Modern Works — “Life” by Keith Richards

LifeLife by Keith Richards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll are what you would expect from a Keith Richards autobiography, but there are also lessons on music, knife fighting, and even a recipe for bangers and mash.

Richards writes about how the Rolling Stones got started and how they wrote their songs. In the ge of the Internet and auto-tuning, I am not sure that their path could be followed exactly, but the principles and methods he describe could probably be applied to all sorts of music.

Making music is Richards’s first love. (Incidentally, that ”s’ is correct according to Strunk and White.) He describes the joy he feels in making music with a band, and it just sounds like the kind of thing that you want to try — even if you are not musical.

As a non-musician, the other thing that this book gave me was a new appreciation for Rolling Stones songs. When Richards describes how Charlie Watts does not always play all four beats on a high hat or how Richards plugged a cassette recorder into an extension speaker and then put a microphone in front of the speaker to get more depth, you just can’t listen to the songs in the same way.

In addition to all of this Keith Richards’s life story holds its own interest. For instance, he loved being a Boy Scout. Compulsory military service ended just at the right time, so he never went in the army, though he speculates on what would have happened if he had. His first job application was to be an ad man. And he had a scary run-in after falling out of a palm tree (though the story was blown up to mythic proportions, it is the kind of thing that could happen to any of us).

The other interesting thing is how Keith Richards and Bruce Lee had a similar philosophy. Both of them approached their arts as a means of expressing themselves, and that ability, that development of skill to express themselves is in large part what drove them. I am not sure what this means entirely, but it is something that is worth thinking about in more depth.

I woudl recommend this book to Rolling Stones fans, musicians and people who want to start a band, and people interested in music history.

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