The world of rock and roll lined up to pay tribute to The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts following his death aged 80.
Watts had been a part of the band since 1963 and played on era-defining tracks including (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Paint It Black, Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Brown Sugar.
The musician, who died “peacefully” at a London hospital on Monday surrounded by his family, was considered the most mild mannered of The Rolling Stones, providing an essential counterbalance to his more exuberant bandmates.
Sir Mick Jagger paid tribute to his bandmate of almost 60 years on social media, sharing a picture of Watts smiling while seated behind a drumkit.
The Rolling Stones frontman, 78, did not add a caption.
Sir Paul McCartney described Watts as a “fantastic drummer, steady as a rock” while Sir Elton John called him “the ultimate drummer” in tributes posted on social media.
His counterpart in the Beatles, Sir Ringo Starr, also tweeted a picture, writing: “God bless Charlie Watts, we’re going to miss you man, peace and love to the family, Ringo.”
Queen drummer Roger Taylor said on Instagram: “How sad, we’ve lost a true gentleman. The immaculate beating heart of the Rolling Stones.”
Johnny Marr, guitarist and former member of The Smiths, praised Watts for his behaviour on and off stage.
He wrote on Twitter: “Aside from being a unique musician Charlie Watts managed to remain completely classy throughout the whole of the Rolling Stones career. Quite an achievement.”
The Who frontman Roger Daltrey described Watts as “the perfect gentleman, as sharp in his manner of dress as he was on the drums”.
In a statement, he added: “Charlie was a truly great drummer, whose musical knowledge of drumming technique, from jazz to the blues, was, I’m sure, the heartbeat that made The Rolling Stones the best rock and roll band in the world.”
Rocker Alice Cooper also paid tribute, saying the music world had lost “one of rock and roll’s true gentlemen”.
He added: “Charlie Watts kept the beat for the world’s greatest rock band for over 50 years. I consider him the greatest pocket drummer of all time.
“Every time I would go backstage to see The Rolling Stones, Charlie was the first to greet me. He will be sorely missed and impossible to replace but I’ve no doubt The Stones will go on. My message to Charlie? Rest In Beat!”
A statement by his publicist said Watts was a “cherished husband, father and grandfather” and “one of the greatest drummers of his generation”.
News of his death came just weeks after it was announced Watts, who celebrated his 80th birthday in June, 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’s 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’s procedure had been “completely successful”, but that he needed time to recuperate.
Following the news, Sir Mick 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.
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.
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.
The talented musician grew up in Wembley, north London, and as a youngster was listening to music from greats like Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker, and said it was the record Walking Shoes – by saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and drummer Chico Hamilton – that inspired him to want to become a drummer.
As a teenager, he was invited to join Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, where he would meet a young Sir Mick who occasionally sang with the band.
In 1989, alongside the rest of The Rolling Stones he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2006 was voted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame by Modern Drummer magazine.
Watts, a lover of cricket, married his girlfriend Shirley – who was a sculpture student at the Royal College of Art – in 1964 and the pair had one daughter, Seraphina.