Rolling Stones Sir Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood have paid poignant tributes to Charlie Watts following the drummer’s death at the age of 80.
The quartet had been together since 1963, working on era-defining tracks including (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Paint It Black, Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Brown Sugar.
Watts, who died “peacefully” at a London hospital on Monday surrounded by his family, was considered the most mild-mannered of the Stones, providing an essential counterbalance to his more exuberant bandmates.
Wood shared a picture of himself and Watts on Twitter, writing alongside it: “I love you my fellow Gemini – I will dearly miss you – you are the best.”
Sir Mick paid tribute to his colleague of almost 60 years, sharing a picture of Watts smiling while seated behind a drumkit.
The 78-year-old frontman did not add a caption.
In his tribute, Richards, 77, posted a picture of Watts’ drumkit with a “Closed” sign hanging on it.
He did not include a caption either.
Their tributes came as the rest of the rock world lined up to honour Watts.
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.
Watts’ 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 has 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!”
In her tribute, John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, sent condolences to Watts’s loved ones and said: “Rest in peace, Charlie Watts. Our love and deepest condolences go out to Shirley, Seraphina, Charlotte and all The Rolling Stones family. Love, yoko.”
Sir Richard Branson also paid a touching tribute, tweeting: “My heart goes out to Charlie Watts’ family, the Rolling Stones and all of his loved ones. Have so many fond memories after signing the Stones with Virgin Records. He was one of the greats. His quiet smile often said it all.”
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 that Watts, who celebrated his 80th birthday in June, was to miss the band’s forthcoming US tour.
A spokesman said at the time that 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 US tour in September, following its postponement last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Session and touring musician Steve Jordan was previously announced as Watts’ temporary replacement on drums.
Watts said at the time: “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 spokesman said then that Watts’ medical 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 Sir Mick and guitarist Richards, Watts was among the longest-standing members of the Stones, who have 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.
He 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” that 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. He 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.