I'll be the first to admit that I'm not usually the crying type, but a few tears were shed today when I heard the news. Longtime drummer for the Rolling Stones and without question one of the greatest drummers in rock and roll history, Charlie Watts, has died at 80 years old.

Watts, behind the drum kit for the Stones for more than half a century, died this morning in London. No cause of death was given at this time. I honestly feel like I've lost a member of my own family.

In a media statement, his spokesperson made the announcement:

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. 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. We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.

The news came weeks after it was announced that Watts would miss the band's US tour dates to recover from an unspecified medical procedure. I actually posted about it here.

Watts, who originally trained at school to be a graphic artist, started playing drums in the early 60s in and around the London rhythm and blues scene where he ended up meeting some gents named Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones.

Watts himself admitted in an interview later in life that he had no idea what rhythm and blues even was. His primary interest was jazz. Watts often joked that the other guys had to explain rhythm and blues to him. Luckily, Charlie was a quick learner.

While Watts was never a flashy, over-the-top drummer, his mastery of different styles(he literally could play anything, country, blues, rock, disco, jazz, punk, and soul) and his effortless time shifts made him one of the all-time best. If you play drums, you know that great drumming is not easy. That's the thing about Charlie. He made it look easy.

Even if you're just a casual Stones fan and only familiar with the hits, you'd still have to recognize the greatness of Charlie Watts: "Jumpin' Jack Flash", "Honky Tonk Women", "Start Me Up", "Street Fighting Man", "Miss You", "Sympathy For The Devil", "Paint It Black", and on, and on.

Dig deeper, though, into some of the album tracks and deep cuts, and find even more evidence: "Neighbors", "Rip This Joint", "19th Nervous Breakdown", "Bitch", "Soul Survivor", "Sway", "Rocks Off", "Stray Cat Strut", and(perhaps my fave, although that could change five times before the day is out) "Gimme Shelter".

I'll miss you, Charlie. Lots of people play "air guitar", but there was none better than you to play "air drums" to. Any of the other band members will tell you if you ask them, "The Stones don't roll without Charlie." Rest in peace, Uncle Charlie.

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