No one reading Keith Richards’ Life should expect the book to describe a normal one. Massive amounts of drugs, especially heroin, legal battles in the court and on the street, fights and accidents. Who knew that he carries a knife and knows how to use it?
All this makes for fascinating reading, if you are interested in drug stories. He began with pharmaceutical grade cocaine and heroin, tried everything else and is hardly apologetic. But if you want to learn about his relationships with his bandmates, for example, forget it.
Obviously he couldn’t get away with writing a book without describing his love/hate relationship with Mick Jaggar, but other brief mentions of his dislike for Brian Jones (whose girlfriend he stole) and his huge respect for Charlie Watts, the other Rolling Stones are largely absent from this story. Richards’ best friends were Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys and other musicians like Gram Parsons, fellow heroin users and wild men.
So don’t read Keith Richards’ Life for another history of the Rolling Stones. Read it to hear Richards’ story, as he tells it. His passion for music is especially compelling. Although they are known for rock and roll, in the beginning the Stones were a blues band, Chicago style, in the vein of Muddy Waters, who Richards both idolized and studied intensely.
I found his development as a guitarist especially interesting – his signature five-string tuning and method of writing the Stones’ biggest hits. Life is a good story, written in a conversational style, which will put off readers who aren’t interested in the ups and downs of a junkie or don’t want to hear women referred to as bitches.
Me, I liked it a lot – what do we expect from Keith Richards? A normal life?