Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts Dies at 80: 'One of the Greatest Drummers of His Generation'

"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," a spokesperson said in a statement

Charlie Watts, the longtime drummer for the Rolling Stones whose sense of calm grounded the band for more than 50 years, has died, his spokesperson confirms. He was 80.

''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," his publicist Bernard Doherty said in a statement to PEOPLE.

Charlie Watts Rolling Stones
Charlie Watts. David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns

"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," the statement continued. "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 — who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside his bandmates in 1989 — recently underwent an unspecified medical procedure, which a spokesperson said earlier this month was "completely successful."

Though the band is slated to head on tour this fall, the spokesperson told PEOPLE that Watts was unlikely to join them, as he needed "proper rest and recuperation."

"With rehearsals starting in a couple of weeks it's very disappointing to say the least, but it's also fair to say no one saw this coming," the spokesperson added at the time.

In a statement of his own, Watts joked that for once, his timing was "a little off," and that he was "working hard to get fully fit" before stepping behind his drum kit once more.

Charlie Watts Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

"After all the fans' suffering caused by Covid I really do not want the many RS fans who have been holding tickets for this tour to be disappointed by another postponement or cancellation," he said. "I have therefore asked my great friend Steve Jordan to stand in for me."

Watts previously underwent treatment for throat cancer in 2004.

Paul McCartney was among the many to pay tribute to Watts, and called his death a "huge blow" to the Stones in a video message shared to Twitter.

"Charlie was a fantastic drummer, steady as a rock," McCartney said. "Love you, Charlie. I've always loved you. Beautiful man."

Elton John also offered his condolences in a Twitter tribute that called Watts "the ultimate drummer."

"A very sad day," he wrote. "The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to Shirley, Seraphina and Charlotte. And of course, The Rolling Stones."

Born in London on June 2, 1941 to a factory worker mother and a British Rail driver father, Watts taught himself how to play the drums as a teenager, having been inspired by the Gerry Mulligan Quartet's "Walking Shoes," according to the book The Sun & the Moon & the Rolling Stones.

Charlie Watts Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones. Samir Hussein/WireImage

Soon, he was playing jazz in London nightclubs, and on Jan. 14, 1963, played his first gig with the Rolling Stones at the Flamingo Club.

"When we got Charlie, that really made it for us," Keith Richards said, according to Rolling Stone.

He'd remain on stage alongside Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor and more for more than 50 years, releasing nearly two dozen studio albums over the last half a century and cementing his place as a rock 'n' roll legend.

Though he stuck by his bandmates over the years, touring well into his 70s, Watts — who was ranked No. 12 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time — also released several jazz albums outside of the Rolling Stones, with The Charlie Watts Quintet.

Charlie Watts Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones in 2019. Kevin Winter/Getty

Watts married wife Shirley in 1964, and told NME in 2018 that the reason his marriage was so successful was "because I'm not really a rockstar."

"I don't have all the trappings of that… I've never been interested in doing interviews or being seen," he said. "I love it and I do interviews because I want people to come and see the band. The Rolling Stones exist because people come to the shows."

In the same interview, Watts said that he hadn't given much thought to retiring, though he did think the band might call it quits at the end of each tour.

"I hope [when it ends] that everyone says, 'That'll be it.' I'd hate for it to be a bloody big argument," he said. "But to say this is the last show wouldn't be a particularly sad moment, not to me anyway. I'll just carry on as I was yesterday or today."

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