“I ain’t gonna be around forever,” joked Keith Richards. “Not even me.” Many have joked that the rock icon is going to literally live forever. But, even Keith knows that isn’t the truth. “Well, yeah,” he said. “It’s between me and the roaches.” Despite the joke, it certainly seems like he’s going to keep going and going.
Keith Richards just turned 74 years old. His wife of 34 years, Patti Hansen, lives with him in Connecticut, along with their dogs Sugar and Ruby Tuesday. The guitarist for the Rolling Stones will often dog sit while his wife visits family and his band takes a break from their slightly less than grueling schedule.
Even though he’s in his mid-70s, the rocker still looks ready to perform. He’s often seen in a black tee and jeans. He doesn’t try to hide his wrinkles, but he remains lean and focused on the job. He’s also never too far away from a pack of Marlboro Reds, playing cards, and a stack of CDs from artists like Chuck Berry and Mozart.
Today, Richards is surprisingly docile and domesticated even though he’ll forever be associated as one of the most celebrated outlaws in rock and roll. But, he’s less likely to be swigging whiskey, swallowing drugs, or running from the law these days. Some of this is due to the fact that writing his memoir, Life, nearly wrecked the icon.
According to Richards, the fame is actually what created the addiction. “I never particularly liked being that famous,” he told The New York Times. “I could face people easier on the stuff, but I could do that with booze, too. It isn’t really the whole answer,” he added.
Keith Richards Lives Up To The Legend
Musician Keith Richards is the heart and soul of the Rolling Stones. He’s a rebellion. He’s a desperado. And, he’s often been called the coolest guy on earth at any given time. Surprisingly, his new memoir Life made all of these jokes, rumors, and legends more powerful rather.
Most of the book that nearly wrecked him is about the consequences of fame. He nearly lost all of his privacy and the myth of fan and folk-hero legend is somewhat different all together. “I can’t untie the threads of how much I played up to the part that was written for me,” he said.
“I mean the skull ring and the broken tooth and the kohl. Is it half and half?” he said. “I think in a way your persona, your image, as it used to be known, is like a ball and chain. People think I’m still a goddamn junkie. It’s 30 years since I was gave up the dope. Image is like a shadow. Even when the sun goes down, you see it,” he added.
Thanks to various notebooks, the rocker told his life they way he remembered it and used journals and notes to fill in the blanks. In the end, his book was a surprisingly-accurate time-capsule from the madness of living as a Rolling Stone. The book particularly focused on the time before Altamont.
In addition to Richards, journalist James Fox helped report the counterculture and coming of age portrait from the rocker’s notes. In addition, The New York Times also describes it as “an eye-opening all-nighter” and the “intimate and moving story of one man’s long strange trip over the decades” told without caution.
Die-hard fans will also get to hear detailed discussions about the writing process for songs like “Gimme Shelter” and “Ruby Tuesday.”
The Energizer Bunny With A Guitar
“I think the band is sound better than it ever has. Does it matter? To us, it does,” said Keith Richards to The Wall Street Journal Magazine. Most fans can’t believe that the Stones are still touring, but Keith has said they simply love to perform. Some nights are better than others, but they simply love to be on stage.
“There’s a certain thing in this band, which I find really weird, is that they just want to do it,” said Richards. “some nights we’re better than others, of course, but all I know about this damn band is that they always want to make it better than the night before.” Given their timeline, that would put them at the top of their game.
Richards has said that need to be better and better is what keeps them wanting to perform. “I actually wanted four or five more shows,” he said. “It stopped just as we were peaking.” In addition to the constant touring, the band is also continually working on new albums and new music.
In 2005, they came out with A Bigger Bang and Richards enjoyed the way it turned out. But, with the new on again and off again album, they’re less concerned with the same sense of urgency. This is somewhat of an upset for fans, but it’s quite possible that Richards will be around forever, so he’s not too worried.
“It will happen,” he said about a potential new album. “But it’s in the early stages.” The guitarist said they had some lyrics down but the band generally spends more time with family and taking breaks than they ever have before. Some of this is because of physical needs, but they certainly also deserve a break.
As Good As They Have Ever Been
Record producer and executive producer Don Was has worked with the band since the 1990s. Was has said, “The songwriting that Keith and Mick did [in 2017] was really something to behold. The three of us sat in a room, with them facing each other, five feet apart, with guitars, and there’s something magical,” he said.
Was actually said they still remind him of how good they were when they all started five decades ago. The main reason Richards remains so focused is because he never really turns off the songwriting part of his brain. Due to this, he is always working and doesn’t want to let up anytime soon.
