If you know of Keith Richards, you’ve got to be surprised that he’s made it to the age of 69. Not without a whole mess of bumps and bruises, but nonetheless still fairly in tact and still a working musician. The man is one tough and lucky cat, and he’s lived a colorful life, to say the least–the epitome of rock star excess. Relationships with models, check. Rampant drug abuse, check. Trashing hotel rooms, check. A penchant for carrying blades and shooters, check.
Richards is in rambling, storyteller mode in Life, which includes tidbits of interviews from those close to him, except for one glaring omission: Mick Jagger, the other half of the Glimmer Twins. Maybe Jagger didn’t want to be interviewed, or maybe Richards didn’t want him interviewed, so the story’s one-sided when it comes to the description of their relationship, which has become contentious over time. But lead vocalists tend to get the lion’s share of attention anyway, so let’s give Richards his due.
In addition to stories of relationships, songs and albums, and guitar tips, his memoir recounts his crazy, dope-fueled behavior. He rationalizes not dying of an overdose by his attention to the amount of drugs he took, the rationing he conducted, like managing parts of a machine. As he puts it, it gave him energy to work and minimized the need for sleep. He stayed awake for eight days once before getting knocked out.
Richards understands that he became a parody of himself at a certain point. The public expected over-the-top behavior from him, and he kept delivering. But strip away the rock star antics and what you see is a man who loves the beauty and the mystery of music, as all great artists do. “The enthusiasm, the spirit, the soul, whatever you want to call it, where’s the microphone for that?” he asks. Richards’ dedication to that numinous, elusive quality continues to light his fire.