Charlie Watts, The Rolling Stones' only drummer for nearly 6 decades, died Tuesday in London ... TMZ has learned.
Charlie was in London's Royal Marsden Hospital when he passed away, and we're told Shirley -- his wife of nearly 57 years -- was by his side. The Stones announced earlier this month that Charlie, their eldest band member, would not be able to play during their upcoming tour because he needed time to recover from a procedure.
A rep for the group tells TMZ, "It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts ... 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."
The band did not reveal what the procedure was. Watts had been diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004, but after treatment it went into remission, and he and The Stones immediately launched into a 2-year-long world tour.
In fact, in the band's 58 years, Charlie's never missed a tour ... so it was already a big deal he wouldn't be with his mates -- Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood -- in September when they kick off their latest U.S. tour. As Charlie joked in a statement, "For once my timing has been a little off."
Charlie -- along with Keith, Mick and Brian Jones -- is a founding member of the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band. They all met in 1962, while playing London's blues clubs, and first came together as a band in 1963.
He occasionally toured with his own band too, the Charlie Watts Quintet ... which was more of a jazz act. Charlie's first love was jazz, and he learned to play drums while listening to Charlie Parker records.
Over the years, he's also become famous for being the stylish Stone -- he would commonly wear sharp suits onstage and off. Vanity Fair named Charlie to its International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 2006.
Of course, he's also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Rolling Stones ... who now have the unenviable task of carrying on without the guy who's been called the soul of the band. Steve Jordan was already sitting in for Charlie, but it's unclear how Watts' death will impact the band's schedule. Their first show is set for Sept. 26 in St. Louis.
Charlie met Shirley before the Stones formed, and they got married the year after that. They have one daughter, Seraphina, and a couple of grandkids.
His passing is the first death for The Stones since Jones drowned in 1969.