Inside the dust jacket of his new book, Keith Richards has left an inscription:
“This is the Life. Believe it or not, I haven’t forgotten any of it. Thanks and praises, Keith Richards”
Perhaps the most highly-anticipated rock autobiography ever, Life is the most detailed account we have yet of the life of the legendary guitarist/songwriter.
Richards has lived his life in public since his early 20′s and he’s always lived it in the full-glare of the media – bad publicity be damned. That said, this is not a confessional reassessment that offers explanations – or excuses – for past sins. Richards greatest music and worst behavior are a matter of public record and Life doesn’t offer a new version of events so much as it delivers his version, and it’s full of crazy wisdom, smirking sarcasm, raspy rambles, heart and soul.
While other volumes – like Victor Bockris’ excellent Keith Richards – have revealed the man through the eyes of friends, family and Rolling Stones insiders, it’s Life’s first-person candor that sets it apart. Not only does Richards give us the straight-dope on Keith, he also illuminates the rise of rock ‘n’ roll and the ’60′s counter-culture from inside the eye of the hurricane. Life is also about the creative life of one of rock’s most important guitarists and songwriters, and the book’s rich detail is at least partly due to a life lived on the look-out for the next song, the next riff.
Life tells the story of Keith the boy, growing up in Dartford in a Dickensian, post-WWII landscape that included raiding old machine gun nests for discarded pin-ups and angling to make the most of candy-on-ration. It also reflects on recent times including Keith’s forays away from the Stones with the Expensive Winos and the Wingless Angels. Along the way, Richards lives up to his famous straight-forward, sincere persona. The man has always been a romantic and a rebel; a sensational hedonist and a sensitive artist.
None of this will come as a shock to well-read Stones fans. In fact, the book’s great lacking is its dearth of original stories. Although the media has made much of the book’s comments regarding his brother-in-arms-cum-bete-noir Mick Jagger, Life doesn’t reveal anything Richards hasn’t spilled to the press over the group’s decades-long reign as The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ roll Band.
What makes Life unique is Richard’s ability to put you in his shoes and convey his passion for music-making. When he describes his early adoration for American blues, it’s clear – perhaps for the first time – why this man has survived the hell of heroin addiction, the rigors of the road and the fallacies of fame to become the living symbol of the enduring power of rock ‘n’ roll – a true soul survivor:
“You were supposed to spend all your waking hours studying Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson. That was your gig. Every other moment taken away from it was a sin.”
By Keith Richards and James Fox
Little Brown and Company, October 26
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Joe Nolan <3