Drummer of the Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts, "one of the best drummers of his generation" and the more moderate member of the famous band of British rock, died Tuesday in London for 80 years.
"It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts," his agent Bernard Doherty announced in a statement, adding that the musician "passed away peacefully in a London hospital today, surrounded by his family."
A spokesman for the artist had already announced in early August that he would not participate in the band's North American tour, scheduled for the fall, for medical reasons.
"Charlie has undergone a successful operation, but his doctors believe that he needs to rest," he explained then, without further elaboration.
Watts, who turned 80 in June, had been with the Stones since 1963. Along with singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, he was one of the oldest members of the famous rock band, in which Mick Taylor, Ronnie Wood and Bill Wyman have also played in.
In 2004, he had been treated at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London for throat cancer, from which he recovered after four months of treatment; including six weeks of intensive radiation therapy.
"Charlie was a loving husband, father and grandfather and also, as a member of the Rolling Stones, one of the greatest drummers of his generation," said Doherty. "We ask that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends be respected at this difficult time," he added.
- Away from crazy life -
Charlie Watts, who always stayed away from the crazy life that his companions lived, remained for more than half a century the unflappable metronome of the band while fueling their passion for jazz.
With his impassive face and unanimously recognized talent for binary rhythm, he provided the perfect onstage counterpoint to the frantic swaggering of Mick Jagger and the electric antics of guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood.
And while his friends went through "divorces, addictions, arrests and crazy fights", according to an inventory compiled by the British newspaper Mirror, the quiet Charlie Watts lived a serene life with Shirley Shepherd, his wife of 50 years, and their daughter Seraphina. , at his Arabian thoroughbred breeding farm in Devon, England.
"During fifty years of chaos, drummer Charlie Watts represented calm amidst the Rolling Stones storm, both on and off stage," wrote the Mirror in 2012.
However, the musician was not totally impervious to the band's addictions: In the 1980s, he underwent rehab for heroin and alcohol.
But "it was a very short time for me," he explained. "I just gave it up, it wasn't something for me," confesses the taciturn musician.
- Passion for jazz -
Born on June 2, 1941 in London, Charlies Watts came to music through animated jazz at the age of 13 by his neighbor Dave Green with whom he would later form the quartet "The A, B, C & D of Boogie-Woogie".
Fully self-taught, he learned to play by ear, watching the musicians in London jazz clubs.
"I never went to a school to learn to play jazz. That's not what I like. What I like about jazz is the emotion," explained the musician who during his career with the Rolling Stones, continued to play jazz in parallel and recorded several albums with the Charlie Watts Quintet and with the group Charlie and the Tentet Watts.
But first he studied art and worked as a graphic designer at a large advertising agency.
When he joined the Rolling Stones in 1963, they were just a small, fledgling band.
"It was a blessing," Keith Richards said. "The first drummer I started with 40 years ago is one of the best in the world. With a good drummer, you are free to do whatever you want," he added.
Charlie Watts was named the twelfth greatest drummer of all time by Rolling Stones magazine.