Happy Birthday to Rolling Stones co-founder Keith Richards, who turns 77 today (December 18th)!!! Richards, a man who due to his previous penchant for hard street drugs wasn't expected to see 30 — let alone 50 — has often infamously topped numerous “Most Likely To Die Lists” over the years. Today also marks the 37th anniversary for Richards and wife Patti Hansen, who married in 1983 on the guitarist's 40th birthday — with Mick Jagger serving as best man.
It was announced earlier this week, the Rolling Stones' first decade will be the subject of a limited TV series for FX. The still-unnamed official series will be produced by the same team behind the hit show chronicling Britain's royal family, The Crown.
Out now is Keith Richards' deluxe reissue of his and the X-Pensive Winos' 1991 concert collection, Live From The Hollywood Palladium, which was recorded on December 15th, 1988. The limited edition box set and digital version includes three bonus tracks new to the set — the Stones' Tattoo You favorite, “Little T&A,” Richards' then-recent “You Don’t Move Me,” and the Lennon & McCartney-written early Stones single, “I Wanna Be Your Man.”
Also recently released is the deluxe version of the Rolling Stones' 1973 chart-topper, Goats Head Soup, which has been issued in multiple configurations — including four-disc CD and vinyl box set editions, featuring unreleased studio and live material.
Back in April, the Stones issued a standalone track, “Living In A Ghost Town,” which peaked at Number One on the iTunes Song Chart. Work continues on the next Rolling Stones album, with the band recording remotely and in Manhattan at year's end.
It was this time in 2018 when Richards grabbed headlines by revealing that — barring the occasional glass of wine or bottle of beer — he's essentially sober. Richards — whose primary poison for years was Stoli and Sunkist — told Rolling Stone: “It’s been about a year now. I pulled the plug on it. I got fed up with it. It was time to quit. Just like all the other stuff.” When asked if it was an adjustment for him, Richards laughed and said, “You can call it that, yeah. But I don’t notice any difference really — except for I don’t drink. I wasn’t feeling (right). I’ve done it. I didn’t want that anymore. . . It was interesting to play sober.”
Stones guitarist Ron Wood, who's been sober since 2010 explained, “It just wasn’t working anymore, y'know? I think the Keith that we used to know and love had this cutoff point where if he had one more, he’d go over the top and he’d be nasty. The cutoff point became shorter and shorter, y'know, and he realized that.”
Richards, along with Mick Jagger, has written some of the most enduring and important songs of the rock era, including “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,” “Under My Thumb,” “Gimme Shelter,” “You Can't Always Get What You Want,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Get Off My Cloud,” “Brown Sugar,” “Let's Spend The Night Together,” “As Tears Go By,” “Street Fighting Man,” “She's A Rainbow,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Angie,” “Paint It, Black,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Waiting On A Friend,” “Miss You,” “Emotional Rescue,” “Fool To Cry,” “Wild Horses” “Sympathy For The Devil,” “It's Only Rock N' Roll,” “Start Me Up,” and literally hundreds of others.
Although many songs that were primarily written by Richards were sung by Jagger, over the years several of Richards' vocal turns have become classics of their own, including “You've Got The Silver,” “Happy,” “Before They Make Me Run,” “All About You,” “Little T&A,” and “Thru And Thru,” which was featured on The Sopranos.
March 2019 saw the six-disc 30th anniversary super deluxe edition of Keith Richards' 1988 solo debut, Talk Is Cheap. Richards' co-producer, drummer, and songwriter collaborator Steve Jordan remastered the 1988 set, which includes six unreleased bonus tracks featuring Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, bassist Bootsy Collins, and legendary Chuck Berry pianist Johnnie Johnson.
Keith Richards chatted at the time with The Sydney Morning Herald and was asked about the particularly toxic vibes between him and Mick Jagger in the mid-1980's that led to the recording of Talk Is Cheap. Richards responded by saying, “You mean how many difficult times? We’re brothers, y'know? We fight and that’s when people hear about our relationship. The other 99 per cent nobody’s interested in, because we get along fine. But when Mick and I do have a disagreement, we really have one (laughs).”
