Charlie Watts' steady but propulsive drumming was the backbone of the Rolling Stones from 1963 through his 2021 death at age 80.

Unlike many of the first wave of British rock stars, including his longtime bandmates, Watts didn't start off as a fan of the music. Instead, jazz first caught his ear as a schoolboy. After an attempt at playing the banjo proved unsuccessful, Watts removed the neck and strings from the instrument and started using the body as a snare drum.

Born on June 2, 1941 in London, the future drummer originally trained to be a graphic designer at art school, but was also making a name for himself behind the kit at the same time. That put him in the orbit of Alexis Korner, who asked Watts to join Blues Incorporated right when the London blues scene was starting to pick up steam.

Blues Incorporated was less of a band than a loose aggregation of like-minded musicians that also included singer and harmonica player Mick Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Brian Jones and pianist Ian Stewart. By July 1962, Jagger, Richards, Jones and Stewart split off to form their own band, the Rolling Stones.

Bassist Bill Wyman then joined, and Watts signed on in January 1963. Stewart soon dropped out to be the band's road manager - though he'd continue to play on their records - and their first single, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Come On," arrived that June. The Rolling Stones would never look back.

As his bandmates became headline-grabbing stars thanks to their personal lives, Watts chose a more reserved lifestyle, staying out of the spotlight in favor of a quiet life with his wife Shirley, whom he married in 1964. He'd often express his disdain for touring, but Watts was never far from music, spending his downtime assembling projects to explore his love of big-band jazz and bebop.

Follow this amazing journey as we present dozens of pictures of the late drummer below for Charlie Watts Year by Year: Photos 1963-2020.

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