'The Ultimate Drummer:' Musicians Mourn Death of Rolling Stones Drummer Charlie Watts

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Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, one of the greatest in rock history, died Tuesday at the age of 80.

"It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts," a statement from the band said. "He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family ... We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time."

His death comes as the Stones are about to embark on a stadium tour that will begin on Sept. 26 in St. Louis.

It was announced in early August that Watts would miss the tour dates to recover from an unspecified medical procedure. The drummer was previously treated for throat cancer in 2004.

“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,” he said in a statement at that time.

His understudy Steve Jordan, who has played with Keith Richards for years, will back the Stones on the tour.

Watts, who got his first drum kit in 1955, had an early interest in jazz and R&B. He joined Richards, Mick Jagger and Brian Jones in the Stones in January 1963, and became the epitome of precision and drive in rock ’n’ roll.

In addition to being one of three members (with Jagger and Richards) to perform on every Stones album, he also designed the band’s album packages.

Richards once said, ““Everybody thinks Mick and Keith are the Rolling Stones. If Charlie wasn’t doing what he’s doing on drums, that wouldn’t be true at all. You’d find out Charlie Watts IS the Stones.”

His death prompted numerous tributes from fellow musicians on social media:

Ringo Starr posted, “God bless Charlie Watts we’re going to miss you man peace and love to the family.”

“A very sad day,” declared Elton John. “Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to Shirley, Seraphina and Charlotte. And of course, The Rolling Stones.”

From Robbie Robertson of The Band: “Charlie’s drumming is powerful and unique. His approach is entirely his own and helped shape the sound of rock and roll. Blessings Charlie Watts.”

Hugo Burnham, drummer of British post-punk band Gang of Four, took to Facebook, saying, “[EXPLETIVE]. I bloody knew this was coming. He Was My Darling. My inspiration.” He added, “The epitome of self-effacing charm when I met him. Just gutted.”

Paul Stanley of Kiss tweeted, “AWFUL NEWS. One of the true timeless icons and the backbone of the Stones. Hard to fathom the loss. So very sad.”

“Charlie Watts was the most elegant and dignified drummer in rock and roll,” tweeted Joan Jett. “He played exactly what was needed - no more - no less. He is one of a kind.”

Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, tweeted, “I’m just shocked to hear about Charlie Watts. I don’t know what to say, I feel terrible for Charlie’s family. Charlie was a great drummer and I loved the Stones music, they made great records. Love & Mercy.”