If there's a person out there whose life needed to be chronicled, it's Keith Richards. And you know what's really amazing? He actually remembers it, despite all those drugs. So as you could probably guess, his "Life" is an amazing read -- Richards glides through his own eventful past with grace, charm and a slightly sarcastic sense of humor.
Richards was the "choirboy to school rebel" raised in Dartford, where he began to blossom at the birth of rock'n'roll. And after some false starts in other areas, his love of music began to gel into something when he met Mick Jagger (they bonded over their shared love of American blues music), and ended up forming a band called the Rolling Stones.
You know how it goes: they became the creative heart of the Rolling Stones, who started off as a penniless little blues band and turned into the wildest rock stars of the sixties and seventies. Richards' life became wrapped up in stardom, his sensual avant-garde lover Anita Pallenberg, and a heroin addiction -- until he inevitably yanked himself back up, found new love, and survived despite the odds.
I've always had a soft spot for Keith Richards -- he's had a crazy, colorful, dramatic life full of scandal and raw talent, but by all acounts, he's a nice guy. And "Life" doesn't disprove that -- Richards is less interested in telling all than in exploring the interesting parts of his life.
His style is laid-back and contemplative, as if you were just sitting in his living room listening to the old rocker reminiscing about his life. He talks a LOT about music (creating it, listening to it, playing it), encountering fascinating people, and carefully painting portraits of the many places he's travelled to.
Richards himself seems like an unpretentious, blunt guy with a positive outlook, who freely admits his mistakes because they're in the past. He also has nice things to say about almost everybody, although some things (Brian Jones beating Anita) make him pretty mad. But he doesn't shy away from bleaker times, such as when he recounts how his son Marlon had to help him during his druggiest days.
And he has a sarcastically witty streak -- he says that he was "kind of proud" to be the #1 on death lists for ten years running. "I was really disappointed when I went down the charts. Finally dropping down to number nine. Oh my God, it's over."
If you weren't a fan of "Keef" before this, his unpretentious and fascinating "Life" might just win you over. It's a rich rollercoaster of pain, music and love.
"Life" is about the music, the friends and family and the drugs and not the fame. His story begins in childhood growing up just outside of London in the working class town of Dartford, Kent. There he made mischief exploring the local environs and putting cardboard in the spokes of his bicycle as many of us did back in the days of freewheeling childhood. Eventually he was introduced to the guitar by his grandfather and developed a love for the blues, which he shared with Mick, a guy he knew from the neighbourhood. Dedication to his craft obviously played a decisive role in the emergence of the Rolling Stones as one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time however Mr. Richards gives Fortune an equal claim to his success. For example, Brian Jones was first considered leader of the band yet Andrew Oldman, their producer sent Keith and Mick into a kitchen to write the first Rolling Stones and the rest is history. His loyalty to friends might help explain the longevity of the Rolling Stones band. Instead of being incensed by Mick Jagger's attempt at a solo career, Keith was hurt. He believed that Jagger had fallen in love with his own image and thus had lost touch with the music. Keith too wrote and performed as a solo artist however he always left an opening in his heart for Mick to return. Keith remained with his first wife until her love was completely overtaken by drugs and he's been with his second wife for 30 years. He's had the same manager for decades and he's provided support and companionship to his father ever since they reunited in 1982. Bobby Keys has been a buddy of his from the beginning. Ironically, drugs might have played a role in Mr. Richards success. He never seemed to care about fame and glory very possibly because he was too busy looking for his next fix, dodging the police, playing concerts, and writing songs for their next album. He didn't have the time or energy to listen to all the people who might have thought he was an entity greater than the rest of mankind. Fortunately, Keith says that he could afford only the best quality drugs that were not laced with poison and so did not cause him permanent damage. Mr. Richards tells a story of hard work and luck and someone who truly loves his craft.
on December 12, 2010
Keith Richards is not just a brilliant guitarist and song writer... his book is clever and funny, and surprisingly thoughtful. He includes stories about growing up in England and struggling before the Stones hit it big. Some tales of Keith's exploits are written by his famous friends. There is more to Keith than meets the eye; he is not afraid to speak his mind about anything...and anyONE!Life
on January 3, 2011
Although there aren't really any surprises in this book Keith Richards has told a story about rock bands, guitars, drugs, chicks and loyalty. This is a man who is still in awe of the talent he started out emulating to the talent he became. No excuses made for the wild side of his life there are still a few lessons to be learned by this humble rock God. This a great read if you are a fan of any kind of music!
