Rolling Stones star Charlie Watts (above left, with Ronnie Wood), the sartorially resplendent, reserved drummer for one of rock's most iconic bands, died Tuesday at 80, less than a month after bowing out of the band's No Filter Tour due to an unspecified medical procedure.
In a statement, a publicist for the family reported, "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. 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."
No cause of death was given.
Watts had been with the band over 58 years; only Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had been on board longer.
More a fan of jazz than rock — a form he had to be taught to appreciate by Richards in the earliest days of their collaboration — Watts's true leanings were reflected in his unique drumming style and in his many non-rock side projects, such as Rocket 88, the Charlie Watts Orchestra, the Charlie Watts Quintet, a project with Jim Keltner, the Charlie Watts Tentet and the ABC&D of Boogie Woogie.
Lenny Kravitz tweeted that Watts was "the beat of The Stones," nothing that "there are no words, every groove has spoken for itself."
Born June 2, 1941, in London, Watts was a self-taught musician whose initial career was in aesthetics — he worked at an ad agency, developing his famous artistic eye. He would later design several Stones tours and work on some of the band's album art, along with being called out consistently as one of the world's best-dressed men in a field dominated by jeans, leather pants and a distinct lack of shirts of any kind.
Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell summarized Watts' undersung importance to the Rolling Stones, tweeting, "Drummers are the most ensnared individuals. Though they are loudest, they are the last to be heard. They have insecurities due to the fact that everyone has their back turned on them. Herein lies the band’s secret; there is no greatness- without a great drummer."
Watts's sense of decorum and his disdain for wild parties and orgies helped him become the group's anchor, and whose indispensable talent was the one thing upon with Richards and Jagger consistently agreed.
Watts played on all of the classic Stones hits and all 121 commercial singles, including "Time Is on My Side" (1964), "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (1965), "Get Off of My Cloud" (1965), "19th Nervous Breakdown" (1966), "Paint It Black" (1966), "Mother's Little Helper" (1966), "Let's Spend the Night Together" (1967), "Ruby Tuesday" (1967), "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (1968), "Honky Tonk Women" (1969), "Brown Sugar" (1971), "Angie" (1973), "Miss You" (1978), "Start Me Up" (1981), "Harlem Shuffle" (1986) and "Rock and a Hard Place" (1989).
Watts and the Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, among countless other awards and honors.
Watts is survived by his wife Shirley, to whom he had been wed for nearly 56 years, their daughter Seraphina, their granddaughter, and their step-grandson.