Friday, December 03, 2010

What We're Reading - Life by Keith Richards

Thanks to Nancy for the following review!

I'm an avid Stones fan. Through the last three decades I've become quite familiar with the band's music. And, these days I'm much more interested in the lives of the band's members. So, it was with great excitement, and, anticipation that I looked forward to reading Life, Keith Richards' autobiography.

Keith takes us on a journey through his life honestly recounting details of his childhood, family, adolescence, and years as a musician. Through these stories we learn about the man and his thoughts. It's no accident that Keith became a musician. His mother, Doris, loved music and played it in the home. Then there were his grandparents, Gus and Emma. Gus took him to music shops in the West End where instruments were glued and strings strung. He slowly introduced Keith to the guitar at age 10 or 11. We find out that our seemingly tough "rock 'n roll hero" was regularly beaten up walking home from school for being smaller than most boys; and for being in the school choir. We learn about Keith's academic turning point, his placement in art school, and why he rebelled against authority. We're introduced to his musical heroes, his relationships with the other Stones (those living and dead), and his exploits on the road.

It's no surprise that Keith did drugs, drank , was a junkie, and survived numerous drug busts. What is a surprise is his honesty in telling us these things. By doing this he is saying - hey, this is me, warts and all. I was surprised to learn he hadn't done heroin since 1979. And amused to find out how the "blood transfusion in Switzerland" story began.

One thing I do question, though, is why there is so much written about his argument with Mick from the 1980s to the present. Yes, we've heard much about their legendary fights, and Mick's tight control of the band. So, is it to show that despite the fights they're still friends? Is it to let us know that Keith doesn't like to be controlled? Or is it to say band members who've know each other this long are going to fight?

Overall, this is an entertaining and enlightening read. The writer's style of writing is a little dry but Keith's voice comes through loud and clear.

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