In January 2018, the Stones' 2016 return to their roots, Blue & Lonesome, won the Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. Although it topped the charts in no less than 10 countries, including Britain — Blue & Lonesome — the Stones' first studio set in over a decade, fell short Stateside, peaking at Number Four. In addition to England, the album went all the way to Number One on the Australian, Belgian, Dutch, German, Norwegian, Scottish, Swedish, and Swiss album charts.
September 2015 saw the release of Keith Richards’ third solo album — and his first in 22 years — titled, Crosseyed Heart. Joining him on the set were his X-Pensive Winos bandmates — guitarist Waddy Watchel and chief collaborator, drummer Steve Jordan, Sara Dash, and Ivan Neville — along with longtime Stones associates Blondie Chaplin and Bernard Fowler. Crosseyed Heart marked the highest charting album of Richards’ solo career, hitting Number 11 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The album's lead single, “Trouble,” went all the way to Number 20 on the Billboard Adult Alternative chart. Crosseyed Heart, which sailed to Number One in Austria, reached the Top 10 on the Belgium, Danish, Dutch, Italian, New Zealand, Norwegian, Swedish, Swiss, and UK album charts.
Today is bound to be a bittersweet one for Richards, as it would have also marked Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys' 77th birthday. Keys, who was among Richards' best friends, died on December 2nd, 2014 from cirrhosis of the liver at age 70. Keys, who met the band back in 1964 recorded and toured with the Stones frequently over the past 45 years, playing on such classics as “Brown Sugar,” “Bitch,” “Can't You Hear me Knocking,” “Emotional Rescue,” and dozens of others.
In 2014, Richards and daughter Theadora published the children’s book, Gus & Me: The Story Of My Granddad And My First Guitar.
Not too long ago, Richards spoke to Australia's Triple M radio's Lee Simon and touched upon his favorite Stones tunes to play live, saying, “I always love to play 'Jumpin’ Jack Flash.' I still haven’t nailed him and every time I say, 'tonight I'm gonna kill that mutha.' He is always the beautiful challenge to play. 'Tumbling Dice' is another one that I just love to play. It is just a sweet thing to play and you are never short of just finding different ways of doing it. As long as the song lives for me I love them all. 'Street Fighting Man' is an incredible thing to play. 'Beast Of Burden,' when it comes down to it I love them all.”
He went on to admit that he often has felt as a conduit for the song — rather than being its composer: “I never really felt like I wrote them or created them. They come to you and you order it up a bit and then you put it on. I feel like a medium when it comes to songwriting as if I’m receiving, I sort it out and then I transmit.”
In October 2010, Richards released his critically acclaimed autobiography, called Life — which has now sold over one million copies.
In 2006 the Stones had to delay a portion of their European tour after Richards fell out of a tree while vacationing in Fiji, which resulted in two operations to relieve and drain the swelling from his brain.
In 2007, Richards, whose drug use is legendary in the rock world, again shocked readers when he told the New Musical Express that, following his father Burt's 2002 death, he had snorted his father's ashes mixed with cocaine. After the story became front-page headlines, Richards recanted the story and said that he was joking. In his autobiography, Richards changed the story again — admitting that he snorted a bit of his dad, but failed to mention any cocaine.
Former Stones bassist Bill Wyman maintains that Keith Richards is quite possibly rock's most unique musician: “Well, Keith's like a gypsy, really. A pirate. He lives life like that and he plays like that and he's a great rhythm guitar player, anyway. I think, probably one of the best rhythm guitar players there's been for years. And when he gets going, I mean, it really lifts the band.”
Richards laid out the musical blueprint for much of the Stones best work — including 1972's Exile On Main Street album. He explained that like most of the Stones' classics, the recording and tracklisting for the set came about organically: “We never even intended for it to be a double album until finally we sort of run out of (laughs) songs and finally said, 'Well, there's too much for one album, but there's too much . . . y'know, we can't cut this baby up.' So we decided to go for the double. Sometimes it's the hardest part of making albums that — 'Okay, what order do the songs come in? And you kind of get used to listening to them like jumbling them up kind of thing and saying, 'Well that works nice off of that.' And you kind of work it like that — like a jigsaw puzzle.”
