I’ve just finished Keith Richard’s autobiography and it has got to be the ultimate guide in how to live life to the full. That doesn’t do it nearly enough justice though. This is a tale of an extraordinary love of music, an account of the trials and tribulations of being in one of the greatest rock bands ever known (yes, in my opinion!) yet also a journey through excess, addition, love, despair and redemption. Richards recounts his life thus far in a surprisingly articulate and witty manner with a frankness that’s incredibly humbling. “The Human Riff” as he has come to be known, comes across as a thoroughly nice guy.
In addition to the expected talk of the legendary rock n roll lifestyle, the inevitable drugs and, of course, the turbulent relationship with Jagger (which in itself is fascinating) this book has introduced me to a whole world of different characters from the 60s and 70s. Some of which are just as interesting as the very man himself.
Anita Pallenberg was one who took my interest. Pallenberg played an unusual role in the male-dominated world of rock music in the late 60s, acting as much more than just a groupie. A woman described as “so powerful, so full of strength and determination that men came to lean on her”. She seemed to be the epitome of “rock chic” style, whether it was in music, fashion or film, but it was this very lifestyle of addiction and following in Keef’s dangerous footsteps that very nearly destroyed her.
Life identifies various other artists who have played a particularly prominent role in Richard’s life, whether as music artists or simply as friends. Gram Parsons was one such guy who was enormously influential for both country and rock music, blending the two genres to the point that they became indistinguishable from each other. Parsons became a vital part of the sessions for Exile on Main street recorded down in the infamous Villa Nellcote (in the south of France) where the Stones escaped to in the early 70s. (Needless to say, Gram Parsons met the usual end of an overdose).
Another powerful character was the legendary Bobby Keys who was influential, not just with the Stones but with The Who, The Beatles, Eric Clapton and many more. Bobby Keys was, and continues to be, the ultimate American saxophone player but later became another disruptor in the complex relationship between Jagger and Richards.
The cast list goes on and on from Woody Guthrie and Bo Diddley to Etta James and Marianne Faithful, not to mention other greats such as Chuck Berry, Cecil Beaton and Muddy Waters. So not only is this a top-quality read and a great account of a man who denied himself nothing (and yet is miraculously still alive!), it has also introduced me to a whole new world of talented artists.