The Rolling Stones guitarist was born on this day in 1943
The Legendary Human Riff Keith Richards celebrates 80 today
He’s been a legend for over 5 decades, and against all odds he’s alive and well. He embodied the “Sex, Drugs and Rock N’ Roll” motto for years, one of the most influential musicians and Rock Stars from all time, the story of his life blends with the story of modern Rock and today we have the privilege to celebrate Keef’s 80th birthday
Keith Richards was born in Dartford, England on December 18th, 1943; his grandfather taught him the rudiments of Richards’ first tune, “Malagueña”. He worked on the number ‘like mad’ and then his grandfather let him keep the guitar. He called it ‘the prize of the century’. As a child and teenager, Keith used to stay at home, listening to recordings by Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington among others, and that’s when he started to develop his taste for Rock music. Richards attended Wentworth Primary School with Mick Jagger and was his neighbor until 1954.They met again during the early 1960’s on a train as Jagger was heading for classes at the London School of Economics. The rhythm & blues albums from Chess Records by Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters that Jagger was carrying revealed a mutual interest and Richards joined the band where Jagger was singing, The Blues Boys, which folded when Brian Jones, after sharing thoughts on their joint interest in the blues music, invited Mick and Keith to the Bricklayers Arms pub, where they then met Ian Stewart. The Rolling Stones were starting to take shape and soon they were joined by Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. By mid-1962 Richards had left Sidcup Art College to devote himself to music and moved into a London flat with Jagger and Jones. The band was signed to Decca Records in 1963 and were an instant success, together with The Beatles they ruled the Pop and Rock music charts around the world during the 1960’s. The Stones first album, self titled “The Rolling Stones” was released in 1964, it consisted on mainly covers of Blues and R&B songs, a trend they followed for two more albums, it wasn’t until their third album “Out Of Our Heads”, that the band started to dare more in writing their own compositions and similar to The Beatles Lennon/McCartney songwriting team, the Stones had Jagger/Richards. Their 5th album, “After-Math” from 1966, it’s the first entirely composed by Jagger and Richards. By then they already were one of the biggest Rock bands in the world and had completed successful European and American tours as well as released several hit singles, including their signature song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, which the memorable and famous guitar riff was written by Keith. Though the Stones had the great and creative multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones, Richards played a pivotal role on penning their own songs and also on recording it, he played all of the guitar parts on some of the most memorable Rolling Stones songs such as “Paint It Black”, “Ruby Tuesday”, “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Gimme Shelter”. He also did and does often backing vocals on many Rolling Stones songs as well as occasional lead vocals, being the most successful one “Happy” from the 1972 album “Exile On Main St.”. In 1967 the band releases two albums, “Between The Buttons” and “Their Satanic Majesties Request”, where they distance themselves from their Bluesy Rock sound and adventure into Psychedelia. Keith also starts one of his most famous relationship, with model and actress Anita Pallenberg, former Brian Jones girlfriend, and gets into serious problems with the Police when together with Jagger he’s arrested for drug possession and use. By 1968, the Stones were already seen as pioneers and leaders of Rock music, and they started to face some serious problems between them when the drug use of Keith and Brian Jones reached a whole new level, which eventually got Brian fired from the band in 1969, but still, they released two more influential albums, “Beggar’s Banquet” in 1968 and “Let It Bleed” in 1969.
The 1970’s and Beyond
After Brian Jones death in 1969, Richards drug habit didn’t slowed down, it increased to the point of heroin addiction, but never quitters, Keith still was writing some of his best material as it can be heard on “Sticky Fingers” from 1971 and “Exile On Main St.” from 1972. After that, the Stones were considered an ancient Rock act, with a whole new generation of bands and artists, but still they were never left behind. Keith’s drug addiction causes another problem with the law, in Canada, 1978. He also separates from Anita Pallenberg. As the 1980’s approached, the Stones musical direction started to slowly shift from their original sound. The whole decade of 1980 was weak and really unreliable for the band who was used to have all albums being acclaimed and highly rated. But Keith never slowed down, in 1983 he marries his wife, model Patti Hansen, with whom he is still married. During that period the excess and drug abuse came to and end, with Keith dedicating himself more to music and his family. Now after nearly 60 years, the band, which is the oldest Rock band in the world, are still rolling and touring, and released a new album “Hackney Diamonds” which received a warm welcome from both fans and critics, despite the unexpected and untimely death of drummer Charlie Watts in 2021, and in between Keith also likes to act, he had small cameo roles on “Pirates Of The Caribbean” as the Johnny Depp character, Captain Jack Sparrow, it’s influenced on his mannerisms by Keith. Keith published his autobiography “Life” in 2010, where among many other confessions and “secrets” he tells that Mick Jagger is “unbearable”, however nothing ruins the friendship between the two Stones front-men. Richards was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1993. But Keith will always be Keith and in 2016, he stated that he still occasionally drinks alcohol and consumes hashish and cannabis. Happy Birthday Keith and we hope there’s many more to come to you.
Watch and listen to a compilation of Keith Richards best moments “Live At The Max”, recorded during the Urban Jungle Tour
Listen a compilations of interviews with Keith Richards about his life and career
Listen and shuffle through The Rolling Stones complete discography on Spotify
Watch more Rolling Stones related videos
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