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With the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards created the riffs, the lyrics and the songs that roused the world, and over four decades he lived the original rock and roll taking the chances he wanted, speaking his mind, and making it all work in a way that no one before him had ever done. Now, at last, the man himself tells us the story of life in the crossfire hurricane. And what a life. Listening obsessively to Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records as a child in post-war Kent. Learning guitar and forming a band with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones. The Rolling Stones' first fame and success as a bad-boy band. The notorious Redlands drug bust and subsequent series of confrontations with a nervous establishment that led to his enduring image as outlaw and folk hero. Creating immortal riffs such as the ones in 'Jumping Jack Flash' and 'Street Fighting Man' and 'Honky Tonk Women'. Falling in love with Anita Pallenberg and the death of Brian Jones. Tax exile in France, wildfire tours of the US, 'Exile on Main Street' and 'Some Girls'. Ever increasing fame, isolation and addiction. Falling in love with Patti Hansen. Estrangement from Mick Jagger and subsequent reconciliation. Solo albums and performances with his band the Xpensive Winos. Marriage, family and the road that goes on for ever. In a voice that is uniquely and intimately his own, with the disarming honesty that has always been his trademark, Keith Richards brings us the essential life story of our times.

564 pages, Hardcover

First published October 10, 2010

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About the author

Keith Richards

129 books333 followers
Keith Richards is an English guitarist, songwriter, singer, producer and founding member of The Rolling Stones. As a guitarist Richards is mostly known for his innovative rhythm playing. In 2003 Richards was ranked 10th on Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".

With songwriting partner and Rolling Stones lead vocalist Mick Jagger, Richards has written and recorded hundreds of songs, fourteen of which Rolling Stone magazine lists among the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".

There is more than one author by this name on Goodreads

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,149 reviews
Profile Image for Petra on hiatus, really unwell.
2,457 reviews34.4k followers
May 4, 2018
Keith Richards was a clever kid, a talented artist, a choirboy who sang for the Queen and became an outstanding musician in one of the world's best bands. What is most on display in this book is his tremendous interest in music and musicians, not in rock, bands, money and fame - a lot of which he finds a bit of a pain but to be endured because that goes with the job. If you aren't fairly knowledgeable about music, blues in particular, there is going to be a lot of this book you are going to want to skip.

What is also interesting is his drug use. We never hear the ins and outs of being a tremendously successful heroin junkie. No, the spin is always on those poor street people who will steal their own mother's wedding ring for the next fix as they are quite beyond work. Richards enjoys his drugs a lot and tells us exactly what it feels like to be high on them and how it helped his work. His main supplier is his best friend and partner in crime, the very flamboyant Freddie Sessler, a holocaust survivor and (handily) owner of pharmacies so he could supply medical grade cocaine and heroin, who travelled along with the Stones. There were other dealers to ensure that when the band arrived at their tour date, the drugs would be ready and waiting, always a difficult time for a junkie.

The antics of the UK and especially US law enforcement officers to catch, entrap, imprison and get the Stones banned are hilarious as are the stories of Richards escaping them (most of the time). This is where money and being a big name helps! The story about Richards and Bobby Keys being got off a rap they had no defence against by the owner of Dole Pineapples is classic.

Richards also went cold turkey fairly often, not because he wanted to give up drugs but because he had to be clean and without the desperate need for drugs so he could enter various countries and tour with the band. These parts of the story are fairly harrowing to read, I really had no idea what cold turkey was really like but how it is very limited in time and can be endured. (Dr. Phil's Celebrity Rehab is more about Dr. Phil and the Celebrities than the rehab). When he actually decided to give up drugs, he made two attempts and that was it, gave them up thirty years ago.

His sex life was a great deal less interesting than, say, Mick Jagger's,as he was the sort of man who fell passionately in love, and then did whatever he could to keep the relationship alive. Not that groupies were totally unknown to him but that sort of sex wasn't anything he ever sought out. His first marriage to the actress Anita Pallenberg fell apart due to his wife's uncontrolled (as opposed to his controlled) use of drugs, and he has been married for decades to his second wife, the model Patty Hansen, who has never used them.

Essentially Keith is a man who questioned the system at every turn, but take away the surface and what you have left is a family man. His mother, a tremendously musical person herself, is in the story pretty constantly. For some years he raised his son, Marlon, alone (rather unconventionally taking him on tour), although he quite obviously cherishes all his children and has never, ever got over the loss of his baby son Tara, who died of cot death.

But this man, this clever, sensitive, man, this lover of books, this chronicler of arguably the best rock band ever, this musician's musician had that other side too,

the drug-taking, alcohol-sodden, irreverant, authority-bucking wild side, the man who took a lot of drugs and lived exactly as he pleased because he had the money to do so and continues to entertain us with his really great guitar licks.

Rock on Keith, rock on.

Although the book is ghost-written, it retains more of the voice of the author than it does of the ghost-writer which isn't always the case. But I don't recommend the audiobook. Johnny Depp, Keith's friend, reads well, but he can't sustain the right accent for long and it sounds somewhat fake with an American undertone. This might not annoy you, but it did me and I preferred the written word.

Edit A GR friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) has sent me a really good story about Keith's son Marlon, whom my friend knew well. I've posted it in the comments, msg. 67.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews9,000 followers
February 28, 2020

I have liked the Rolling Stones for a long time. I remember going to see them back when I was in high school on the Voodoo Lounge tour (2004 – and I thought they seemed old back then!). But, I will say while I enjoyed them, I was more of a casual fan. However, in the past couple of years I have become obsessed. I am sad that it took me this long because while many successful bands have a few great songs here and there, the Stones have one of the best collections of music of any band I have ever enjoyed. I can honestly say they have over 100 songs that I would enjoy listening to at any moment. The next band behind them might have 20 at the most.

I am going this summer to see them again! I can’t wait!

Many will put the Beatles up against the Rolling Stones. For me, it is no contest . . . by a long shot. The Stones ALL THE WAY!

Due to my recent obsession I was excited to check out this autobiography by Keith Richards. I will say that unless you are as into the Stones as I currently am or you really enjoy any music history, I don’t know if you will like this or not. So, be sure you base your response on whether to check this book out or not on that in addition to my review.

I thought this book was phenomenal! I enjoyed every single second of this book. Even when Richards was discussing music theory that went way over my head, I loved it. I feel like you could turn the story of Richards’ live into a fantastic movie. He had so many different things that happened in both his life and with the Stones: death, drugs, travels, relationships, controversy, feuds, successes, failures, etc. This was quite a long book and it needed every page to fit it all in!

Note on the audiobook: I think this may be a case where listening to the book will greatly enhance the experience. A few sections are read by Johnny Depp and the final part of the book is read by Richards himself. However, MAJOR KUDOS to Joe Hurley for his narration – his delivery was perfect! I am sad to see that this appears to be the only book he has narrated as I would love to hear more from him.

Many joke that Keef (his famous nickname) has been around forever and, when the world ends it will just be some cockroaches and Richards. You know, I kind of hope this is true because I think the world is a better place with a colorful character like him in it!

Profile Image for Steve.
821 reviews237 followers
December 25, 2014
I started listening to the Rolling Stones back in the early 1970s. “Hot Rocks” (an early “greatest hits collection – and still one of the best by any band), “Sticky Fingers,” “Exile on Main Street,” “It’s Only Rock and Roll,” etc. In terms of the group and its history, I caught them in their second wave, the one where they had morphed into the “World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.” I saw the band once, during their “Tour of the Americas” tour (the one where Ron Wood joined the band). I hung with them up through “Emotional Rescue” – and I might of even had a cassette copy of “Dirty Work” (the agreed upon low point for the band) lying around on the floor of my car. Only recently have I been listening to a number of their late period albums (which are better than I would have thought, but a bit more on that later). In other words, I’m a fan. I have followed the group for quite a while, know (or thought I did) the old war stories, the fights, the music, on a level that was probably beyond that of a casual fan. Which is why I hesitated at first reading Richards’ autobiography. I figured I would be sentencing myself to over 500 pages of stories I had largely read about before.

