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Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dies aged 80

Charlie Watts performs with The Rolling Stones on 9 October 2017 in Esprit-Arena Düsseldorf
(Image credit: Brill/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Charlie Watts, drummer for The Rolling Stones, has died aged 80.

The news was confirmed by his publicist, Bernard Doherty, who stated: “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.

“We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.”

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Watts had been a member of The Rolling Stones for almost six decades, after early jams with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones in 1962 led to him joining the group in 1963.

His driving drum performances were the backbone behind the band's era-defining take on rock 'n' roll, and fueled a run of classic albums, including Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St.

“Charlie comes out of the jazz stable originally, which makes him unique in a way,” Keith Richards told Guitar World.

“That's why he swings; he makes rock and roll swing, which is one of the things you're supposed to do but many people have forgotten.”

Watts was due to sit out the band’s forthcoming U.S. No Filter Tour, slated to begin in September, as he recovered from a medical procedure. He had previously been treated for throat cancer in 2004, but was given the all-clear following radiotherapy treatment.

Stars from across the music world have paid tribute to the Stones drummer, including Paul McCartney, John Fogerty and Joan Jet, who dubbed Watts "the most elegant and dignified drummer in rock and roll. He played exactly what was needed - no more - no less. He is one of a kind."

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Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is editor-in-chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He's spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, and a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.