Sunday, July 24, 2011

“Life” by Keith Richards: Tales Of A Soul Survivor

Life by Keith Richards with James Fox. Illustrated. 564 pp. Little, Brown & Company. $16.99 (paperback)

The Rolling Stones were among the English rock bands that revived the American blues tradition, as Keith Richards states in his autobiographical Life: “…we turned American people back on to their own music. And that’s probably our greatest contribution to music.” Richards and Mick Jagger soon realized, though, that they’d have to write their own songs to endure as a rock band. In doing so, Richards' dedication as a musician and songwriter is evident: “What makes you want to write songs? In a way you want to stretch yourself into other people’s hearts….where other people become a bigger instrument than the one you’re playing.”

Richards' account, of course, doesn’t just reflect his dedication to his craft. He spent years as a junkie, and no matter where the band played, his first concern was scoring heroin and his second was not getting busted. There are also plenty of wry observations, most notably toward Jagger. Richards lays out his love-hate relationship with the lead singer, portraying Jagger as often controlling and vain: “It was the beginning of the ‘80s when Mick started to become unbearable. That’s when he became Brenda, or Her Majesty, or just Madam.” He's also honest about his image: “I can’t untie the threads of how much I played up the to the part that was written for me. I mean the skull ring and the broken tooth… I think in a way your persona, your image…is like a ball and chain.”

The Richards of today leads a “gentleman’s life” in Connecticut, enjoying Mozart and history books while still pursuing musical projects with and without the Stones. Eventually he had to settle down after living a life that many thought wouldn’t have lasted as long as it has. Richards’ rendering of that life has resulted in one of rock’s greatest memoirs.


Michael The Molar Maven said...

I can't help but think about Amy Winehouse right now.

Jeff Tone said...

I thought about that too. Seems that Keith escaped Amy's fate.