Keith Richards (born 18 December 1943) is an English musician from Dartford, Kent, best known as a guitarist and songwriter for, and founding member of, The Rolling Stones.
One of the Stones' best-known members along with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones, he first became famous with them along with Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts during The British Invasion. His inspirations have included Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley's guitarist), and Bo Diddley. His style is (predictably) a standard blues rock feel, emphasizing chords and rhythm over 'fastest-gun-in-the-west' style.
He is frequently listed among the top ranks of guitarist magazines, greatest song lists, and all time rock and roller greats. His musical history is enormous, with hundreds of songs to his name, and even more guitarists inspired directly or partially by him. He has also inspired actors, but more on that later.
Unfortunately, despite his talent, he is most remembered for his amazing amounts of drug intakes, and other 'misquotations' from his long career. He once famously responded to an interviewer asking him what the strangest thing he had ever snorted was by saying 'my father, his ashes ground up and snorted.' This article had to be changed by his management, since it stated incorrectly that he ground his father's ashes up 'like cocaine' when in truth it was 'with cocaine'. Also, they incorrectly stated that he listened to Motörhead, not Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Richards was made even more famous by Johnny Depp, who channeled him for his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Richards even appeared in the third and fourth films as Jack Sparrow's father, complete with his wife's Shrunken Head.
Rolling Stone recognizes him as the fourth greatest guitarist of all time on their list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Solo album discography:
- 1988 - Talk Is Cheap
- 1991 - Live at the Hollywood Palladium, December 15, 1988
- 1992 - Main Offender
- 1978 - Run Rudolph Run
- The Harder They Come as the original B-side
- Pressure Drop as the reissue B-side
- The Harder They Come as the original B-side
- 2009 - Life
- 2014 - Gus And Me
Keith Richards provides examples of:
- Ambiguously Human: The sheer abuse his body has been through and yet he's still alive and functional has caused many fans to speculate if he may be more than human.
- Ashes to Crashes: The ash snorting story. See Urban Legend below.
- Birthday Buddies: He and longtime Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys were born on the exact same day, as they learned when handing out passports.
- Celebrity Cameo: He plays Jack Sparrow's father in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
- Christmas Songs: "Run Rudolph Run".
- Everyone Has Standards and Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Amazingly he was the one who told Charlie Watts to 'sort yourself out' when Watts's addictions got to their worst point. He also said that crack cocaine is the one drug he has never and would never try.
- The Hedonist: The living patron saint of the trope.
- Hidden Depths: He's an avid reader and history buff with an extensive library, as became clear with his unexpectedly thoughtful memoir, Life. He also has an enormous knowledge of blues, rock & roll, R&B and other related musics.
- I Call It "Vera": Names all of his guitars, in order to simplify things with his techs. His main guitars include "Micawber," "Malcolm," "Sunny" (all Fender Telecasters) and "Dice" (a Gibson Les Paul Jr.).
- Love Triangle: He won Anita Pallenberg from Brian Jones due to the latter's abusive behavior.
- Made of Iron: Quite possibly the best example in real life. The man seems impervious to any lasting harm, whatever it's from epic amounts of narcotics or physical injury, to the point that the common jokes that he could survive nuclear war without a scratch and can't be killed by any weapon known to man barely come across as exaggeration.
- No One Could Survive That!: The immense amount of drugs this guy has taken in his life. Also...
- During a Rolling Stones concert in Sacramento, California, in September 1965, before performing the song "The Last Time", Richards noted his microphone was pointing away from him. To put it in the right direction, he smashed his guitar against the microphone, causing it to give him an electric shock, which rendered him unconscious for seven minutes. Luckily, Bill Wyman rushed to his aid in time to get the guitar away from his body (the shock had melted away three of its strings).
- Later on, in 2006, he concussed himself after falling out of a coconut tree while on holiday in Fiji, only to be nursed back to health in New Zealand. He later offered his gratitude to the surgeons in New Zealand who operated on him, saying that "I left half my brain there".
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis: After Jagger, Richards is probably the most famous member of the Stones. But he is perhaps more iconic as an apparently immortal junkie than he is as a guitar legend.
- Smoking Is Cool: Still smokes like a chimney at age 70 and looks bad-ass while doing it.
- Smoking Is Not Cool: On the other hand, his body has visibly suffered from decades of substance abuse — although that's down to more than just smoking.
- Solo Side Project: Basically, Keith's entire solo career. For him, the Stones have always been his number one priority. Still, in an interview he claimed his only regret in life was "getting busted for drug possession".
- Sophisticated as Hell: He's quite attuned culturally and one of his choices for a Desert Island Disc was Vivaldi's Four Seasons; his justification is:I was agonising about this because Mozart is my man, but then I found out reading some of his letters that the only good word he had to say about any other composer was Vivaldi, and then I tried to put this together with being on a desert island... so I chose spring from Vivaldi.
- Special Guest: He joined Mick Jagger (among others) for background vocals on The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" (1967); contributed guitar, piano, and vocals to future bandmate Ronnie Wood's albums I've Got My Own Album to Do (1974) and Now Look (1975); played guitar on Peter Tosh's "Bush Doctor" (1978); sang on Max Romeo's album Holding Out My Love to You (1981); added guitar and backing vocals to Tom Waits' "Big Black Mariah", "Union Square" and "Blind Love" from Rain Dogs (1985); co-wrote, played and shared lead vocals on Waits' "That Feel" from Bone Machine (1992); and provided guitar and vocals to Waits' "Chicago", "Satisfied", "Last Leaf" and "Hell Broke Luce" from Bad As Me (2011) as well.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Keith has lent his vocals to numerous Rolling Stones songs over the years.
- The Stoner: Unsurprisingly, he enjoys cannabis and hash, although he's said he only does so occasionally.
- The Tyson Zone: He has such a well-documented track record of hedonism and an ability to survive a lifestyle that would have killed mere mortals many times over that pretty much any story about his behavior, such as those listed below, is not that hard to buy.
- Urban Legends: A couple of good ones which may well have been started by the man himself...
- Supposedly, Keith is able to cheat death because every few years, he gets a full blood transfusion at a clinic in Switzerland. Keith has said he told this to the customs officer in London as a joke, and the guy bought it.
- There's also the story about him snorting his father's ashes along with some cocaine ... which first did the rounds before Richards senior died. It's said to have originated in a jokey comment Keith made to his dad after the latter expressed his disapproval of Keith's drug use.
- X Treme Kool Letterz: Keith's side band, the X-Pensive Winos.