Well, on the long Memorial Day weekend I saw that the book was out in paperback, and thus no longer the size of a phone book. Richards’ kohl rimmed eye (beyond the skull ring and lit cigarette) stared back at me. I had too much time invested with this group. I had to read it. I’m glad I did. I’m not a big fan of rock bios, but Richards (along with his writer pal, James Fox), has crafted the best book of its kind that I have ever read. The only other rock memoir that I would put on the same shelf would be Dylan’s “Chronicles.” But that effort is still uncompleted, and due to Dylan’s own cryptic approach, less revealing. Richards, on the other hand, will tell you everything, from drugs, music, and sex, to how to cook “bargers.”

Does he wander a bit? Sure, especially toward the end. But part of what makes this book so interesting is that it does capture Richards’ voice. As a reader, you feel as if you’re listening to a long, fascinating conversation. It can disgust you at times, but also surprise you. Outside of a silly near drug bust beginning in Arkansas (which for me underscored just how lucky Richards has been over the years), the book is told in a chronological way. The early chapters, focusing on Richards’ childhood, hooked me right away. These were very well done, painting a post World War II picture of Britain that seemed more a cultural history than a rocker’s bio. Richards’ exposure to music came early, in large part due to the bohemian lifestyle of one set of grandparents. One surprise was Richards singing in a school choir – and being pretty good at it, at least until his voice broke.

Then come the Stones years. Mick (an old childhood friend), Brian, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and others, parade by on a quickly accelerating train to fame. One thing that struck me was how hard these guys worked at their music. Even then, Richards was surprised when fame came. As he tells it, “something happened.” One moment they were the opening act for the Everly Brothers, the next moment the screams were for them. He sensed the musical shift coming, but when it happened it was still a surprise. No doubt that other group down the road, the Beatles, noticed it even sooner.

And it’s the Beatles, and their success, that make the Stones. The Stones, up to a certain point, were a cover band doing old blues numbers, and loving it. But their manager at the time, Andrew Lloyd Oldham, knew they had to do more, become original, in order to survive. At this point Richards and Jagger were shoved into a room and told to write a song. The chemistry was instant, probably already there due to a long established friendship that included a love of the same music. The songs, the hits, started coming, and at an amazing pace. The band was now a Jagger – Richards band.

I may have enjoyed this part of the book the best, since Richards’ telling seems fresh. In addition, Richards takes occasional musical pauses, explaining how he learned to play this or that, and how it worked in X or Y song. I’m not a musician, so I don’t really know what he’s talking about, but taking a step back, you can see the man’s love of music on display.

And then there are the drugs and the women. For Richards the perfect storm is Anita Pallenberg. Clearly he loved – and to some extent, still loves her (Richards is devoted to his women). But together they are also two addicts in love with heroin. Their relationship would produce three children. Two have grown up to be (against all odds) fairly normal, and one would die, sadly, from crib death (or neglect, it gets kind of fuzzy here). Pallenberg, a free (insane?) spirit, would film a movie with Mick, called “Performance.” There’s a brief affair between the two (rumored to be captured on film) that Keith finds out about later. In the book, Richards downplays this, saying he knew what Anita was like, but then childishly points out how he “had” Marianne Faithful (Jagger’s girlfriend), and then jumped out the window as Mick arrived. It’s a story that’s meant to wound. One personal trait that strikes you about Richards as you read on is that Richards is big on Loyalty. For those who want to find a fracture point with the Stones, I suggest that this, Jagger’s dalliance with Pallenberg, is it. I take Richards on his word regarding Anita, but it’s Jagger, his childhood friend, and what he did, that started the downward spiral between the two bandmates.

I could go and on and on about this book. It’s a long book, a long history, and Richards tells it all. But the heart of the book is the relationship between Jagger and Richards. Throughout the book there is withering fire from Richards directed at Jagger. It’s not a black or white criticism however, since Richards often praises Jagger for his performances, his work ethic, his friendship. It’s an honest attempt to be honest. Less honest is Richards' treatment of his drug abuse problem. He pats himself on the back for beating smack, but does it in such a way that suggests he was always in control. This is junkie-speak. At one point he says, jaw droppingly, “I never really overdid it.” Even if Richards did beat his addiction, he merely substituted it for another: booze.

In the late 70s and 80s, as Richards sunk more and more into drugs, Jagger began to exert more control of the band. He also started to look for an exit – via his own solo career. This is probably fracture point No. 2. Richards’ loyalty to the idea of the band, the Rolling Stones, is total (whatever that now means). Jagger’s attempt to start up his own career around the time “Dirty Work” came out, nearly ended the band. However, Jagger��s failure to get traction in his own career (his solo albums sucked), would lead to his return to the Stones. Interestingly, Richards’ solo efforts gathered some critical praise.

Jagger’s return would also insure that the Rolling Stones would become very rich due to the new economics of touring (and Jagger's sharp eye). But for Richards, it’s not (so he says) about the money, but the music. Jagger would try and push the band into whatever (Richards says) Mick heard the previous night at the disco. Richards was/is the rocker who wanted to stay that way. Most critics would agree when actually looking at the later Stones albums (excepting possibly the last one, “Bigger Bang,” which strangely felt like a true band effort). These albums are hodge-podge affairs, with Jagger and Richards going to their separate corners, doing “their” songs, and then slapping a Stones tongue on it. I would argue that these are not really band efforts anymore. Oh, both Jagger and Richards are professional enough to crank out some good songs, but the album “feel” seems gone. Richards’ insistence regarding the band being true to it, seems anymore hollow – unnecessary. He’s probably doing more interesting things musically on his own. (Check out (on Youtube) his duet with George Jones on "Say It's Not You." He really should try doing a country album.) On the home front, Richards is happily married, a family man. He falls out of trees. He snorts his dad’s ashes. He likes dogs. Reads history. I just wish he would pick up the phone and call his “friend” a friend again. He still calls Jagger his brother (and I believe him – this is not an empty statement from Richards). Well, that’s what a brother should do.

Note: If you decide to read this book, I highly recommend that you read rock critic Bill Wyman’s (not the Stone) mock Jagger reply letter to the Richards’ book that appeared in Slate. It serves as an excellent counterpoint to many of Richards’ claims (and it’s also a piece of brilliant writing). I’m not taking sides, which is why I suggest that you read it. I love them both, and I’m thankful for all the good music.


Profile Image for Judith E.
572 reviews195 followers
October 26, 2020
And what a life Keith Richards has had!

It’s really a shame that internet memes have turned Keith Richards into a caricature instead of portraying him for what he is - a hard-working, genius of a man fully dedicated to the highest standard of music he can achieve.

Written with the assistance of James Fox, this is an in-depth account starting from Keith���s boyhood and his maternal grandfather’s musical influence on him, through the rise of The Rolling Stones band, through marriage, children, drug use, and always through the steadying, obsessive influence that music had on him.

Keith Richards is by no means perfect, but who would be if they had been sky rocketed to worldwide fame during the wild and crazy 60’s & 70’s? His total dedication to the creation of quality music is the only drum beat this man follows.

Side note: 1) I still remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Wild Horses. 2) I have the original Stones Sticky Fingers album with metal zipper. Blessed hippie days of yore.

A fantastic audio rendition.
Profile Image for JD.
718 reviews338 followers
November 14, 2022
A book I hoped to enjoy much more, as I am a Rolling Stones fan. Yet even though Richards writes about his music, especially his guitar playing and the work he did with other artists, there is too much "cops and robbers (druggers)" and him detailing his drug usage. He has learned to manage his drug intake by using different kinds at different times, but he glamourizes it and can be lucky his life was not totally ruined by it.
Profile Image for Daren.
1,329 reviews4,399 followers
January 11, 2022
I enjoyed this tome of a biography, one of the longer books I have read in a while.

Richards shares all the details of his life, in what reads as an unguarded display of the trials and tribulations of his life. His childhood, his love life and his family life, as well as a details analysis of everything the Rolling Stones have produced.

To be honest I haven't realised that Keith Richards was such a technical guitar player - a great deal of detail in this book is about his guitar technique - both his and that of others. The details of this all washed over me, of course, but it was interesting to understand how influential his adoption of removing the bottom string (ie playing a five string guitar rather than a six string) and open G tuning, which means cover bands using conventional guitar tuning really struggle to reproduce a lot of the songs.