So, who is Keith Richards? A young man asked me this question when I was holding this book a week or so ago. I answered by reference to the Rolling Stones: he'd heard of them. Made me remember, though, just how long the Stones have been part of my musical life. It's been over 40 years. The Rolling Stones were formed in 1962 - almost 50 years ago. Amazing.
When I decided to read this book, I was interested in reading what Keith Richards would have to say about the public aspects of his life as both a talented musician and a drug addict. I was also interested in his view of the successes and excesses of the Rolling Stones. But mostly, I wanted to see something of the man behind the legend.
It's an interesting read: the first part is personal history; the second part is public legend; and the final part is where a more mellow (it's a relative term) Keith Richards exists. Keith Richards has survived the excesses of his past, and his memoir is peopled with many who did not. Some of the legends (curing his heroin addiction through a blood transfusion in Switzerland, and snorting his father's ashes) are explained and can be dismissed. Others - the detailed substance abuse - serve to underline how fortunate Richards was to survive.
Three aspects of the book stand out for me: the historical account of a rock and roll world of excess (in which women were `chicks' or `bitches'); the details of the music Richards made, and those musical heroes who inspired him; and his relationship with Mick Jagger. The historical account is in many ways not new: others have written about the Stones and memoirs of excess are neither new nor uncommon. It's Keith Richards's writing about his musical influences and the process of writing songs and making music, though, which makes this memoir most interesting.
`Life' is worth reading. Not just for fans of the Rolling Stones and those who wondered how Keith Richards has managed to survive, but also for those who are interested in the history of rock and roll music and culture.
Unlike alot of autobiographies that I have read, Keith Richards has ample material for the reader in "Life". There's not very many people in the universe who could entertain me into turning over 500 pages, however, I couldn't stop!! A fascinating character to begin with, finally hearing it all from "the horses mouth" just made it every bit more enjoyable. I can't decide what I enjoyed more, the music, the history, the Stones tales, his life? It is all so seamlessly put together that it becomes very well rounded and just a pleasure to read. I just wonder what else was left on the editing floor, if you want to release it I'll read that as well! Very well done, thanks!
You're either a Rolling Stones fan or you're not; and if you are, likely you're either a Keith fan or a Mick fan. As a lifelong Keith fan, I of course immediately picked up "Life", Richards' autobiography (co-written with James Fox), although I didn't expect to learn anything new about this man's life, given how much has been written in tabloids and other books over the years. Well, I didn't really learn anything new, except that his habit of referring to women as either "chicks" or "b*****s" got to be annoying after a while. What really comes through in this book is his obvious love and deep understanding of music, not just his own music but any and all music, everywhere. It's often been said that while Mick Jagger is the face of the Stones, Keith is the band's soul, and this largely warm-hearted autobiography just gives us further proof of that. I'm not sure that anybody not already a fan would be too interested in the book - there's only so many ways to talk about drugs, addiction and legal problems, after all - but for those of us who are fans, this is a worthy addition to the Stones canon. Recommended.
on February 9, 2013
Au début c'est très intéressant, sa jeunesse, la formation des Stones, le début de la gloire, puis ça dégénère, la drogue, encore la drogue, toujours la drogue.
Après le début, où la musique est l'univers dans lequel il se réfugie, où il nous dévoile ses influences musicales, où il nous entretient des souffrances d'être un jeune musicien, ma foi, presque à contre-courant de son époque, on arrive là où l'argent cesse d'être un rêve, et où tout devient possible.
