Life by Keith Richards Book Review

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Book: Life

Author: Keith Richards with James Fox

By: Melanie Dinjaski

Keith Richards’ biography is an enthralling read. Front to back, there is not a dull moment. It tells of how a blues loving, rebel scout leader from the Dartford housing projects, grew out of dismal shadows of post-war England, into an obsessed guitarist who became the backbone of arguably the greatest rock’n’roll band of all time.

Straight off the bat, the reader is welcomed into Richards’ Life with a quintessential Rolling Stones anecdote, about a drug bust in America’s bible belt at the height of the band’s fame. From there on in, you’ll be hooked. In his (surprisingly) vivid memories of the Rolling Stones, the reader quickly feels part of the band; of the inner sanctum. Or even more personal than that. With his characteristically soft-spoken cockney twang so distinguishable throughout the tome, this biography is not just a rehashing of events. Or a timeline of music history. It is not limited to ink on a page. The narration is so understatedly powerful, that it feels as if Keef himself is intimately sharing his story to you, and you alone.

Recalling the cultural battleground of London circa 1960, Richards gives the background to what shaped the founding of the Rolling Stones. Beatniks, trad jazzers, bikies, mods and rock’n’rollers, with Keith and Mick in the middle of it all, refusing to play anything but the blues. We learn about the family, the people, the bands, the trends, the travel, the lifestyle, the fame, the law, the drugs and the girls.

But what becomes most clear in this impressive volume, above everything else, is the love Richards has for music. It is infectious. In a world where such love of music is somewhat lost in the commercial environment of today’s music scene, it’s that honest, undying love and sheer lust for music that is so inspiring. But I’ll leave you to decide. In Keef’s words:

“There’s a certain moment when you realize that you’ve actually just left the planet for a bit and that nobody can touch you. You’re elevated because you’re with a bunch of guys that want to do the same thing as you. And when it works, baby, you’ve got wings. You know you’ve been somewhere most people will never get; you’ve been to a special place. And then you want to keep going back and keep landing again, and when you land you get busted. But you always want to go back there. It’s flying without a license.”

Life will take its place among the other legendary music biographies. A must-read for any self-respecting music lover.

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