Richards also shares a similar amount of detail about the plethora of musicians he worked with over the many decades of his career, sharing loads of anecdotes and stories along the way. It is pretty obvious throughout the book that Richards is really interested and driven by music, and music is not a means to an end for him. Fame and money are the bi-products of his music.

Drugs also played a large part in Richard's life. There is no doubt it is glamorised here, but at least for the most part Keith 'manages' his drug taking. Like his guitar playing he takes a technical approach to his drugs. The balance of the ups and downs generated by his drugs which allowed him, for the most part, to be a productive and active participant in life while on drugs (a high-functioning drug user), as opposed to getting out of it and locking himself away from life. He also considered he had clear boundaries and understood (some of) his own limitations and considered himself unlikely to overdoes due to those. It isn't all glamour however, and his frequent cleaning up (going cold turkey) to go on tour sounds unbearable. Similarly, if all accurate, the inability of partner Anita Pallenberg to control her own drug taking.

The fascination that the police in the USA and UK had with the Stones, and trying to bust them was crazy too. The elaborate sting operations, the surveillance, the bad decisions the police made in court - all of which resulted in making them look incredibly incompetent, made for amusing reading.

Towards the end of the book, where he begins to battle more with Mick Jagger, the books takes a more one sided approach (I guess we expect to hear only Keith's side, to be fair), although if events and discussions are all as stated, it seems Keith may be right with his diagnosis of Micks case of LVS (Lead Vocalist Syndrome).

Probably the only negative aspect of this book for me was Keith's regular reference to women as bitches - he doesn't even seem to associate the term negatively, just in general, which seemed to be petty, when he could have just as easily replaced them all with the term girls.

I am a fan of the Stone - I have about 2/3 of their albums, but I wouldn't say I am a a mad fan. I still got way more out of this book than I expected, and I am grateful to Petra's review which led me to buy a copy.

5 stars.
Profile Image for F.R..
Author 31 books199 followers
October 4, 2015
Keith Richards’ autobiography starts really well and holds that momentum for a long time; although when it reaches the period covering the Eighties it does fall somewhat into score settling, and after that becomes somewhat bland and without spark. As such you have to hand it to this book, it really does mirror The Rolling Stones’ career.

Ghost writer James Fox does a fantastic job of catching his master’s voice. No doubt Keef was sat down in front of a microphone and told to talk about his life into tape after tape after tape, but from there Fox has managed to create a seamless narrative whilst rendering the subject’s personality. It really does seem as if Keith Richards is talking to you, sharing all his best anecdotes in his avuncular growl – all the time throwing around such terms as ‘cat’, ‘babe’, ‘bitch’ and so on. (I imagine the audiobook of this would be a real treat.) There are some odd points: for example, the book never addresses the fact that for the first fifteen years of his career Keith Richards was known as Keith Richard. I always assumed that Andrew Loog Oldman (their then manager) tipping his cap to the far softer British rock’n’roll icon Cliff Richard. But there is no real tackling of The Peter Pan of Pop, apart from Keith seeming to take glee in Cliff’s run of British hits ending when he decided to record a Jagger/Richards track.

Part of the problem with this book losing steam is that I think Richards appreciates that after ‘Start Me Up’, the Stones never produced another great song. As such those later sessions do not have the attention to detail that he gives to ‘Exile on Main Street’ or ‘Let It Bleed’. He does however give a spirited defence against charges of the band selling out with their mega-tours, just saying that they want to play music and this is the best way to do it. And after spending six hundred pages with the man, it’s hard to begrudge him that love of performing. Particularly as the majority of people who buy this book will certainly consider buying a ticket the next time the Stones hit the road.
Profile Image for Madeline.
781 reviews47.2k followers
December 16, 2015
"It was 1975, a time of brutality and confrontation. Open season had been declared since our last tour, the tour of '72, known as the STP. The State Department had noted riots (true), civil disobedience (also true), illicit sex (whatever that is), and violence across the United States. All the fault of us, mere minstrels. We had been inciting the youth to rebellion, we were corrupting America, and they had ruled never to let us travel in the United States again. It had become, in the time of Nixon, a serious political matter. He had personally deployed his dogs and dirty tricks against John Lennon, who he thought might cost him an election. We, in turn, they told our lawyer officially, were the most dangerous rock-and-roll band in the world."

I am definitely not the intended audience for this book. I like the Rolling Stones, certainly, and I knew their music before I could identify the band (I have a distinct memory of my dad singing "Paint It Black" to me when I was much too young to have any idea who the Rolling Stones were), but I wouldn't describe myself as a hardcore fan. I didn't see the Stones in their prime - my generation knows them mostly as a group of awesome, elderly rockers who simply refuse to pack it in and retire. Keith Richards himself came onto my radar very late - in fact, and here I will preemptively duck from the objects that are about to be thrown at me by anyone born before 1980 - I think the first time I heard about Keith Richards was when I learned that he was the person Johnny Depp had based Jack Sparrow on.

So obviously, this book was not written for me and I probably had no business reading it in the first place. However, driven by curiosity and armed with a superficial knowledge of the Stones and an earnest love of Almost Famous, I plunged in. I mean, how can you resist an opening like the one I quoted above?

In a purely technical sense, this book is very badly written. The narrative wanders from one subject to another, events aren't kept in chronological order, and Richards uses fragment sentences like they're going out of style. But the thing is, it works. I got the sense that the writing process for this book was just Keith Richards free-associating into a recorder for several hours, and the resulting tapes were written down verbatim. Richards' voice comes through clearly in every word, and it's a great experience. Reading the book is like listening to your foul-mouthed, slightly confused grandfather tell you stories - they don't always make sense, and sometimes you have no idea what he's saying, but your grandfather happens to be the most awesome person alive, so you're going to shut up and pay attention to everything he says.

The book is full of dirt on the Rolling Stones, the tours, and lots of helpful advice about buying drugs and then concealing them on your person. Random bits are tossed in, like Richards' recipe for bangers and mash ("I only just found out from this lady on TV that you have to put bangers in a cold pan") and instructions on winning a knife fight ("The big rules of knife fighting are (a) do not try it at home, and (b) the whole point is never, ever use the blade. It is there to distract your opponent. While he stares at the gleaming steel, you kick his balls to kingdom come - he's all yours. Just a tip!"). He also lets other people tell stories, too - every now and then he'll break off and include a few paragraphs written by someone else (like his manager, his son, and once Kate Moss) describing their perspective on whatever Richards is talking about.

But the best part, the very best, is when Richards is talking about music. He might be crazy, he might be a recovering junkie, he might be sexist (oh, we'll get there), but this man loves music. He loves playing music, listening to music, and talking about music. While I was reading this I started wishing that I knew how to play the guitar, because the detail he goes into about chords and playing techniques is incredible and went right over my head. Reading about how Keith Richards feels about music is what makes this book worth reading - when he stops talking about Mick drama and drugs and chicks, and just focuses on the music.

Here's him talking about the first time he heard "Heartbreak Hotel":

"Then - 'Since my baby left me' - it was just the sound. It was the last trigger. That was the first rock and roll I heard. It was a totally different way of delivering a song, a totally different sound, stripped down, burnt, no bullshit, no violins and ladies' choruses and schmaltz, totally different. It was bare, right to the roots that you had a feeling were there but hadn't yet heard. I've got to take my hat off to Elvis for that. The silence is your canvas, that's your frame, that's what you work on; don't try to deafen it out. That's what 'Hearbreak Hotel' did to me. It was the first time I'd heard something so stark."

In fact, the only time this book isn't awesome reading is when Keith Richards talks about women, and worse, attempts to address the misogyny in rock and roll.

"...many of the songs we wrote around this time had what you might call anti-girl lyrics - anti-girl titles too. 'Stupid Girl,' 'Under My Thumb,' 'Out of Time,' 'That Girl Belongs to Yesterday'...Maybe we were winding them up. And maybe some of the songs opened their hearts a little, or their minds, to the idea of we're women, we're strong. But I think the Beatles and the Stones particularly did release chicks from the fact of 'I'm just a little chick.'"

Okay, Grandpa Keith, that's very nice, but you need to sit down now. Have a caramel square and shut up for a minute.

