluesbreakers before being recommended to join The Stones

Guitarist Mick Taylor joined The Rolling Stones in 1969 after the tragic death of Brian Jones.

Raised in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, Taylor joined John Mayer’s Bluesbreakers before being recommended to join The Stones. 

He appeared on six studio albums including 1969’s Let It Bleed, before leaving the band in 1974 after the release of It’s Only Rock and Roll.

He later said in an interview that his decision to leave the band was due to an addiction to heroin. He said in the documentary Crossfire Hurricane that his decision to leave the band was to protect his and his family’s welfare. 

Since leaving The Stones, Taylor, regarded as one of the best guitarist of all time, has released a number of solo albums and collaborations with other artists. 

Taylor has been married twice and has two daughters.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1990, though he was last reported to be living in a cottage in Suffolk.   



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