Keith Richards is the guitarist and songwriter who has been one of the mainstays of the Rolling Stones. Yesterday he turned 67. Richards has led a famously dissolute life that no one should try to emulate. He documents it at length in a candid, funny, well-written (with James Fox), and best-selling memoir that was published this fall.
Janet Maslin met up with Richards at his New York office for an interview that turned into a good article about the book. Maslin noted that Richards was wearing both a headband and a straw-colored hat when they met, but no gewgaw hanging off it: “I’ve been through that phase,” he said. “Don’t know that the hair will take the pressure anymore.”
Keith Richards would seem to present the problem of the unreliable narrator in extreme form. However, Richards claims to have forgotten nothing and told the story of his life straight. Maslin suggests that this just might be the case.
But what can Keith Richards teach us? What we really want to know is how this guy has survived to age 67. In last year’s What Would Keith Richards Do? Daily Affirmations from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivor, Jessica Pallington West quoted Richards on the great Socratic theme of self-knowledge: “To me, the main thing about living on this planet is to know who the hell you are and to be real about it….That’s the reason I’m still alive. I’ve lived life my own way, and I’m here because I’ve taken the trouble to find out who I am.”
In the video below, Richards sings and smokes his way through “You Got the Silver” (accompanied by Ron Wood on slide guitar). Don’t try this at home!
From 1969’s Let It Bleed, “You Got the Silver” is the first Stones recording on which Richards sang by himself. In the video Richards’s phrasing is too clear. It should be slurred, as it was on the recording. It’s something of a tortured love song that reflects his then-relationship with Anita Pallenberg. The song shows how he has conquered his sources to create music with his own stamp.
UPDATE: Power Line reader Chris Epting takes a look at Richards’s memoir and keeps it dark in “Gimme shelter: Keith Richards still raging over Scott Cantrell suicide.” Chris also supports my thought regarding Richards as an unreliable narrator. He writes in a message this morning: “[T]here are so many factual errors in the book it boggles the mind…”
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