Keith Richards, I learned from this book, only likes women when they do everything for him. All the women who get described favorably in this book have one thing in common: they would follow the Rolling Stones around and literally take care of them. Richards' first love, a girl named Haleema, is well-regarded because she and her friends would come to the apartment where the Stones lived and clean the place up and cook for them. Keith's favorite past chicks, including his current wife, are the ones who cooked breakfast for him. Richards wants women to take care of him (Mommy issues ahoy!), but does not appreciate having to do the same for them. Here he is discussing Mick Jagger's many infidelities and having to deal with the stupid whores who came crying to poor Keith about it:

"They end up crying on my shoulder because they've found out that he has once again philandered. What am I gonna do? Well, it's a long ride to the airport, honey; let me think about it. The tears that have been on this shoulder, from Jerry Hall, from Bianca, from Marianne, Chrissie Shrimpton...They're ruined so many shirt of mine. And they ask me what to do! How the hell do I know? I don't fuck him!"

Grandpa Keith, I said sit down. Do you need another caramel square?

Women aren't very present in this book, but that's expected: this is about rock and roll, and the love of music, and the rise (and continued rise) of a truly great group that revolutionized music. Some of it doesn't make any sense, some of it is ugly and sad, but all of it is incredible, and ultimately worth the read.
Profile Image for Tosh.
Author 14 books659 followers
November 14, 2010
Bob Dylan's memoir is a classic. Patti Smith's memoir "Just Kids" a classic. "Life" by Keith Richards not a classic but a really really OK book. But me writing that I really wanted it to be a great rock n' roll classic book and "Life" maybe grand, but great it isn't.

It's obvious that Richards is writing (or co-writing) this for the fans out there. Every question and thought regarding the Rolling Stones long history is answered or dealt with - yet for that reason it strikes me as a book done in numbers and not passion or through the enjoyment of putting a book together.

Also to be honest there is some major flaws in Keith Richards' character. For one he has this gang mentality in keeping the band together and having people loyal around him - yet if it doesn't serve his purpose (or in his eyes the band) then it is tossed off the train that is his life. His drug taking for sure caused major headaches for the band - so it is kind of a shug when you hear him complain about Brian Jones' problems with the chemicals.

For one, Keith likes to believe that he was the worst enemy of the establishment, but that is his ego talking. From day one he was part of the pop machinery that churns out pop as in a factory. The Stones were brilliant - but I think that has a lot to do with the talents of their first manager and record producer Andrew Loog Oldham, Jack Nitzsche, Brian Jones, Phil Spector and the original blues singers that inspired them. When Keith got into Heroin he lost the pilot. And for good with respect to consistent music making. The mid-70's Stones had a few good groove songs, but in the 60's they were really on fire. The 80's, 90's and the 21st Century? Not even worth mentioning.

Also reading this book I sort of feel sorry for Mick Jagger. Which is weird to me. For someone who was totally devoted to the band, Keith for sure lost the desire to make interesting music in the late 70's. Right now he sort of positioned himself as a rebel, but he's a rebel that has been part of the conservative establishment for awhile now. So when we admire Keith Richards it is not really the man, but more what we as a culture think he is. And for me this memoir blows a big hole in that myth.

Nevertheless it is an interesting document and a great importance to the Rolling Stones library - but ironically enough there are better Stones' books out there and in print as well.

Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,257 followers
July 11, 2019
I have a fascination with music and the undead, so reading Keith Richards' autobiography was a no-brainer, and I'm glad I did!

Life is absolutely brimming with all the Rolling Stones stories a fan could hope for. It starts with a humorous and tense drug story, then it reverts to a more innocent time when Richards was a sort of part-time hooligan, a kid of the East-end streets. This was easily my favorite part of the book, this and the Stones' formation. Basically everything before the money and fame enters the picture.

Richards is not shy about dishing dirt. This is not a man bred to polite society. Life's rough, shit happens and he's not about to sweep it all under the rug and pretend it didn't happen. That's refreshing in its way, but the real draw of this book is the music. Richards loves music and really comes alive when he's talking about it. The many passages reminiscing about his musical roots, his idols and his favorite musicians are a real joy to read. The formation of the Stones gets a fairly thorough going over, at least from his perspective. And that was quite a while ago, after some heavy mind-altering experiences, so it's a minor miracle he remembers any of it.

Drugs. Phew, that man took a lot of drugs! That he survived it all is the real miracle. He gives his theory on how he got through it, but still, lady luck must have played some part. Learning that he's been drug-free for the last 30+ years was a surprise. All in all though, I could've done without all of the many drug and drinking anecdotes. They take up a huge chunk of the book. Obviously it would be a sham of a biography if they weren't included, so I'm just speaking on a personal taste level. To me, hearing another's stories about being stoned is about as interesting as listening to someone else talk about their dreams. Mildly interesting, mostly inconsequential.

Life is long. Richards got a little help from his friends and family, who add stories and anecdotes from their own perspective. His son Marlon, who spent a significant chunk of his youth traveling and touring with his father, weighs in regularly.

I listened to the audiobook version that was narrated mostly by Johnny Depp and Joe Hurley. Tom Waits makes a cameo. Richards does the intro and comes back at the end to read some passages from his journal. Some twenty-five hours or more into the audiobook, I was hazily listening to Richards' pleasant gravelly drone as he wrapped up the book and suddenly I realized I was listening to him extoll the virtues of Patrick O'Brian's Master & Commander books, one of my all-time favorite series. I've read and listened to all 20 books about three times over now. O'Brian's work is gorgeous, his setting description and character development is astounding. However, he's not widely read and his fans tend to be bookish types, so you can imagine how shocked I was to hear this famous rock'n'roll guitar god praising an author who has been called "the male Jane Austen." Richards doesn't just offhandedly mention the books, he explains his love of them and dwells on the main characters, likening their friendship bond to that of him and Mick Jagger. As a book/music geek, this provided an unexpectedly pleasant "happy ending" for me.
Profile Image for Cindy.
159 reviews3 followers
February 12, 2011
I want this book to stay on my book shelf even though I am not going to waste my time finishing it. I didn't want to delete it so I knew no other way to give my review but to give it some kind of star and to say that I had read it without getting "You started Life so many days ago" from my GoodReads newsletter. I DO NOT recommend this book to anybody. Not even a die hard Rolling Stones fan. Everything I wanted to find out about the Stones in this book, just wasn't there. Poorly written, poorly edited. I am the type of reader who just has to finish any book that I start. But recently at a book retreat when we were priveledged to have the author of our book, "I am not a Serial Killer", Dan Wells came to speak to all of us women. He made the comment, and this is not word for word, but has stayed on my mind since. Don't waste your time on a book that you are not enjoying. So there Keith. I hated your book and will not waste another second on trying to finish. That is all I have to say on that.
Profile Image for Michael Jandrok.
189 reviews343 followers
July 15, 2019
So we will start with first things first. If you were to ask me what my recommendation would be for best rock musician biography or autobiography of all time, it would be Keith Richards’s “Life,” hands down. You’ll see why as you read the rest of this review, but in short I’ll just say that it’s by far the most authentic and genuine take on the subject of what life is like being in the spotlight for 48 years, at the time of printing in 2010, anyway. Written with the assistance of journalist James Fox, “Life” gives voice to one of the true legends of rock music. Keith states early on that he remembers everything. And you know what? I believe him.

THE OBLIGATORY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NONSENSE BY THE REVIEWER: Feel free to skip if you wish. I truly became a Rolling Stones fan at the age of 14, in 1978. The band had just released “Some Girls” and my older brother took me to the record store to obtain a copy. That platter opened up my head and I was soon deep into collecting a lot of the back catalog. The Stones at that point were only 16 years old as an entity, still very much in an extended adolescence and using punk rock as a springboard to updating their sound and image to reflect the era. They were one of the old stalwarts that the punks really couldn’t rail too much against, giving them a rough respect equaled only by The Kinks and The Who and The Doors. In short order, I was now on the train and I would never really get off again. The weight of years and a few spotty albums would later dull the relationship, but once a fan, always a fan.

