August 24, 2021
by Carla Hay
Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones’ drummer who was one of the band’s original members, died at the age of 80 in his native London on August 24, 2021. His cause of death has not yet been disclosed. However, the Associated Press has reported that Watts’ publicist Bernard Doherty released a statement saying that Watts “passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his 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.”
The Rolling Stones formed in 1962. In 1963, Watts was the last member to join the band’s lineup that would go on to sign a record contract and become one of the most influential rock bands of all time. The Rolling Stones had some lineup changes over the decades, but only Watts, Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards remained constant members of the band during their phenomenal success.
Born in London on June 2, 1941, Watts was the son of a truck driver and a homemaker. He knew from an early age that he wanted to become a drummer. One of the first professional bands that he joined was Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. Korner was the person who recommended to Watts that he join the Rolling Stones.
Watts differed from the rest of the Rolling Stones because of his low-key lifestyle when he wasn’t on tour. When he wasn’t working with the Rolling Stones, he indulged in his passions for playing jazz and collecting cars. Unlike other members of the Stones who went through divorces and other tabloid headlines about their personal lives, Watts remained a stable family man who was only married once and kept his personal life very private. He and his wife Seraphina had been married since 1964.
Although he was not known as a flashy drummer, Watts was one of the most beloved drummers in music because of his no-nonsense and elegant yet down-to-earth style, on and off stage. While his band mates often wore “rock star” clothing during Rolling Stones concerts, Watts would often be dressed in a suit. He was known for his dry wit and distaste for living an attention-hungry and pretentious celebrity lifestyle.
On August 4, 2021, the Rolling Stones announced that Watts would not be going on the band’s rescheduled No Filter tour of the United States, due to an undisclosed health issue. Steve Jordan, a drummer who has been a musical collaborator for Richards’ solo music, was announced as the substitute drummer for the tour, which had been set to launch in St. Louis on September 26, 2021. The tour was postponed in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watts’ last public statement was about bowing out of the tour: “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.”
In 2004, it was announced that Watts had throat cancer, which at the time he was able to beat back into remission. In the mid-1980s he was addicted to heroin, but he was able to overcome the addiction by the end of the 1980s. He didn’t go public about his recovery from heroin addiction until several years later.
Jagger and RIchards have said in many interviews over the years that Watts is the backbone of the Rolling Stones. He is simply irreplaceable.
Watts is survived by his wife Shirley, sister Linda, daughter Seraphina and granddaughter Charlotte.