Mais il y a la drogue. Il en fait tellement l'apologie, pendant tant de pages, qu'on croirait que les côtés sombres de l'existance dans lesquels la drogue le mène sont insignifiants. Puis on finit par se rendre compte qu'a force d'en mettre il réussit à nous écoeurer, et là, on saisit son approche. On finit par comprendre qu'il est en train de nous enseigner que, qui qu'on soit, quelque soit notre puissance et notre fortune, on restera toujours plus faible que la drogue ; soumis à elle.
On voit toute sa vie graviter autour de son accoutumance ; les gens dont il s'entoure, les lieux qu'il fréquente, tout est dicté par son besoin de drogue. Il en arrive aux mêmes bassesses que tous les drogués qui hantent les rues, à la différence près qu'il n'a pas besoin de voler puisque l'argent ne lui manque jamais. Il ne parle plus de musique, ne nous entretient plus de composition, de spectacles, d'évolution, à moins que ce ne soit relié à la drogue.
Arrive enfin la dernière partie du livre ; c'est à croire que son éditeur lui avait limité le nombre de pages, et qu'il ne lui en restait que 50 à écrire, avec encore 10 ans de sa vie à raconter. Tout se condense. On y voit même apparaître son côté prima-dona ; lui qui avait pris bien soin de toujours se donner le beau rôle dans le corps du livre, il nous laisse enfin entrevoir l'aspect enfant-gâté de sa personnalité.
Dans l'ensemble, si on aime la musique des Stones, on va adorer cette visite à l'intérieur du phénomène. Si on déteste, pourquoi est-on en train de lire cette critique ?
on March 5, 2012
On the inside jacket cover of Keith Richard's autobiography, Life, it reads in Keith's handwriting: "This is the Life. Believe it or not I haven't forgotten any of it. Thanks and praises, Keith Richards".
Well, it seems pretty amazing to me that Keith could remember everything that has happened to him in his extraordinary life, considering I'm 21 years younger and can't remember everything about my own less than extraordinary life and haven't consumed a fraction of the drugs that he has! However, I will say that with his co-writer James Fox's help, Richards has written a very compelling road trip of a tale of what life has been like for him from the time he was a boy in Dartford, England (he was especially close to his mum, Doris & Aunt Patty and we are privy to some of his letters to her), to his grandfather Gus teaching him his first guitar lick, to the day he met his destiny - and perhaps arch nemesis - in the form of the young Mick Jagger, to the day they formed The Rolling Stones; and later, to the lows of heroin addiction as well as Keith's joy in being a part of the X-pensive Winos and the Wingless Angels.
The hefty, award-winning (Norman Mailer Prize) tome opens with a recount of Keith's bust in Arkansas during the 1975 Stones tour with much humour and fond recollection for both foolish choices and dangerous behaviour. He reviews other busts as well, including one at his English home in Redlands, at Nellcote in France, and the infamous 1977 Toronto arrest, and doesn't shy away from talking about his drug consumption, what happened at Altamont in 1969, Stones mythology, or his own, at times, less than flattering behaviour. If it wasn't for their powerhouse criminal lawyer, Bill Carter, Richards would have spent a lot more of his rocker days behind bars. Keith recalls, "The choice always was a tricky one for the authorities who arrested us. Do you want to lock them up, or have your photograph taken with them and give them a motorcade to see them on their way?" All laws do not apply to celebrities or really wealthy people and never have.
A lot of what has been written about Keith Richards has been fabricated or twisted by his own careless exclamations and the truth is that he has never had a blood transfusion; he just has a phenomenal constitution.
"I can't untie the threads of how much I played up to the part that was written for me. I mean the skull ring and the broken tooth and the kohl. Is it half and half? I think in a way your persona, your image, as it used to be known, is like a ball and chain. People think I'm still a goddamn junkie. It's thirty years since I gave up the dope! Image is like a long shadow. Even when the sun goes down, you can see it. I think some of it is that there is so much pressure to be that person that you become it, maybe, to a certain point that you can bear. It's impossible not to end up being a parody of what you thought you were."