OBSERVATION NUMBER ONE: Keith’s love of music seeps off of every page of this book. From his formative years to the last page, you can tell that he really had no choice in the matter. He was going to be a musician, and that was that. He gives enormous credit to his mother and his maternal grandmother for opening his ears to a wide variety of influences when he was a child, and you can hear those influences on every Rolling Stones record ever produced. Steeped in blues and big band and country music, Keith would figure out a way to add all of these sounds to the Stone’s catalog at various points in time.

OBSERVATION NUMBER TWO: Keith speaks candidly about his relationships with women down through the years. His portraits of Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg are honest and heartbreaking at times. Keith owns up to his own failures as a husband and a father and he seems sincere and forthright when he talks about these things.

OBSERVATION NUMBER THREE: Keith is also very open and honest, perhaps a bit TOO honest, about his relationship with Mick Jagger. At one point Keith refers to Jagger’s manhood as a “tiny todger,” an unfortunate choice of words for describing another man’s junk. It is obvious that he loves Jagger like a brother, but it is also obvious that he really doesn’t LIKE Mick all that much. Honestly, though, that creative tension and the ability of both men to soldier through it made for some of the best and most engaging rock music to have ever been recorded.

OBSERVATION NUMBER FOUR: Keith spends a lot of time covering the “Exile on Main Street” record, made at a point in time when the Rolling Stones were real life tax exiles. Keith would spend days at a time working on the sounds for “Exile….,” high on cocaine and speed and grooving on the aural and production aspects of the record. It’s a fascinating look at someone who is a perfectionist at heart, even if the final product seemed a bit sloppy and overburdened. Another autobiographical note: “Exile on Main Street” is my personal favorite of the Stones’ recorded output. They virtually invented “Americana” music with that disk, showcasing a wide variety of different influences and regional sounds. Not bad for a bunch of English art students.

OBSERVATION NUMBER FIVE: Let’s get this out there. I am amazed that Keith is still alive. No other musician in the history of musicians has abused his body through drink and hard drugs as much as Keith has. Period. No one. Listen, I’ve read Motley Crue’s “The Dirt.” Nice try, boys. I’ve read Nikki Sixx’s “Heroin Diaries.” Harrowing and real, it still doesn’t stand up to Keith. I’ve even read Lemmy Kilmister’s autobiography, and if ANYONE could give Keith a run for the roses it would surely be Lemmy, right? Nah, not even close. Ozzy? Gotta be Ozzy, correct? The man snorted ANTS, fer Chrissake. Nope. Keith dusts them all, with a litany of drug related arrests and a legacy of heroin recoveries that would put anyone else to shame. And to be fair, Keith doesn’t brag about his adventures with substance abuse at all in “Life.” It just comes out naturally in the narrative as a point of everyday life with the Keefster. Seriously, read the book. You tell ME if you think that anybody has ever partied like this guy. I am both impressed and appalled in equal measure.

OBSERVATION NUMBER SIX: Keith spends several pages describing what he calls his musical “epiphany,” which consists of dropping the E4 string from his guitars. This simplifies chording for him and allows him to get a different set of sounds out of his instrument. Keith’s role in the Stones is primarily as a rhythm guitarist, although he occasionally gets out in front for a solo here and there. Keith is a rudimentary soloist at best, but he is one of the premier rhythm guitarists of all time, right up there with James Hetfield and Malcolm Young. It was fun getting some insight into his actual playing methods, and he keeps everything simple for people who don’t play guitar.

OBSERVATION NUMBER SEVEN: Keith and Anita Pallenberg had a third child together. Tara Jo Jo Gunne (a boy), was born in the spring of 1976. He was named for Tara Browne (the London socialite whose death inspired the Beatles to write "A Day in the Life") and the Chuck Berry song "Jo Jo Gunne." Sadly, Tara lived for only 10 weeks, dying in June while Keith was on tour with the Stones. Pallenberg later said that she blamed her rampant and irresponsible drug use during her pregnancy for Tara’s tragic death. Richards is quite outspoken and frank in the book that his relationship with his older son Marlon saved him from a spiral of depression. This was obviously a painful topic for Richards, and I applaud him for opening up about this tragic episode in his life.

OBSERVATION NUMBER EIGHT: “Life” was written over a period of some five years as James Fox chased Keith as best he could and hooked him to a wire for interviews. He then sat down and read the entire rough draft to Keith and found him to be a natural editor. This is a big book at 574 pages, but it never FEELS like a big book. As I mentioned earlier in the review, it seems to be as honest and authentic a look at Keith Richards as you will ever find short of meeting the man and interviewing him yourself. I applaud Mr. Fox for his diligent efforts to capture Keith in his natural environment and get the best out of him.

And I’m getting kind of tired of making observations. Suffice it to say that I dug this book a lot. It is the gold standard as far as rock biographies go. It is as much a portrait of a man as it is a portrait of an era in rock music, a time when rock itself was an unruly toddler and then a difficult adolescent destined to become a flabby middle-aged geezer hollering at you to get off of the lawn. I can’t recommend it enough if you are into this kind of thing.
Profile Image for Velvetink.
3,512 reviews226 followers
September 28, 2011
Growing up in Dartford for Keith – was somewhere to get out of. After WWII it was pungent with horse manure & desperation and he never forgot the story that he was born in an air raid shelter. It wasn’t London. It wasn’t hip or cool - it was the backside of the wrong side of the tracks. But when his father Gus gave him an old wooden guitar and showed him a few chords and licks, London loomed closer. Especially after he could play “Malaguena” and managed to escape National Service – that great cloud hanging over a whole generation of English teenagers and Dartford Technical College.

This autobiography is really massive, too many decades to cover in a review & many have already so I will only mention a few things that stood out for me. I’ve not read any other Stones biographies before although know they are out there & which document many of the tensions and dramas the band has had over the decades.

Keith met Jagger in 1961. They would hang out in seedy record stores waiting for the next consignment of Blues and Jazz records to arrive from Chicago, listen to them and try to work out how to play them & learn how to write songs like that. For Richards, the Blues is the core and basis of his Life. He talks eloquently about the blues. I was enthralled. I had a totally different idea of Keith, certainly not one so articulate (even if the book is co-written by James Fox).

Keith knows how to talk about music – he’s not unable to express what music means to him or how he arrived at a certain tune and I know many who can’t. He exists not in the light blues spectrum but that very dank swamp kind of blues. He loves John Lee Hooker, Muddy and Lee & Berry.

He talks about many early English bands that influenced him such as the likes of Alexis Korners’ Blues Band, who had Cyril Davis playing blues harp & his later R&B “All Stars”. Jamming at the Earling Club (a traditional jazz club) is where he met Brian Jones . Rather than focus on all the drug fecked times Keith had (and the book contains a testament of his usage), it was the many small things he mentioned that impressed me and made me smile, like his memories of his first amp that he re-wired from his mother’s radio and his description of his De Armond pickup that always needed soldering during gigs. Things like that made me realise how easy it is these days to learn to play a song – with the internet for lyrics and chords and software programs like “Garage Band” where you don’t even have to own an instrument and everyone thinks they can become a rock star. He recounts the Stones first record deal with Decca and the first recording studio at Olympic Studios with the then state of the art equipment (walls with egg cartons and a fairly basic Grundig tape recorder). Wannabee’s should take note. It takes perseverance, a lot of love and dedication & invention. Keith heard and played with a lot of awesome jazz musicians at the Earling and T-Bone Walker (of Chuck Berry’s 50’s band) was one of those. T-Bone was one of the first to use the double string thing and Keith found it worked for him and became something of a signature to his playing. You can’t play some of the Stones’ music without that double guitar string. It just does not sound right.

A lot has been said about Keith’s addictions and his relationship with Anita Pallenberg before this (and he’s fairly candid about most of it in "Life".) The journalist Bill Wyman (not the Stones Bill Wyman) http://www.slate.com/id/2273611/ has his bitch about “Life” with a few decidedly cutting remarks regarding the death of Keith’s 3rd child (cot death) and blaming Keith for it – which I felt beyond the pale when at the time Keith was on tour with the Stones and the death occurred under Pallenberg’s care.

