Elton John, Ringo Starr and More Pay Tribute to Charlie Watts: ‘A Hero Is Gone’

The longtime Rolling Stones drummer has died at 80

The Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood in 2014
The Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood in 2014 (Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)

Music legends and music lovers alike are paying their respects to Charlie Watts, the longtime drummer of The Rolling Stones, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 80.  

Watts died in London, surrounded by family. No cause of death was cited although he had recently pulled out of The Rolling Stones’ upcoming tour due to an undisclosed medical procedure. 

“It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts,” Bernard Doherty said in a statement to the Press Association. “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.”

Watts was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004 and survived operations to remove his lymph nodes before undergoing radiotherapy. In 2011, he told BBC 6 Music that he thought he was going to die following his diagnosis.

The Stones’ “No Filter” U.S. tour will kick off next month with Grammy-winner Steve Jordan on drums, a decision made prior to Watts’ death. Watts, who’d been with the iconic group since its inception in 1963, was forced to pull out earlier this month in order to recuperate from a medical procedure, which was described as “completely successful.”

“For once my timing has been a little off,” Watts said in a statement at the time.

Here is how some of Watts’ friends and contemporaries are paying tribute to the “ultimate drummer.”

Beatle Paul McCartney posted a video message reacting to the news of Watts’ passing and offering condolences to his family.

“I’ve always loved you, beautiful man,” McCartney said.

McCartney’s former bandmate Ringo Starr wrote, “God bless Charlie Watts we’re going to miss you man.”

Elton John also took to Twitter to commemorate the “sad day,” writing of Watts as the “ultimate drummer,” as well as “the most stylish of men, and such brilliant company.”

The Twitter account of fellow classic rockers The Who posted a caption-less photo of Watts.

Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys also spoke of his love and appreciation for Watts.

“Charlie was a great drummer and I loved the Stones music, they made great records,” he wrote.


The iconic Joan Jett remembers Watts as “the most elegant and dignified drummer in rock and roll,” adding that, “He played exactly what was needed- no more – no less. He is one of a kind.”

Legendary songwriter Nile Rodgers, who produced one of Mick Jagger’s albums, wrote. “Rest In Power #CharlieWatts RIP. You are a smooth brother. Thanks for all the great music.”

Paul Stanley, a founding member of Kiss, paid tribute to Watts as the “backbone of the Stones.”

Founding member of The Cure Lol Tolhurst thanked Watts for “all of my hi hat technique.”

Rage Against the Machine rocker Tom Morello penned a thoughtful testament to Watts’ impact on the genre.

“Rock n roll would not be rock n roll without the rhythm, the style, the VIBE of this incredible musician,” Morello wrote, adding that Watts was “one of the greatest and most important architects of the music we love.”

Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell reminded us that there is “no greatness” without a great drummer like Watts.

Check out how some more notable musicians and rock fans were touched by Watts’ work.


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