What shines through in Keith's Life is his absolute, undying passion for music, the legendary musicians who have influenced him throughout his career (Louis Armstrong, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters), his on-again, off-again love affair with The Stones, and his unquestionable love for his family: wife Patti Hansen, son Marlon, daughter Angela (whose mother is Anita Pallenberg) and daughters Alexandra & Theodora with Patti. He talks a lot about the technical aspects of being a musician and as a non-musician, that wasn't quite as interesting for me, but I loved reading about his friendships and escapades with other celebs and infamous music figures.
There are some wonderful glossy black & white and colour photos from Richards' archives in two sections of the book as well as black & white memories at the beginning of each chapter with a synopsis of the main events covered in the chapter which makes the book easy to skim through to find what you're looking for.
I found Keith's relationships with Gram Parsons and John Lennon ("He was so open. In anybody else, this could be embarrassing. But John had this honesty to his eyes that made you go for him. Had an intensity too. He was a one-off. Like me.") very interesting and poignant, and reliving his relationship with Anita Pallenberg was somewhat akin to a raucous amusement park ride. Brian Jones seemed to be a walking disaster from the start, but we don't get to know much about Mick Taylor (except that he was quite moody), Ron Wood or Bill Wyman as Keith is closest to Charlie Watts. We get a peripheral view of what was going on in the other band member's lives from time to time, but this is, after all, Keith's story and if you're looking for the truth about the Glimmer Twins, you'll get his side of the story here. I also noticed that he is a total gentleman when it comes to describing the women in his life and there have been a few (first love Haleema Mohamed, Ronnie Spector, Linda Keith & Uschi Obermaier), and is very loyal to his mates too.
I concluded from reading Keith's book that Mick Jagger is the cold, pretentious, entitled prick I always thought he was ("Mick doesn't like to trust anybody. I'll trust you until you prove you're not trustworthy. And maybe that's the major difference between us.") which is why I never really liked him or have considered myself a huge Stones fan even though I always thought that Keith was one, cool, f***ing freak of nature. It's quite a miracle really that the band didn't break up 30 years ago. Charlie Watts has probably just as much to do with their longevity than anyone else in the band, but Keith is indubitably its heart and soul. Perhaps because of the fact that for "many years I slept, on average, twice a week," Keith Richards has done more in his 69 years than most people do if they live to be 120.
I love much of the Stones' music because they created brilliant songs that are indelibly etched into the soundtrack of my youth (You Can't Always Get What You Want, Sympathy For The Devil, Paint It Black, Gimme Shelter, Satisfaction, Angie). I regret, sadly, that I've never seen them in concert and likely never will. However, reading Keith Richards' Life does help to dull the pain and it's a helluva fun trip too!
I've had Life on my nightstand for a couple of months now. I've got some old vinyl (High Tide and Green Grass - the original 1966 release) on the turntable while I try to put thoughts to paper. Now, I wasn't buying music myself in '66 - but my youngest uncle was. I grew up listening to and loving all things rock 'n roll.
And really - Keith Richards is all things rock 'n roll. The Rolling Stone's longevity (creeping up on 50 years) is legendary. Just as legendary is guitarist Richards's longevity. Indeed - it has been asked many times - how is he still alive?
Richards is known for his excessive drug and alcohol use. I think what I expected when I started reading Life was a tell all book. But I was pleasantly proven wrong. Richards is intelligent, thoughtful, honest and funny. Much more complex than I would have thought. Yes,of course there are the drugs - they did play a huge part of his life, but he makes no excuses for it. It's part of his life, part of his past, part of what made him who he is.
It is his love of music that shines through the most though. The beginnings and birth of rock and roll in Britain, the exodus to the US, the players who started it all. Richards was there. These are the reminiscences I enjoyed the most. The 'gossip' is there as well. The friendship and rifts with Jagger are also an integral part of Richards' life. His relationship with women, his children and his love for his family. Lots of surprising details about the man himself as well. A human face to put with the legendary tales.
Life reads as a rambling conversation with a darn good storyteller. And there's always another story after that last one. I enjoyed reading this over the course of a couple of months. I like the pictures included in the book - lots of personal shots as well as band shots.
Life has been steadily on The New York Times Bestseller list since it's release. And it deserves to be. Recommended rock and roll reading.