Life (Review)

Keith Richards [Little Brown Publishers]

Even though Keith Richards worked with professional writer James Fox on this long-awaited memoir, the voice sounds dead-on true to the “Keef” we know from countless interviews, concert footage, Rolling Stones songs, run-ins with the law, etc. — profane, rambling yet blunt, rough-edged and potentially violent, funny, defiant about his bad habits, passionately unafraid to say what he means and mean what he says.

The result is that, while at 550 pages this book is too long (especially concerning the Stones’ more recent albums and tours), it’s fearlessly juicy and forthcoming about Richards’ life of decadence and drug addiction from the mid-1960s through the 1970s (and even beyond). While Richards gave up heroin in 1979 and now seems happily married to Patti Hansen, he remains a pretty edgy guy.

The book is also rhapsodic about the music Richards loves and instructional on the way he devised a rhythmic, riff-heavy, non-virtuosic guitar approach to powering Stones classics like “Satisfaction,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Gimme Shelter” and all of Exile on Main St. Richards’ memory seems in pretty good shape — although for more details the book seeks out “witness” accounts from various friends and family members.

Richards is admiring yet hard on Mick Jagger — he sneers at Mick’s failed shot at a solo career and his brief dalliance with Anita Pallenberg, Richards’ self-destructive longtime partner. She, by the way, makes Courtney Love look like Taylor Swift by comparison.

For anyone planning casting for the inevitable biopic or cable series (“Mad Rockers?”), the book is filled with paeans to some of his amazingly colorful friends, lovers, music-makers and drug buddies. There are the hip, knowing British art dealer Robert Fraser; wild-man American music pal Bobby Keys; Country-Rock musician (and fellow addict) Gram Parsons and many more. What a long strange trip it’s been, and he’s very much still alive (and alert) to tell about it. Grade: B

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