I just finished reading Keith Richards’ memoir, Life. All of the fabled stories are there – the drug busts, the flair-ups with Mick, taking Anita Pallenberg from Brian Jones. And when Richards can’t quite remember the details he has guests come in and fill in the details. When I first heard that Richards was calling his book Life, I wondered if he should come up with a better title. While Life portrays an extraordinary life – it’s also hilarious, heartbreaking, and honest. Basically, life in general.
Of course Richards, being Richards he’s unapologetic for most things. He finds it hilarious that he was on the most likely die list for 10 years. And when it comes to heroin he suggests he never over-dosed because he wasn’t greedy – he only got enough to get him high. Take those comments as you will. But if you go into Life thinking this is all you’re getting than it’s your loss – Richards dedication to his craft shines through every heroin and alcohol-fueled moment. Rarely has such enthusiasm for simply playing music come through in a book.
Many musicians have suggested that being in a band is like being in a gang – you can’t leave unless you die. Richards takes this view to heart – Mick Taylor never fit in because he left. And Richards’ fights with Mick Jagger are famous at this point. In Richards’ world you can fuck each other girlfriends, but don’t ever abandon your post. That’s the ultimate betrayal. Richards is pretty vicious towards Jagger throughout Life. Some journalists and rock critics have wondered whether The Rolling Stones will tour after Life’s publication. I’m willing to bet yes – because I’m willing all of the criticisms and jabs aren’t anything new to Jagger. And Richards has probably said worse to him in his face.
Which brings me to my point about the love of simply playing. The core of The Rolling Stones love their craft, and believe in their songs and what they have to offer the public. Sure, sometimes it can sometimes be over the top. They’re not the same band they were in the late 60s and early 70s. I suggested a while ago that Mick Jagger could gracefully if he put out more songs like “Old Habits Die Hard”. It’s a great song, but I might have been wrong in my assessment. Would you really want Keith Richards and Mick Jagger to age gracefully? They were not graceful in the first place – that’s what made them The Rolling Stones in the first place.
Life proves that Richards doesn’t plan on aging gracefully. He’s ready to give two middle fingers to those that think otherwise. But more than that he’s proving that passion for rock and roll doesn’t go away with age.