Author: Keith Richards
Publishers: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN-10: 031603438X ISBN-13: 978-0316034388

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At first blush, one might think nothing new can be revealed about one of the most scrutinized bands in rock history—The Rolling Stones. For decades, insiders thought bassist Bill Wyman might be the member to tell the full story from the front line. Drummer Charlie Watts even joked he awaited the band historian’s memoirs so he could remember little details like when he joined the band. Then, Stone Alone (1997) arrived, and Wyman disappointed most readers by his “then we did” and “then we did” flow of concerts and sexcapades. His emphasis was on the Stones rise in the 1960s and this made sense as Wyman became something of an outsider during the following decades when the band became an on-again, off-again touring and recording unit.    Then Ronnie Wood offered Ronnie: The Autobiography (2007) which had more to do with British rock as a whole rather then the Stones in particular. After all, Wood only joined up during the mid-70s when 90% of the group’s important albums were behind them and he was essentially a paid side-man for decades, frequently on the brink of being fired for his drug excesses.
comes Life from guitarist/ songwriter Keith Richards, and it’s the most essential book on the band ever written. True, much of the story is more than familiar for those who’ve watched the most iconic rock ‘n roll outlaw of all time during his decades of survival through near fatal car crashes, international drug busts, squabbles with Mick Jagger, all the while creating the most recognized signature sound in rock which propelled one of the most significant song catalogues ever written.      Who better to lay out all the cards on the table?

Perhaps the most revelatory chapters are Richards describing his early years, the sections of autobiographies most readers tend to skim over. Here, in both style and substance, Richards brings to life the hard post-war years in which young working class lads had to get tough and quick to survive. The reasons for rock ‘n roll rebellion are part of his personal story, the influx of American blues perfectly timed for a generation with little to be happy about. Then came the Stones and fans will quickly learn the core of the band was Jagger, Richards, and the much credited Charlie Watts and not the ego-driven, often MIA Brian Jones. Here, the pace of the story is as frantic as the events described with plenty of insights into the music like the story behind Richards’ favorite Stones song, “Jumping Jack Flash.” Then come the ‘70s when the band spent much of their time separately and we watch Richards defiant drug addiction which led to his spending many mornings looking out the window to see how many unmarked cars were keeping track of him. We read about his travels, his close-shaves with death and the law, his songwriting and playing progression, and the unlikely continuation of the Rolling Stones. It’s the final chapters where the story slows down to where Richards inserts his favorite recipes and discussions of his hobbies letting readers know this rock survivor has settled down. Or perhaps just wore out. He’s literally done it all, seen it all, has nothing left to prove and is ready to bare his life in typical Richards style—no holds barred.
Told largely in the first person, there are also many sections Richards borrows from other accounts and from friends when he thinks their perspectives help flesh out key incidents or recording sessions. It’s a book hard to put down, perhaps now one of the most important books on rock ever written by someone who helped shape music of more than one era. An ideal Christmas gift for anyone who cares about rock from any generation.

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