Sex? Check. Drugs? Check. Rock and Roll? Check. What else would you expect from an autobiography from Rolling Stones co-founder and guitarist Keith Richards called Life? The book has all of these things in abundance, so much so that one could make the argument that they coined the now clichéd phrase for “Keef” himself. There are, however, some welcomed curve balls throughout this book including the Dickensian aspects of a childhood in post war England and references to both Mary Poppins and Master and Commander. Yes, all of that is here and more.
The bulk of this autobiography deals with the big three, Richards’s life’s work in rock and roll and an unapologetic look at his personal life which for years was an intertwining of sex and drugs. The most interesting aspects of this book deal with Richards’s progression through a life in music. The story is traced all the way back to his childhood when he first picked up a guitar that belonged to his grandfather. He becomes a disciple of the blues and begins to truly learn his craft during the formation of and through the early years of The Rolling Stones. We then get into the part of the man’s musical history that we as the general public are probably the most familiar with as he attains success beyond his wildest dreams and is granted legendary rock god status given to only a select few.
The single most fascinating element of Richards’s musical history is his working relationship with his partner in crime, Mick Jagger. We get a truly up close and personal firsthand account of the two literally being locked in a kitchen by their manager until they were able to complete their first song together (“As Tears Go By”). We then get to follow the partnership as it slowly dissolves more and more with each new level of success the band achieves to the point where the two men are working completely separate of one another. One thing that is clear, however, is that after nearly fifty years of working together, Jagger and Richards have developed a brother-like relationship where they are able to say or do anything to the other, but if any outsider dare to speak ill of the other’s counterpart, they will defend them to the end no questions asked.
Overall Life is a well-written book delivered in a very conversational style—as I read, I could hear Richards’ voice narrating every word. It made for a quick read, and I would highly recommend it to any fan of Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones, music, or debauchery in general.