Shirley Watts, Wife Of Late Rolling Stones Drummer Charlie, Dies At 84

At the time of Charlie’s death aged 80 in August 2021, the couple had been married for 57 years.

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Charlie and Shirley Watts - Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Charlie and Shirley Watts - Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Shirley Watts, the wife of late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie, died on December 16 at the age of 84. At the time of his death aged 80 in August 2021, the couple had been married for 57 years.

A family statement read: “It is with great sadness that Seraphina, Charlotte and Barry announce the death of their much-loved mother, grandmother and mother-in law Shirley Watts. Shirley died peacefully on Friday December 16 in Devon after a short illness surrounded by her family. She will be also sadly missed by her sisters Jackie and Jill, and her brother Stephen. Reunited now forever with her beloved Charlie.”

Born Shirley Ann Shepherd in London on September 11, 1938, she studied sculpture at Hornsey College of Art, where she met her future husband. They married, initially in secret until the UK press uncovered the story, as the Stones rose to global fame in 1964. Their first home was in London, after which they moved to Lewes in Sussex, and then at the time of the band’s tax exile, to a property in France which they kept after they moved back to England. They eventually settled in the Devon village of Dolton, where Shirley ran an Arabian stud farm for her beloved horses.

Ronnie Wood posted: “@SallyWood & I are very sad to hear about the death of our friend Shirley Watts. We will miss you so much, but take comfort that you are reunited with your beloved Charlie. Our thoughts & prayers are with their daughter Seraphina, granddaughter Charlotte, & son-in-law Barry.”

‘The love of his life’

As described in Charlie’s Good Tonight, the authorized biography of Charlie Watts by uDiscover writer and author Paul Sexton, Shirley was his “greatest constant and, quite simply, the love of his life.” Photographer Bent Rej, who spent time with the couple and captured images of them in their first London home, wrote in 1965: “Shirley and Charlie are very much in love, they confess. So much so that she follows him aroundd the world most of the time. That is why you find four ready-packed trunks in one of the rooms.”

Although she maintained a generally low profile in keeping with the modest demeanour of her husband, Shirley would sporadically visit Charlie on tour in later years. Her presence always raised the spirits of a man who, by his own admission, was no fan of the band’s exhaustive road schedules. “There was always a different feeling when Shirley arrived,” Stones insider Tony King told Sexton. “Charlie was always very relaxed.”

Watts often yearned to be at home with his family, but joked that Shirley would say he was soon getting under her feet. She was devoted to animal welfare causes and to her horses. “[Charlie] showed me a photograph of an Arab stallion and I fell in love,” she told Horse & Hound in 1982. “Charlie bought me my first Arab, which was a part-breed, and it spiralled from there.”

Charlie said in 2003: “I’ve always had the fortune of a solid home base. We first met on the day I started playing in Alexis Korner’s band, even before I became a member of the Stones. My wife has known Mick and Keith as long as I have. She’s a sensible woman. She has always kept well away from the Stones.”

“I can’t emphasize enough that his marriage and his child and grandchild were the bedrock of his life,” added King in Charlie’s Good Tonight. “He loved the Rolling Stones and everything that went with it. But at the end of the day he loved his family.”

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