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Keith Richards – All About the Music

November 19, 2012

I’ve just finished Keith Richards’s autobiography. It can be summed up in a few words that read like tags. So I’ll spare you the review, and focus on the tags. You’ll get the gist:

Blues, guitar technique, songs, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, heroin, cocaine, police busts, guns, knives, death by excess, groupies, sex, sexism, shysters, hangers-on, megatours and survival against the odds.

The book was actually published two years ago, and has been sitting in my library unread until now. What prompted me to read it? Well to start with, I bought it! And then the other day I was looking back on an earlier time, as I guess we all do occasionally. The Rolling Stones were of my era, but I lost them in the late 70s when I gave up youthful dreams and got a proper job.

I can’t say my life in the 60s and 70s was in any way comparable to that of Keith Richards. But I did spend a few years in the music business, and I did witness excess at close hand, even if for reasons of finance and lack of inclination I tended to be an observer rather than a participant.

What I found interesting about his book, Life, was how much the guy cares about his music.  Yes, in order to sell a few million copies of the book, he had to bring up all the other stuff, like his feud with Jagger, his chemical habits and countless encounters with cops in a number of countries.

But the consistent theme throughout the book was his deep love of his craft. He talks about his own technique and what he has learned from other musicians. He tracks his development as a musician over his 50-odd-year career, and goes into great detail about the genesis of many of the Stones’ greatest songs.

Which goes to show that lasting success in a given field often comes from passion, curiosity, open-mindedness and resilience, even if the chaos you leave in your wake conspires against you.

You don’t have to like the guy, but you do have to respect him.

Here’s what he says about getting old:

I can rest on my laurels. I’ve stirred up enough crap in my time and I’ll live with it and see how somebody else deals with it. But then there’s that word “retiring”. I can’t retire until I croak. There’s carping about us being old men. The fact is, I’ve always said, if we were black and our name was Count Basie or Duke Ellington, everybody would be going yeah, yeah, yeah. White rock and rollers apparently are not supposed to do this at our age. But I’m not here just to make records and money. I’m here to say something and to touch other people, sometimes in a cry of desperation: “Do you know this feeling?”

I can relate to that.

From → Art, Books, Media, Music, UK

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