My Useless Opinion: Life by Keith Richards
Keith Richards spent ten years in the number one spot of the New Musical Express list of rock stars most likely to die. This was in the 70’s. Nearly 40 years later Keith Richards is still alive making music with the Rolling Stones, a band he formed and, along with Mick Jagger, became the foundation of. After reading Life, Richards’ incredibly entertaining autobiography, you’ll realize how unlikely this is. Keith Richards should not be alive.
Play a word association game with Keith Richards and it won’t take long to arrive at drugs. Life starts off with a story related to a drug bust, and the stories continue throughout the 500 plus pages. Richards, to his credit, neither boasts nor shies away from his drug use. Many rock biographies touch on drug use and then quickly move on. Drug use was such an integral part of Keith Richards life, that he discusses drug use in the same a common person describes the weekend. Richards has moved on from many of his vices (no more heroin or cocaine), he regrets none of them. There is no self-righteous “don’t do drugs” spiel at the end. Richards did a hell of a lot of drugs, more than nearly anyone who has lived to tell about it, and he was quite successful while doing it. If there’s a lesson in there somewhere, I didn’t find it.
Not surprisingly, Keith’s relationship with Mick Jagger is also a running theme throughout the book. Few duos in rock history have had more public infighting than the Glimmer Twins. At one point Richards describes the relationship, saying: ”Sometimes I think, ‘I miss my friend’. I wonder, ‘Where did he go?’.” It’s clear that Mick and Keith love each other, but they’re certainly not best friends.
If I have one criticism of Life, is that Richards spends a somewhat excessive amount of time on his side and solo projects, and not enough time on the Stones. If you’re looking for an in-depth look into how Sticky Fingers was made, you’re looking to the wrong place. This is not The Beatles Anthology. There is no track by track discussion of Let it Bleed. You will, however, get several pages on the formation of the Wingless Angels and Keith’s various other musical projects. That’s not to say that there are not entertaining stories surrounding these projects, because craziness seemed to follow Richards, but I would have preferred more pages dedicated to the Stones’ music.
Perhaps no character in rock and roll history has led a more outrageous existence than Keith Richards, and that alone makes Life a must read. While not a play-by-play of every Stones song recorded, it does give you the feelings and emotions behind many of their best records. If you’re not a Stones fan, there are more than enough sex, drugs, and rock and roll stories to keep you entertained throughout. This is easily one of the best books on rock and roll you’ll find. Read it.