“Writing songs, you don’t get a minute off, not even to sleep,” said Keith Richards about the creative process. “You wake up in the middle of the night with a couple of notes in your head, and you’ve got to get out of bed and figure it out. It’s like being incontinent—either you’ve got to pee, or you’ve got to lay this little line down.”
Surprisingly, for Richards, this also means seeing what sticks. If he does get up in the middle of the night, he’ll head to the guitar or the piano. If he plays a song, he doesn’t record. His logic is that if the song or melody doesn’t stick with him until the following day then it’s no good anyway.
“If I don’t remember it, it’s no good,” he mused. But, if he sings it and it eventually gets stuck in his wife or daughter’s head, the song must be good.
A Long Road After The 1960s To Today
Despite Richards need to create, it’s a long way from the 1960s where the Rolling Stones were chasing the Beatles up and down the charts. The pressure, back then, was clearly more powerful, but so were the risks and the rewards. Back then, they had to write a hit song every three months just to remain in the spotlight.
“Now I have the pleasure and luxury of taking as long as I like,” he mused. “I’ve got songs on the burner that are 15 years old. I’m still not satisfied with them,” he added. What might be most interesting about these burner songs is that he’s not at all concerned with current trends in music.
Richards basically ignores pop music and new technology. He doesn’t really have an opinion about people like Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift. Instead, he focuses on his own lyrics and melody. Richards said he never really did like pop music, even when he felt like they were making pop music. He still prefers jazz and blues, over “the hits.”
That said, he does enjoy Lady Gaga, who toured with the Stones not so long ago. Richards also had a fascination with Amy Winehouse, but neither Gaga or Winehouse are like most trendy hits. New influences or not, the Stones still had the second-highest grossing tour of all time from 2005 until 2007.
Instead, he still spends his waking hours studying Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and Robert Johnson. For Richards, anything less than studying the great blues icons is basically just a sin.
Spending More Time With Wife, Patti Hansen
Now that the kids are out of the house, touring for Keith Richards isn’t so bad because his wife Patti Hansen can now tag along. “It’s probably more fun now because it’s just Keith and me and the dog,” she said. “Touring now is just time for us to be together.”
Surprisingly, spending more time with his wife actually helps the icon’s wardrobe. The heavily accessorized look later inspired Johnny Depp’s character Jack Sparrow and even led to a Louis Vuitton campaign for the rocker. The guitarist said that part of his look comes from sharing his wardrobe with his wife.
“I think most of the reason that people that I have style is because I wear my old lady’s clothes,” he joked. “I’ve always done that… I wear the same size, so I take this one and this one.” Around the house, this is pajamas and satins, but out in public he believes he can make anything work. “It’s totally unmanufactured,” he said.
All that aside, he once again spoke about how writing the memoir nearly killed him. In the end, it was therapeutic and important for his life. Not only did he relive the stories, but he also got to share the truth about his persona with adoring fans.
The Book That Nearly Killed Keith Richards
“Writing that book almost kill me, man,” said Keith Richards. “By the time I’d gone through the entire career, I felt like I’d died twice.” Telling the book to his co-author made the aging rocker feel like he had to relive all of those occasions. Many of the things in the book took time to recover from, so that means a secondary recovery.
“It took me a couple of years to recover” from incidents in the book, said Richards. The book recalibrated a lot of people’s thinking about Richards as a person. This is mainly due to fans preconceived notions of the rock star. In reality, the book opened up a part of his persona that was often misrepresented.
Perhaps the therapeutic aspects of retelling the stories also helped Richards see just how important he is for fans and the culture at large. “It took a big weight off his shoulders to get that done,” said his wife. “It was very heart-wrenching, bringing all that up, and Keith doesn’t really like talking about himself,” she concluded.
In the end, the guitarist was thrilled to get the weight off of his shoulders. “I like the way it worked out,” he said of the book. “But it’s a hell of a thing trying to tell your story and still trying to protect your friends and neighbors… I could be cute and say I’m thinking about a second one…but I ain’t gonna go through that again.”
Instead, he’s going to get back to the music. When they started working on new tunes, Richards also brought the cover song “Blue and Lonesome.” The new songs weren’t working, so they dove into the blues hit. Soon after, Mick Jagger suggested singing “Howlin’ Wolf” and then they recorded the full album in five days.
It took some arm bending for Richards to talk Jagger into releasing a blues album, but the band finally got on the same page and came out with Blue & Lonesome.
What did you think of this blues album from the Rolling Stones?