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Life by Keith Richards

March 17, 2011

Life: Keith Richards

Skeletons In the Closet – Forget About It!

Keith Richards’ memoir, Life, is a great read on so many levels and for so many reasons I don’t know where to begin. The first reason may actually qualify this book as a self-help tome for those who carry around a ton of guilt regarding a past full of bad choices. Life will make your checkered past look as though you’ve been living the life of a monk in comparison. Believe me when I say that nothing you’ve ever done could come close to Richards’ life lived in extremis. No amount of drinking, debauchery, even gun-toting partying could come close to the life Richards’ portrays in this tell-all. It’s an Our Father combined with a three Hail Mary pass for those of you still having flashbacks about that time you dropped acid and ran naked through your neighbor’s yard.

That he lived to tell about it is another reason entirely. The guy deserves your ear. He’s 67 and still going strong and there’s a lot to learn from him about living the life you dream of and never leaving a stone unturned when opportunity knocks. He worked hard, played hard, and amazingly remembers everything down to how much cocaine he did, where he hid it, who the judge was (there were a lot of them), and what he was wearing at the time. His story unfolds with total candor and lots of humility, amazingly. He comes across as quite a likable guy who could charm your grandmother.

Of course, there’s also the fact that he was the life force of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band of all time and that’s not just my opinion. Try and name any other band besides The Rolling Stones that wrote so many great songs, over such a long span, with so many hits, and just so much of everything, AND, is still out there doing it in their sixties. You can’t – there is no one else.

For those of us who rocked along with the Stones in the late 60s and into the 70s, this book is a special treat. It’s a time capsule that will make you want to dig around in closet for your black leather pants and boots, find a big doobie,  and kick up the volume on Let It Bleed, which I’m listening to right now (without the getup or the doobie). Since Richards remembers everything, you’ll be able to fill in the blanks on what actually happened back then – a big help for the boomers out there.

Finally, for us music geeks, there’s plenty to keep you happy with details on how they wrote many of their best songs. Apparently, Richards can write songs in his sleep as well as when he’s falling down drunk or on a seven-day heroin binge. He talks a lot about open five-string tuning that he discovered in the late sixties and used in Brown Sugar, Honky Tonk Women and Satisfaction. I love the shout-outs to all the Chicago rhythm and blues musicians who Richards say influenced him. In fact, he gives plenty of credit all the way around cuz that’s just the kinda guy he is.

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