Co-founder, co-songwriter, co-producer, guitarist and
occasional vocalist for the Rolling Stones
Born December 18, 1943
in Dartford, Kent, England
Sun in Sagittarius, Moon in Virgo
(click here for Keith's astrological profile)
At the time Keith Richards was born at Livingstone Hospital in Dartford, the Germans were conducting air raids over London. Yeah. Today, if I'm walking down a hotel corridor and somebody has the TV on and it's playing one of those blitz movies, English war movies, and I hear that siren, the hair goes up on the back of my head and I get goose bumps. I don't know if it's a memory - it's a reaction, something I picked up in the first eighteen months of my life.
Keith was a very artistic child. He didn't like football. If a ball came near him, he'd run away. We'd come to watch him play. He hated being tackled. He didn't like to be hurt. Keith didn't want to be on the rough side of life; just drawing and painting.
Keith was a loner and always seemed to be quiet. He was an absolute lout, but a really nice lout. He'd sit and play an Elvis song while everyone else would be playing those nonsense folky songs. Keith really was the school rocker.
(F)ear? As a kid, I knew it real well. I'm this little squirt, and everyday when I go home from school, no matter which route I take, I'm gonna get beat up. It was around then than I banished it - fear. I learned how to take a beating and how to get a good one in now and again. It taught me to toughen myself up.
Keith has never grown up, in my opinion. He's always at war with himself. He's too much! He's a rubbery kind of person, he bounces off anything, he comes back. Nobody knows how he does it, he's always there, he's great. He's a very great character. If you went to make circus characters out of the Stones he would be the clown who is always being beaten up but gets up again. Mick would be like the white clown. But Keith was the rhythm player, he was putting out the fuckin' energy.
I was especially scared of Keith 'cause he's such a scary character. I was scared shitless of Keith for years. The way he looked was so fuckin' evil. And of course he's not like that at all. Keith is an old softie completely. But I didn't know that. And Keith does put up that front. He loves to play that out. Most of the time he believes that.
(Around 1969) Mick started to become a little affected. He was a different person. Suddenly Mick was wearing makeup, acting and dressing different. Even though Keith was wearing makeup too, he never got affected. Keith puts reality into the Stones. Junk (heroin) or no junk, it's the ONLY reality.
Altamont (1969) was a major incident that impressed me about Keith. Under pressure when the chips are down, Keith will stand up, say something and make a point. And he tried. You can see it on film. Keith tried to cool out the situation by actually pinpointing what was going on - saying If those guys don't stop beating people we're not gonna play. It was a very explosive situation and everyone had different ways of approaching it. I admired Keith a lot for that.
When I first started playing music I wanted to play with Buddy Holly more than anyone else in the world. Keith has always reminded me of Holly. I've always drawn a close parallel between Holly and Keith 'cause they have a lot of the same imagery, intensity, and they're about the same size. If you meet five people in your life like Keith you're lucky. I've never met anyone like him. I respect and admire him as a person. And it's hard for a Texan to say they look up to anybody.
Keith always had a lot of people hanging around. He seemed to have this need for people to give him confidence, but they weren't necessarily the best people. There's nothing wrong with a genuine need for friends, which is probably why Keith was surrounded by these people 'cause he didn't have friends.
Keith doesn't bother himself with trivia. Keith does what he wants to do. Some people believe Keith lives in total disregard for others, but if you're going to live like that you've got to. Anyone we've employed on tour has been impressed that Keith CAN adapt - baggage men, roadies, truck drivers, anyone. He lives his life HOW he wants WHEN he wants and with WHO he wants to live it.
Keith's whole public image and private life is a dichotomy. It's so fuckin' boring. Every reporter that interviews Keith says, I was amazed to find him an articulate gentleman. What do they expect? A fuckin' animal in a T-shirt, swizzling beer? What do they think? That he's gonna turn them on, fuck them? People can be so stupid.
In terms of leadership, Keith is obstinate. If things don't suit Keith, he simply won't go along with it. And that's the end of the subject. There was no liaison. No Should we do that? It was simply No. And when asked Why not? Keith would reply, Cause I don't want to.
The way Keith dresses is amazing. Often I'll put on one of his belts or something made of tapestry and it looks fuckin' ridiculous on me. Keith has beautiful style. He has a way of putting on clothes together that I'd never dream of. Often Keith wears one of Anita's blouses or waistcoats and it looks amazing.
Most rock stars wear stage clothes and then other clothes at home. Keith wears the same clothes all the time. I think that's great. He's always Keith Richards.
Keith is the only fuckin' guy I know who manages to keep some semblance of reality going on when he's smacked out (using heroin). The guy is so strong it's ridiculous. We were in a hotel room one day in Amsterdam around '73. There were four or five of us and Keith laid out some speedballs. And I said, C'mon, let's do another one. And Keith said to me, Andy, you've really got to try to keep this under control. And I thought, fuck me, KEITH RICHARDS is telling ME to cool out. I MUST be going overboard.
Drink has never been a problem. I've written some of my best things pissed out of my mind.
He's got an amazing constitution, and he's very strict on himself, in a funny way. He never overdid drugs. He always had a set amount that he did, and he would never do the whole lot at once. Most people who do that are dead. He could have fallen; he was in a position to do that. And he never did. He has a very strong will to live.
Keith is built of steel, hard as a nail. My dad's a Sagittarius like Keith. He doesn't eat and drinks continually day in and day out. He's getting on at 70 but he's a maniac for booze.
Keith has a lot of energy. He's a very hyper person in a way. When he's not on smack (heroin) he's much more hyper than I am.
I ALWAYS had lots of energy. Mick thinks HE'S hyper and that he's got a lot of energy but he hasn't. He's got a quick flash of energy but no stamina. Have you ever seen Mick after he's stayed up for one night? Forget it.
(I)t was shocking to me to contrast the Saturday Night Live parody image... with this vibrant, really intelligent, lucid, mind-racing character. He's the exact opposite of what you picture. The man is as creative as anyone I've encountered in my whole life. Whether he's doing a handwritten fax or playing guitar riffs, he's always inspired. It's a remarkable thing.
Keith likes to do a good track, keep it, and play it over and over again for at least a year (laughs). He likes that. Mick and I tend to do it, hear it back, and never play it again ever. And Mick will just hear it when he mixes it and that's it. Keith will play them endlessly. That's why Keith's a good one to, if you ask him about a track he did two years ago, he'll have it on his thing and know - if it's a good one, he'll know it and play it... What I meant about him being a jazz player is he plays like that. His playing is very easy playing... Your only critic is yourself, really. He doesn't say, Ooh, that's horrible, and he doesn't stop playing if whatever. It's like, That's the way you want to do it? Let's see what happens. I didn't like it, but YOU liked it. He's very easy like that, very easy to play with. And if it's good, he's very complimentary about it. So he's very easy to play with.... Very comfortable to play with.
Click here to continue Portrait of Keith