Charlie Watts, the longtime drummer for the Rolling Stones, has passed away. The 80-year-old spent his life as the calm, measured backbone of a band known for rowdy flamboyance. Mick Jagger could strut and Keith Richards could preen because they knew Watts had a steady hand at the wheel.
The man was as grounded in his life as he was onstage. Watts met the love of his life Shirley Shepherd before the band became famous and married her in 1964. Watts ignored the groupies his bandmates chased all over the world, even famously locking himself in Hugh Hefner’s office for several days of pinball while Jagger, Richards and the rest went on a bender at the Playboy Mansion. Charlie and Shirley’s marriage lasted his whole life, a rarity in rock and roll. They had one daughter together, Seraphina. His family was by his side when he passed peacefully in a London hospital, according to a statement from his publicist.
Despite being a member of one of the most spectacularly famous rock and roll bands of all time, Watts was known for staying down to earth, using his day job to leverage his passion for jazz and fashion. He overcame addiction issues in the 1980s and joined the band for a successful second wave of fame that carried them into the new millennium as hits like “(I Can’t No) Satisfaction,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Brown Sugar” found a new generation of fans.
Watts’ fellow rock and roll greats chimed in with memories on social media.
“He was a lovely guy,” said Paul McCartney. “Charlie was a rock and a fantastic drummer.”
Paul on Charlie Watts ❤️ pic.twitter.com/rn2elK6cFE
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) August 24, 2021
“I’m just shocked to hear about Charlie Watts,” said the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. “I don’t know what to say, I feel terrible for Charlie’s family.”