Anita was perhaps more an addict than Keith and while I cannot say what her demons were, I don’t think that Keith used drugs in the same way – he didn’t have any of the same kind of mental tortures & childhood regrets that fuel the usual addict. He does go into the reasons he used and for the most part were either for endurance or to sleep. Like a tool which I believe. And he was honest about his efforts at rehab. He doesn’t gloss over any of it. He admits getting clean was hell and he did it at home with just the help of his manager Jane Rose – the two of them locked in a room till he dried out. Warning more than once to kids not to do drugs.

I felt he had a phenomenal memory until I realised co-writer James Fox must have also done a lot of research and hung around with Keith just talking for hours to unearth so much material. But also Keith kept journals all throughout his life something I find admirable considering his years of addiction. In all I found him a really likable and open guy. For all the so-called dissent and rifts between Keith & Mick and Brian, Keith always gives them their due praises all through the book. He loves Mick, and loves playing with the Stones after all these years. That’s saying something.

“Life” documents much of the Stone’s history I’ll not repeat here for brevity, and his meeting and marrying Patti and their life together now. Throughout the book there are cameo stories by many people associated with Keith and they reinforce my impression that essentially despite Keith’s typical drug ravaged face he’s an ok good guy & someone I could sit down with and chat and not feel demeaned by.

I think it telling he’s been able to continually collaborate on other endeavours besides the Stones. In films and with other musicians including getting other touring bands like the X-pensive Winos together and working with Norah Jones etc.. He’s nowhere near washed up as some like to portray. He’s survived major brain surgery as well…he has some beautiful kids & family he’s dedicated to and a library to die for (in which he fell off a ladder looking for a book) that resulted in an intracranial haemorrhage).

Well just go read the book. There is much I left out. Includes some great photos too.

“I’m good at pulling a bunch of guys together. If I can pull a bunch of useless Rastas into a viable band and also the Winos, a decidedly unruly band of men, I’ve got something……….it’s not a matter of cracking the whip, it’s a matter of just sticking around and doing it. So they know you’re in there……..it’s not a matter of who’s No.1. It’s what works”. - KR
Profile Image for KP.
378 reviews13 followers
November 10, 2010
It was fascinating! If you have always loved The Rolling Stones and rock and roll and have a lot of nostalgia about the 60's... then I think you'd find Keith Richards memoir fascinating, too. It is long, but most of the time, well, I was just blown away hearing about all the stuff Keith Richards did. He has a great conversational style; listening was fun - kind of like sitting in the living room hearing him tell about his life (with help from Johnny Depp and one other reader.) What really shines through is his absolute love of music as well as his totally undisciplined and wild, wild life style. I liked it toward the end when he tells about how Tony Blair wrote him a get well letter (after an accident) and said, "Dear Keith, You've always been one of my heroes..." Then Keith says, "England's in the hands of someone I'm the hero of? That's frightening." I also liked the ending when he sits on the end of his dying mom's bed and plays Malaguena for her. That was one of the first songs he learned at the beginning of the book, so it seemed to be a good frame for the ending... and kind of touching.
Profile Image for L.S. Popovich.
Author 2 books341 followers
August 11, 2020
The main reason I rented this audiobook biography of Keith Richards was because Johnny Depp performs it. I only wish he would have performed more of it. I did not expect literary greatness, but what I got was informative. I would call it overly detailed for a biography, but I imagine that is what fans wanted. If I had a greater regard for Richards, perhaps I would have been more engrossed in the trivia surrounding his career. But I have seldom separated the members of the Rolling Stones into individual human beings. They seem more like a collective unit, indistinguishable from one another. They have always been a solid band in my book. Constantly playing in the background of my life, along with other obvious comparisons like The Who and The Beatles. Honestly, it was tiresome to listen to the same variety of events I have witnessed in almost every Hollywoodized depiction of rock & roll stardom. Just watch A Star is Born.

It was interesting to hear about their adaptation of Blues techniques and some of the struggles they encountered on their way to the top, but it all sounds like a cliche thanks to all the others who have followed in his footsteps and told their own versions of the humble beginnings to super-celebrity trajectory. A glance at The Stones' huge discography goes a long way to explain their vast and universal influence within the industry. You won't get tired of listening to their music, but only true fans will relish every part of this over-long biography.
Profile Image for Linda Wells.
Author 4 books421 followers
March 24, 2020
I am tremendously impressed by this book. Keith Richards goes into great detail about his childhood, the difficulties he faced growing up, and how he became the successful musician that he is today. He writes in a natural style, revealing many personal details of his life that are touching, painfully honest and real. He recalls how he first met Mick Jaggar, and how their musical collaboration created the magic and unique style of the legendary rock group, the Rolling Stones.

Many facets of the book were surprising, such as the negative reception they were first given when they performed in the US. As their popularity grew, they became somewhat friendly with their rivals, The Beatles, agreeing to perform on different weekends so that both bands had an equal share of their fans. Richards describes his love affair with Ronnie Spector of Ronnie and the Ronnettes. He says, "The first time I went to Heaven, I awoke with Ronnie....." You will be surprised, fascinated, and impressed as you look into the private world of this iconic performer. Enjoy the great ride you'll take while reading Life!
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,497 followers
June 28, 2016
If it hadn't been for the murder, we'd have thought it a very smooth gig.
That's a wild thing to say, first because it happened, and second because this is what he says about it. And that's the flavor of this memoir, which amounts to the most intricate junkie's excuse ever written.
After lunch I headed for the Londonderry Hotel to celebrate. There, unfortunately, the bedroom caught fire...it was faulty wiring in the room. But who would believe that?
Well, I might have the first couple times, but this is at least the fourth time his room has caught fire. He takes credit for one of them. (Sorry, Hugh Hefner!) But car crashes, arrests, deaths, addictions...Keith Richards has an excuse for all of it.

So he's a twat. Don't pick this book up hoping to like Keith Richards. Mick Jagger comes in for some brutal vitriol, and I'm sure he's a twat too, but ask yourself this: What kind of person, engaged in a tremendously successful 50-year partnership, writes a book slagging his partner off?

But you pick it up for the stories, for the life. Keith Richards is one of the pioneers of the debauched rock star existence, and of course his existence at all is a scientific miracle. He has stories upon stories, and many of them are interesting.

And he has a lot to teach about guitar. I've played guitar most of my life, and my favorite parts of this book are when he talks about music, which he hears and understands deeply and passionately. So that's why I can't play Stones songs: he's using open tuning and he took one of his strings off. He gets into a detailed description of how and why that simplified tuning frees him, and you're like oh. He also makes the best argument for slinging your guitar low I've ever heard, but he's still wrong - that's an idiotic thing to do - so, y'know, your mileage may vary but it's interesting to hear. Early on he dissects one lick in the background of one bar of an Elvis Presley song for an entire page, just paying homage to Scotty Moore who played it. I love it.

So he is brilliant, and he's tripped over some wisdom. "It's impossible not to end up being a parody of what you thought you were," he says. At one point he cites Voltaire and Pasternak over the course of two pages.

But like many celebrities, he's been convinced that his cute tics are actually cute tics, and they are not. Most glaringly, he's one of those assholes who thinks he's so post-sexism and post-racism that he can say sexist and racist things because he's earned the right. "Feminists didn't like ['Some Girls'] either. We always liked to piss them off. Where would you be without us?" he asks, and it's hard to imagine what he thinks the answer is. Elsewhere, "Then they told me that I was not actually white. To the Jamaicans...I'm black but I've turned white to be their spy." Sigh. He argues that he loves women and black people, he's just beyond politeness; that's a familiar argument and there's a kernel of truth in it. But at the same time...what if you were to try neither acting nor talking like an asshole? Why is that so hard?

And in any case, he is an asshole, a world-class one. A junkie and a petty backstabber and a schmuck. Come for the stories; don't come for the man.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
350 reviews395 followers
March 3, 2017
A no-holds-barred autobiography from one of the original bad boys of rock & roll.

Keith Richards jokes are legion, but after listning to this audio book, it's no joke acknowleding that this guy has more lives than a darn cat. Car crashes, knife fights, gun skirmishes, not to mention all the drugs, booze and jail stints -- any one of these might have put an end to any one else, but this guy just keeps on rolling.

This is a long book -- and will be made longer still because if you're anything like me you'll want to pause the audio or set down the book to queue up all those great Stones songs mentioned, or to look up some of the crazy characters mentioned along the way (just who the heck is Uschi Obermaier and was she really that beautiful??) Personally, I found the book a bit too rambling at times, and much too detailed about the actual musical techniques (muscians might appreciate this; however, the specifics were lost on me).

