The music world is saddened by the death of  Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts. Watts was the anchor for arguably one of rock and roll’s greatest bands.

The 80-year-old musician passed away peacefully surrounded by family in England.

Charlie became a founding member, alongside Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, in 1962 when he was just 18 years old. Jagger and Richards met Watts at the Ealing Jazz Club, a drummer for the band Blues Incorporated. They initially thought Watts was too “accomplished” for them and even cut their salaries to pay Watts in the beginning properly.

Even after decades with the famous band, he never became a household name but was known as the unsung hero behind the hits. Although he loved touring with the band, he never wanted to be a pop idol dealing with the relentless groupies and fans screaming at every concert.

Nearing the end of a tour supporting their new album, “Blue & Lonesome,” Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood said that Watts was “a magnificent drummer and a wonderful man.”

Their publicist released the following statement.

“He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family. Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also a member of The Rolling Stones, one of the greatest drummers of his generation. We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.”

Recently doctors had deemed Charlie unsuited to join the band on the No Filter Tour, which begins next month. During a routine check-up, doctors found a problem that was seemed to have gotten corrected with emergency heart surgery. The drummer was advised to have weeks of “rest and recuperation.”

Earlier this month, Watts had stepped down from his role and was replaced by drummer Steve Jordan from Keith Richards The X-Pensive Winos group. The band was planning for his return at the 60th-anniversary celebrations, which are set to occur in 2022.

The icon was born Charlie Robert Watts in 1941 at University College Hospital in London to lory driver Charles Richard Watts and wife Lillian Charlotte.

Watts found an early appreciation for music through jazz records and excelled in art, music, cricket, and football in school. His interest in drumming started when he was 13 years old. His parents bought him his first drum kit in 1955, and the rest is history.

Even after kicking a tobacco habit in the ’80s, in 2004, Watts was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent radiotherapy and went into remission. He was a fighter and thought he should stay on tour because he fell ill every time the band stopped touring. After being diagnosed cancer-free, he continued doing what he did best.

In July of 2006, Watts was inducted to the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame, joining Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Buddy Rich, and other legendary drummers throughout rock history.

While his passing profoundly saddens the world, his mark in the music world will live forever through his influential and electrifying drum rhythms.

More from Beliefnet and our partners