I just finished Life by Keith Richards. It was one of those inevitable Christmas presents that was so perfect for me that I got it twice. As expected it was wonderful. As an avid reader of music biographies, many of them suffer from being ghost written and too factual. This is definitely an exception. Keith’s personality and attitude comes across in the book really really well, and we are given a wonderful insight into one of the most interesting characters of the 20th Century.
With a life like Keith Richards there was a danger of a long list of boastful antics running into each other. Instead, the book manages to present a very human journey which takes in the sex, drugs, and rock and roll but also gives you an insight into a world and an environment where it is extremely normal, in fact Keith’s regrets with drugs don’t seem to go beyond the annoyance at the powers that be arresting him.
As a Stones fan or I guess any music fan, it is a joy to listen to Keith’s passion for music. From the music hall standards imparted to him by his grandfather to spiritual reggae jams in Jamaica, Keith knows what he likes. His pure and selfless joy of music without any consideration for the current vogue seems to be the only thing more solid than his will to survive.
Much of the press for the memoir focused on the biting and scandalous remarks about Mick Jagger. These don’t exist. The book presents an honest brotherly relationship which has had its ups and downs, seen better days, and weathered some storms, but all it serves to do is further the perception of Keith Richard as the ultimate gun slinging man’s man. There’s very little in the book that I think would piss Mick off. I’ve always thought he was a little arrogant, and I’m sure it is no surprise to hear it from his partner in crime.
All in all, Life is wonderful and I recommend it to all my muso mates and just about anyone else who will listen. The book gave me a good excuse to get out some of the more obscure Stones albums and give them a listen with the knowledge of a few more anecdotes. While the existence of the book proves that Keith is no longer (if he ever was) a junkie lay-about it, also gives you a hint that much of the myth that is ‘Keef’ has been created by the man himself with a wry humour and a twinkle in his eye.
I don’t see any evidence in the book that Keith is slowing down, so let’s hope that he writes a few more gems like this as it’s a pleasure to read.