What is clear, and where I gained a new appreciation for the man, is how committed Richard is to music. He's loved it since the first time he picked up a guitar and it's his life's passion. He seems to know as much about Mozart concertos as he does about Otis Redding. Despite the fame and fortune brought on by the success of The Rolling Stones, one definitely gets the sense in this book that if Richards had found a way to make a living simply playing music in the clubs without having a "day job" he would have been just as happy. For him it's always been about the music.

3.5 stars rounded up.
Profile Image for Allyson.
664 reviews
November 18, 2010
What can I say?
I am a fervent Stones fan, more of a Mick than Keith although Andrew loves Keef and has shown me the "way." But it is the combination of the group that makes the band, and the times they have lived through. KR makes this abundantly clear throughout Life and is at times all possible sides of a character: arrogant, nasty, mean, kind, loving, fun, crazy, menacing, clueless, dangerous, and incredibly talented while still being very modest. This book is amazing, sounds just like him with some tidying up no doubt by James Fox, but what an incredible feat. For anyone to write about their life, let alone someone like KR with the life he has led is an acheivement worth applauding, and in this case enjoying.
It is so thrilling that Janet Maslin, Liz Phair, and Michiko Kakutani all so favorably reviewed and loved this book. The snippiness of David Remnick in The New Yorker reflects more on Remnick than it does on KR.
I believe this book appeals to anyone interested in music, a musical life, and reverance for the art of making music. Being a Stones fan seals the deal.
Just great!
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews533 followers
November 11, 2017
I tend to oversimplify, but if a photo can say a thousand words, two can say a million.

I'm no Mick Jagger fan, but Keith Richards' gratuitous slams on Jagger in this narcissistic memoir show he aged just as poorly inside.
Profile Image for David Cerruti.
124 reviews35 followers
December 9, 2014
5 stars for the music – the best part. Guitarists will appreciate the description of how Keith came up with 5 string open G tuning, which he often used. *

4 stars for historical detail.

2 stars for long rambling tales of drug use and the resulting busts. Much of it sounds like Keith talking to a tape recorder. It wasn’t all boring. The keystone cops and courtroom episodes were funny. The Stones had some good lawyers. Anyone else would have gone to jail.

A bonus star for the inserts – short narratives written by others. All sorts of people wrote anecdotes from their points of view. It worked well. There’s even one by the brain surgeon who operated on Keith in New Zeeland after he fell from a tree in Fiji.

*[edit 12-9-2014] Another book, Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones, by Paul Trynka, Oct., 2014, challenges some of the details in Life.


Here is an excerpt from a review in the NY Times, Nov. 16, 2014:
In “Life,” Mr. Richards describes his discovery of the blues-tinged open G guitar tuning, familiar from hits like “Honky Tonk Women” and “Start Me Up,” as life changing, and says it came to him via Ry Cooder in the late 1960s. But Mr. Trynka notes that Jones often played in that tuning from the band’s earliest days and quotes Dick Taylor, an original member of the Stones, as saying, “Keith watched Brian play that tuning, and certainly knew all about it.”


Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 9 books6,944 followers
May 9, 2011
I rarely read books by or about celebrities, but I will make the occasional exception if the celebrity in question has written a song as great as "Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain," or (as in this case) "Satisfaction."

Keith Richards lays out the story of his life from very humble beginnings to mega success as a founding member of one of the world's greatest--and longest running--rock 'n' roll bands. It's been quite a ride, and given the drugs and other abuse the man has inflicted upon himself, it's almost impossible to imagine that he's lasted this long. Somehow he has, though, and even at the age of sixty-eight, he's still playing better, rocking harder, and apparently having more fun than rockers one-third his age.

This is pretty much a no-holds-barred memoir that details Richards' relations with his band mates, particularly of course, Mick Jagger. Richards describes unflinchinly the drugs, the women, and the brushes with the law that seem to inevitably accompany life in a lane as fast as this one. It sounds honest and heartfelt; at times it's hilarious and at others sad, but mostly it sounds like the man himself. Even though the book was written with a collaborator, James Fox, every page sounds like the voice of Keith Richards, at least as you might imagine it after listening for years to the man's music.

Long-time Stones' fans will delight in the discussions of the music and revel in the details of the band members' relationships through the years. Even casual music lovers though, should enjoy this book that not only provides the best insider's view of the Rolling Stones that we are ever likely to get, but which also gives us an intimate view of the life of a most interesting man.
Profile Image for Abeer Hoque.
Author 8 books122 followers
July 8, 2011
I picked this book up because it was lying around the art colony where I was living for a month, and because NYT op-ed columnist, Maureen Dowd, of all people, had said Keith Richards had come off surprisingly chivalrously (high praise for a free swinging rock and roll star).

"Life" by Keith Richards, the guitarist for the British band the Rolling Stones, starts off like some druggie teenage wet dream, all groupies and pills and party attitude. Now, I'm a wannabe druggie teenager, and I was put off. Don't be (or skip this chapter). The next one starts at the beginning, with Mr. Richards as a young boy, being raised by his plain spoken often desperately poor single mother. It pans through his teenage years where he is bullied something fierce, fights back, learns art, and then music, and alongside his growing obsession with the Chicago blues, meets Mick Jagger at the train station with a pile of blues records under his arm, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Yes, there's name dropping, there's bitching about the bitches, and even more sniping about his much later fall out with Mick Jagger, but if you can forgive all that, "Life" is an education, and a lively, colloquial, sharp, and unapologetic one, about the blues, about England in the 60's, America in the 70's and 80's, about how politics and government intersect with the music world (I would never have guessed this level of opprobrium), and mostly about the intensity and single mindedness and undeniable talent it would take to become the kind of musician and composer that Mr. Richards is.

Even though I didn't understand half what he meant when describing say, open five string tuning, or mastering blues licks, these passages were among my favourite parts of the book. Here's an example:

"You were forcing acoustic guitars through a cassette player, and what came out the other end was electric as hell. An electric guitar will jump live in your hands. It's like holding on to an electric eel. An acoustic guitar is very dry and you have to play it a different way. But if you can get that different sound electrified, you get this amazing tone and this amazing sound. I've always loved the acoustic guitar, loved playing it, and I thought, if I can just power this up a bit without going to electric, I'll have a unique sound. It's got a little tingle on the top."

For me, it was like reading another language, one I completely understood, on an emotional level, but had never spoken. A lot of his treatises on music making resonated with writing. I never knew there was a term for what poets do naturally when matching up sounds to write a poem: following vowel movements. It's what lyricists do as well - first the sound, then the meaning. Mr. Richards puts it perfectly and plainly:

"There are some people looking to play guitar. There's other people looking for a sound. I was looking for a sound."

With no formal training, he learns his craft by listening obsessively to records, and playing them himself. (He doesn't ever stop doing this.) I didn't know the Stones spent years doing covers, and that their original numbers came only after he and Mick Jagger were locked inside the kitchen by their manager, and told they couldn't leave until they had written a song. Even then, their first few songs were written for other singers, other bands. It's no wonder then that he doesn't walk a straight path, even and especially when it comes to a purity like music:

"There's a throw-in, a flick-back. Nothing's ever a straight major. It's an amalgamation, a mangling and a dangling and a tangling thing. There is no 'properly.'"

And he gives the in between its full due, the spaces inside songs: "It was listening to John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley that made me realise that silence was the canvas."

I didn't know the extent of my ignorance of the blues and folk musicians of America (or how the Stones, in emulating them, introduced them (back) to their own countrymen). My notes while reading this book are filled with songs I have to listen to, and musicians whose names I know but whose music is a (shameful) mystery: Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, the Everly Brothers, Bobby Keys, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Elvis, Gram Parsons, Etta James, Willie Nelson. I've also added three films to my list: Barbarella, Performance, and Scorsese's Shine a Light.

It's no secret Mr. Richards functioned and dysfunctioned under a long standing heroin and coke addiction. He topped the list of rock & rollers most likely to die, for 10 years running! In "Life," he describes his chemical excesses in the same straightforward manner as anything else - something to do, then something he had to do, then something he had to stop doing. No glorification, and certainly not when drugs came to snobbery:

"It was that cliquishness. People who were stoned on something you hadn't taken. Their elitism was total bullshit. Ken Kesey's got a lot to answer for."