Mick Jagger feels that Richards ultimately following his lead by starting his own solo career made him a better musician and record producer: “I think the experience with making his own records has made him more disciplined than he would've like to be. (Laughs) He's forced to be!”
Drummer Charlie Watts explains the deep musical kinship between himself and Keith Richards: “It's very easy playing with Keith. Very easy. Your only critic is yourself, really. He doesn't say, 'Oh that's 'orrible,' and you don't stop playing if whatever. It's like, 'That's how you wanna do it? See what 'appens. I didn't like it, but you liked it.' Y'know?' He's very easy like that, very easy to play with. And if it's good, he's very complimentary about it. Very comfortable to play with.”
Ron Wood's relationship with Richards is in many ways more intense than his relationship with Jagger. Wood chronicled the ups and downs of “life with Keith” in his own recent autobiography called Ronnie. Wood was asked to describe the status of their current relationship: “It's just gone through its changes over the years. We're like chameleons, we can adapt to any situation and still remain very close and see the reality of things.”
Keith Richards and his late-former lover Anita Pallenberg were a couple for a dozen years, between 1967 and 1979. Together they shared two living children — Marlon, 51, and daughter Angela, 48. Pallenberg and Richards' third child — a newborn son, Tara — died of crib death in 1976. He and Patti Hansen have two children together — Theadora, 35 and Alexandra, 34.
As anyone who’s followed the Stones over the years, despite being known — and beloved — for their infamous bad boy ways, as Keith Richards explained, they actually remain one of the most family centric units in all of rock: “Families are — I mean, let's face it; we all come from one. You have a mum and a dad an then you grow up and then suddenly (laughs) you got kids (laughs). Of course family’s important. It's a very important thing. I tell you the interesting thing us to actually watch them grow up. It's one of those things you sit back and watch.”
We asked Keith Richards, who's spent most of his life on the road, if he's got any solid advice for new bands who are aiming to one day celebrate decades of great work together: “Yeah, get out of the business and just get into the fun of it. It's a matter of the joy of working with other people and being able to turn yourself into one thing. It's a functioning gang, if y'know what I mean — with no ill intentions (laughs).”
In April 2018, Keith Richards revealed on his official YouTube channel that he and Mick Jagger had just completed about a dozen songs for the Rolling Stones' upcoming studio set. When answering the question posed to his ongoing “Ask Keith” series, Richards spoke about how the Jagger/Richards team ramps up and operates: “The secret is that we neither of us know what we're gonna do until we put ourselves together, and then just see what happens. It's one of those things with the Stones collectively is a, sort of, chemical thing. I can walk in and say, 'I hope Mick's got a song, because I haven't got a (laughs) thing' — and probably vice versa at times, y'know? But, the fact is when we get together, we come up with something else anyway. So, there's a great week last week. We just went in, I don't know, we did about 10, 12 different things that didn't exist until that moment. And that's a great feeling, y'know, 'cause it's a sort of (a) creative thing, y'know?”
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards shed light on how they decide it's time to ramp up for another string of dates: (Mick Jagger): “It sort of runs in a pretty good cycle.” (Keith Richards): “I have to wait for a phone call from Mick, saying, 'I'm getting a but antsy (laughter) — you wanna go, and should we. . .” (Jagger): “Don't forget, there is. . . You gotta be a bit hard-headed, there is a sort of supply and demand thing here. If no one called up and said, 'We think, y'know, you should go and tour. . .' There's good times and bad times to do tours. (Richards): “In a way, Mick and I get the same feeling just around the same time. It's then — as Mick was just saying — y'know, does all the rest of it fall into place, y'know, the business and the supply and demands and all of that. But, basically, we say, 'Well, we're ready — if the demand's there, we'll supply.'”