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178 of 194 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RIVETING ACCOUNT OF RICHARDS' LIFE IN AND OUT OF MUSIC, October 26, 2010
This review is from: Life (Hardcover)
This memoir, written with the help of writer James Fox, is an intricately detailed account of Keith Richards life, both in and out of music-but mostly in. All the stories are here-the funny, the touching, the horrendous, and the amazing. Some are well known, some weren't even known to Richards-he only hears later, from others who were with him, what went on. And he's put it all in this book. Included are 32 pages of b&w and color photographs (including one of the band, with Jagger driving, in a vintage red convertible, across the Brooklyn Bridge) in two groups, plus photos throughout the book itself chronicling Richards' life. Also of interest is an early diary that Richards kept detailing the bands early gigs and impressions of the music the band played.

Richards has been known as many things-"the human riff", as some kind of prince of a dark underworld filled with drugs, booze, and skull rings, as "Keef", a rock 'n' roll pirate, as someone who should be dead (several times over) from massive drug use and other lifestyle choices, and as someone hounded by law enforcement-looking to incarcerate this bad example to all the kids. But Richards is also known as a settled (for him) family man. But somehow he's survived it all. And now, with this autobiography, he's letting us into his life. This book looks back at all the times-good, bad, and just plain strange.

Beginning with Richards' boyhood in post-war England, no stone is left unturned in detailing his young life. A life which changed forever with his discovery of American blues. From that era the book details the formation of THE ROLLING STONES (I would like to have learned more about Brian Jones' in relation to the formation of the group), which changed his life again-a life he continues to the present.

This book is important, interesting, and at times, harrowing, with a myriad of details surrounding Richards, his band, and anyone caught up in their universe of music, good times, misery, drugs, violence, and just plain weirdness. But the book also shows another side of Keith Richards. The pain he felt (and still feels) when his young son Tara, died while Richards was on tour. The loss of musician and friend/band hanger-on, Gram Parsons. Looking back with regret as people close to him sunk into a hellish pit of drug addiction. And Richards' own account of his years of drug use-especially heroin and the misery he brought on himself, even while he was careful not to go to far over the edge.

Of course no memoir concerning Richards would be complete without accounts of the ups and downs, over many years, with Mick Jagger. There's a number of fascinating asides and insights concerning their ideas of what direction the band should follow. Unfortunately, but not surprising, Jagger (and the other band members) are not heard from. That's unfortunate because of all the valuable insight concerning Richards' life on and off the stage, and the inner workings of one of the world's greatest rock 'n' roll bands, that his long time band mates could bring to the story. But others who have known Richards over the course of many years were interviewed. People like Ronnie Spector, Jim Dickinson, Andrew Oldham, Bobby Keys, and a number of fellow musicians and friends, all have telling bits and pieces to add to the overall picture of just who Richards is.

The detail Richards and Fox have put into this well written memoir is almost staggering. Reading about the early days of the band is exciting and fascinating, if for no other reason the era they came up in is long since vanished. The discovery and idolization of musicians like Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Slim Harpo, and other blues greats, trying to emulate the hard scrabble lifestyles of American blues artists, the small scruffy clubs the band played in the beginning, living in abject poverty and squalor, the large concerts in later years, the songs, the albums, the drugs, and the many fascinating (and sometimes disgusting) characters that drift in and out of Richards' life-it's all here. And taken together, this is a story only Keith Richards could live (and survive) to write about in such detail.

While there have been other decent books on Richards and/or the Stones, for the straight, unvarnished truth, as he sees it and lived it, this is the book that matters. This memoir, written in a Richards-to-you conversational style, is interesting, exciting, gritty, informative, harrowing, and important. And with this book, written in his own words, we can't get much closer to the man and his life than that.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 26, 2010 11:17:42 AM PDT
This is a good review of a great book. Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2010 11:42:58 AM PDT
Ms. Parrothead-thanks for taking the time to respond to my review. I like your nom de plum.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2010 11:29:38 AM PDT
joymc says:
"Life" is among the best! Keith chronicles not only the stones, but a generation. - I'm just so surprised no one mentioned the recipes for bangers & mash & the tip for great shepherd's pie :)

Posted on Nov 20, 2010 11:58:36 AM PST
very cool...makes me want to read this one...

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2010 6:29:32 AM PST
Whamo says:
People should realize the entire book is not as good as the sample chapter they give you on Kindle. But the book is worth a read if you are a Stone's fan.

Posted on Mar 29, 2011 9:48:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 29, 2011 9:52:09 PM PDT
Mark L. says:
It's not so surprising that "Jagger (and the other band members) are not heard from" in this book. This is Keith's autobiography, not a journalistic article. Bill Wyman said what he wanted to say in his own book several years ago, and if Mick ever writes his, he'll have his chance then.

Who would have ever expected that Keith Richards, of all people, could remember his life in such detail?! Or that he would be so sentimental about his family and friends? These are not things his co-author could concoct--these came from Keith himself. It may sound hackneyed, but it just goes to show...we're all human.

Posted on Jul 11, 2011 4:17:22 PM PDT
Beth says:
I can agree with your review here. It's one of the best rock musician autobiographies I've read. I learned much about his youth, and with both the photos I've never seen plus other people's anecdotes, it seems straight-on with what I know. In interviews with Mick over the years about their early history, the band's feelings about Brian Jones and other details, those are corroborated by the band. Keith recognizes how he could be a pain...his son having to wake him up before concerts? It's clear what Mick's problem with Keith was. I enjoyed his spending a good amount of time on how songs were written and produced. He showed a sensitivity toward Anita Pallenberg and the way Brian treated women and how he was a different guy than Mick. Amusing too how precise he was with the drugs weighing the pure coke so carefully and his friends in Jamaica noting the danger of street coke. Except for the one little "tiny todger" dig at Keith and some of the time in France when Mick was hanging around with French filmmakers, he was often complimentary about Mick. I think some people might have wanted more dirt but for the most part this was a mature autobiography that didn't lose his own voice and didn't weigh so heavy on drug stuff as inavoidable as it is. I didn't feel like Keith was exaggerating stories or puffing himself up too much.

Keith is an avid book reader, history books especially. He knows his blues players well. I wouldn't expect to hear from the other band members in an autobiography and much of their opinions are in interviews over the decades. I couldn't put the book down. A quality job. I don't think Mick could do as well and has made no mention yet of a desire to write his own. Bill Wyman has written something like seven books.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2015 8:58:40 PM PST
Larry says:
Richards had selective memory.He conveniently forgot Live Aid.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2015 5:49:05 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 31, 2015 5:50:34 AM PST
Beth says:
Larry, why do you say that he conveniently forgot Live Aid? Why should he have even mentioned it? I doubt he forgot about it since he played with Bob Dylan, and it was a big event, but it was just another gig. Maybe nothing particularly interesting happened at it that he wanted to talk about. It's not like they talk about every concert. I haven't read the book since it came out, but I do remember him mentioning the Anaheim, CA concert in '78 where the crowd threw shoes on the stage--that's something different to talk about. There are other concerts they did that were more significant in Rolling Stones history, let alone all the TV shows in the early 60s, the concerts in Europe with riots, etc.
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