Charlie Watts: The life of a Rolling Stone in pictures

Watts (top right) grew up a lover of jazz and began drumming at the age of 13. In his first band, he played alongside the late Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, who later convinced him to join the new rock outfit.

The group would go on to define both rock music and British culture as part of the British invasion that swept the world in the mid-1960s.

Charlie Watts

Watts famously described the journey as “four decades of seeing Mick’s bum running around in front of me”, but his solid presence helped to keep the band grounded at a time when they were adored by many and demonised by others as the poster boys of a rebellious youth cultur.

Rolling Stones at 1968's Rock and Roll circus

In 1968, they staged the Rock and Roll Circus at Wembley in London, bringing together many of their British rock contemporaries, such as John Lennon, The Who and Eric Clapton.

Charlie Watts

The vital importance of Watts’ drumming technique continued as the band shifted beyond their traditional blues rock template to explore funkier, disco-orientated sounds throughout the 1970s.

Charlie Watts with wife Shirley in 1971

But Watts’ calm, collected outward presence internally unravelled in the 1980s as he battled a drink and drug addiction that even saw the band’s hellraiser in chief, bassist Keith Richards, tell him to “get it together”.

Two years later, aided by his wife Shirley (pictured), Watts found his way to clarity and maintained his love of jazz with The Charlie Watts Orchestra.

The Charlie Watts Orchestra

The Rolling Stones also returned to the stage, Watts in tow, with their extensive Steel Wheels tour in 1989 – named after their critically-acclaimed album of the same name.

Rolling Stones Steel Wheels tour

Watts continued to perform with the band throughout the 90s and 2000s as they maintained their tireless schedule of live dates. This included headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2006 and, that same year, playing to more than a million fans at Brazil’s Copacabana beach.

In 2013, the band finally headlined Glastonbury Festival for the first time as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.

The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury

Watts took to the stage as a Rolling Stone for the last time in 2019, before frontman Mick Jagger’s heart surgery and the coronavirus pandemic delayed the remaining dates of their No Filter tour.

Rolling Stones in 2019

The Rolling Stones did manage to play – from four separate locations – in April 2020 as part of a virtual concert to celebrate healthcare workers during the pandemic. Watts was seen banging on flight cases and the arm of a sofa in the absence of his drum kit.

Rolling Stones at Together At Home

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