Aside from his occasional use of the word bitches to describe women in general, and a sometime careless manner ("you've got to hit it when you're hungry"), Maureen Dowd was right. Mr. Richards is a bit of a (pirate) gentlemen. He has had his share of the ladies, but he doesn't kiss and tell (much), and what he does say is quite tender, snuggling, loving, keeping. His two major loves were Anita Pallenberg, who he was with for 12 years and with whom he had three children (the third died in infancy), and Patti Hansen, who he's been with for coming up on 30 years, and with whom he had two more kids.

He is loyal to a fault when it comes to his friends, and treats friendship as one of the most sacred relationships, "a diminishing of distance between two people."

And he is unstinting with his praise, from his heroes of old to the talents of today. It's likely that this generous spirit, and Mr. Richards' standing as one of the greatest rhythm guitarists in rock & roll, led these musical luminaries, one by one, to become his friends and his collaborators. Among the many greats that Mr. Richards has played with, Tom Waits had this to say:

"I think that nowadays there seems to be a deficit of wonder. And Keith seems to still wonder about this stuff. He will stop and hold his guitar up and just stare at it for a while. Just be rather mystified by it. Like all the great things in the world, women and religion and the sky... you wonder about it, and you don't stop wondering about it."

Lovely. This is why I believe Mr. Richards when he says,

"I'm not here just to make records and money. I'm here to say something and to touch other people, sometimes in a cry of desperation: "Do you know this feeling?""

I do.
Profile Image for Gary.
327 reviews198 followers
June 20, 2012
Ok, Keith Richards.... ever since I first heard SATISFACTION on my little portable AM radio....I have loved the Stones. I had to have been 12 years old or so.....

I have listened,and loved their music to the present. I had heard the stories,and knew that drug use, etc.etc. etc. but there was a lot about Keith that I didn't know.

This book thrilled me...parts of it I loved. Parts I found tedious. Parts made me laugh.....other parts really pissed me off .....pissed off at Keith....How could he act like that,and with children.....??????

But I kept going.... and just finished it. In the end , Keith is not a bad bloke, he's quite the mate...... love him or hate him....the man did not have a boring life.

If you are a Stones fan....read this bio. But understand this....it's written as a narrative....like Keith just talks into a tape recorder about his thoughts, his dreams, his wild audaicious behaviors....but in the end the man made music,and he made it quite well.

Worth your time....just stick with it... is all I can say.....

Now on to STEVEN TYLER'S BIO? Stay tuned...... it's the Ed Sullivan show...." A really big show tonight!"

Profile Image for Barbara K..
429 reviews88 followers
April 18, 2022
The prediction has been floating around for decades that, following WWIII, the only creatures remaining will be cockroaches - and Keith Richards. By the end of this book I had concluded that might just be true. Richards has survived more near-death experiences, whether self-inflicted or accidental, than any half-dozen randomly selected individuals, all while making amazing music.

As celebrity biographies go, this is in the top tier. There is an authenticity of tone that puts it at a remove from most ghost-written bios. I found the early sections of the book, where Richards describes post-war life in the London area, his family's background in music, and his struggles with academic institutions, particularly interesting.

The stories relating how the Rolling Stones came together as a group and their early recordings also resonated with me, probably because their hits were part of my adolescence. (Although Richards gives short-shrift to the Stones' recording of As Tears Go By, I can still recapture the anguish of my 15-year-old heart just thinking of that one.) I bought all their albums beginning with the Sticky Fingers, and I appreciated their growing musicianship, especially how tightly they worked together as a group, throughout the 70's.

But in the book, as with the music, I began losing a bit of interest toward the end of the 70's. The tales of drugs and self-destructive behavior went beyond mind-boggling into mind-numbing and left me feeling kind of icky. The casual misogyny also began to wear on me. Richards makes it clear that he has loved his wives and various other women, but he also refers to other women in terms that he clearly wouldn't use for, say, ethnic minorities.

Eventually he gets clean, falls in love with and marries Patty Hansen, and the story takes a more positive turn. As I read I felt incredibly sorry for his son Marlon's seriously bizarre childhood and adolescence, although he does seem to have turned out reasonably well despite all that.

Richards offers us lots to like about himself. He loves books and dogs, and places enormous value on friendship. He takes pains to give credit to Mick Jagger for his part in their musical collaborations and for his support of Richards during his drug and legal travails, but its no-holds-barred on other matters.

I was confused on one point of fact. Richards makes a point of saying that the Stones didn't start doing stadium concerts until the 1980s, but I distinctly remember seeing them at Rich Stadium outside Buffalo in 1979. Just checked it out online and the attendance was 77,000. Not exactly a club gig.

A few shortcomings, but if you're a Stones fan, this is a must-read. Ditto if you're interested in the history of rock music.

pps - Narration is split between Johnny Depp and Joe Hurley and is overall excellent.
Profile Image for Robin.
1,449 reviews35 followers
September 13, 2011
Did y'all know that Keith Richards is a huge booklover and once wanted to be a librarian?

Aug - I finally decided this was the quintessential summer read so read it on our camping trips. Having been a fan since the Stones first came on the scene (I vacillated between loving them and the Beatles) I was interested in learning more about the early days and how he has managed to stay alive (we are all aware that he looks like the living dead). I also wanted to know more about the song writing process and was a little disappointed that there weren't more details, but what he did write was fascinating. There was way more information about his drug use and busts than I really cared to spend time reading but he did talk lovingly about his personal library and favorite authors which warmed my heart. He also came across as a fairly lovable and caring fellow although he could get himself into some pretty good scraps. He was also honest about his relationship with Jagger even describing Mick's lack of, well, a few of his attributes.

All in all I enjoyed reading this although I did skim parts of it but do have to admit he has a way with phrases and words. I took off a star as he could have used a better editor, but then “Keef” is a pretty tough bugger and would probably kick any editor’s ass that tried to shorten his ramblings.
Profile Image for Bonnie G..
1,366 reviews217 followers
October 16, 2019
Let's start by addressing the elephant in the room: Keith Richards is really not a great person. There seems to be a lot of people who did not like this book because Keith unapologetically did a lot of drugs, slept with a lot of people (and is generally stuck in a serious whore/madonna mindset), left his son with a person he knew to be completely unfit, was roundly dismissive of most of the universe, crashed cars, brandished knives and firearms with some regularity, and is the king of rationalization. I really don't see that any of that is relevant to how good the book is, though all those things are true.

The book is good, really good. Keith writes like he talks. He is funny, crass, smarter than he plays it, egotistical, a true rock star. I (unlike his wife's family) would not be too happy if my daughter brought him home for dinner, but I would absolutely love to go out and have a drink or 12 with the guy. One of the things that surprised me is the depth of his musical knowledge and experimentation. For me the most interesting part of the book was the discussion of open tuning and not who slept with whom. I am only a very casual Stones fan, who does not regularly listen to any of the albums other than Exile on Main Street and Beggars Banquet, but the book gave me a much greater appreciation for the music overall, and lead me to explore music from Keith's side projects. All in all, as good a chronicle of the rock and roll world of the 60's and 70's as you can find. And occasionally a laugh out loud read to boot.
Profile Image for Bill.
308 reviews312 followers
January 6, 2011
very entertaining book about the life of keith richards...and what a life he's had. the book is billed as an autobiography although he had help from another writer.there is a lot of interesting stuff about the stones' early days when they just wanted to be a blues band, and quite a few tips on how he plays which would be helpful to musicians.then of course they became the biggest band in the world, and a large part of the book is devoted to his battling with various drug addictions, especially heroin, from which he says he's been clean for almost 30 years. not coincidentally, that's pretty much the same length of time he's been married to his wife patti, so she obviously has had a good effect on him.and of course a lot of the book talks about the music, and if you're a rock and roll fan you can't deny that the rolling stones did some great stuff, especially in the early years, although sticky fingers is my favorite album of theirs.anyway, if you're a fan of rock music in general or of the stones in particular, you'll enjoy this book.
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