By Hans Ebert
You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need, and to keep Rock and Roll and the Blues and that renegade lifestyle that we all want and lead vicariously, we’ve always wanted Keef. And today, on his 73rd birthday, we need him more than ever. Why? Because many of us grew up with The Human Riff that gave the kiss of life to some of the greatest pop rock songs ever recorded, and which still sound as fresh and relevant as when they first brought down the walls of Jericho.
Like George Harrison, Keef wasn’t and isn’t the best guitarist in the world, but they both gave their bands so much, especially those intros that led to the body of the songs. With George, it were the intros to Ticket To Ride, that opening chord to A Hard Days Night, the intros to Taxman, Drive My Car and so many more recordings by the Beatles.
On the darker side of the fence, there was Keith stepping out of the shadows of the Rolling Stones doomed leader Brian Jones and stamping his authority and Rock’n Roll badness on Satisfaction, Jumping Jack Flash, Gimme Shelter, Honky Tonk Women, Tumbling Dice, Miss You and before that, his very underrated work on It’s All Over Now and their breakthrough single, a cover of Lennon and McCartney’s I Wanna Be Your Man.
There’s also his vocals- a lazy slur that’s the voice and soul behind my favourite Stones track- You Got The Silver.
Behind that renegade image that either he evolved into or which we created for him is Keith Richards, the family man, who’s been lucky enough to have found Patti Hansen and who’ve made their marriage last for almost forty years.
It couldn’t have been easy, but they did it. It also couldn’t have been easy to reach this far in life after everything he has gone through and kicked Mr Jitters in the head and got back to some form of normality.
He might not be my favourite guitarist, but he’s a musical hero for exorcising his demons, never ever selling out, making great music with always a nod to his heroes, a family man who keeps his personal life personal, and happy being in his own skin.
Years ago I bought a painting of Keith by Ronnie Wood. It’s traveled with me through a number of personal changes and ex girlfriends who didn’t want to live where I had once co-habited with someone else.
When those dark days descend, this painting offers light and shade and hope. It stands there as a reminder that nothing is as bad as it might appear, and how it’s all about how honestly one lives their life, whether a Rock Star or someone simply doing the best they can to leave some small legacy.
Thanks, Keef, and Happy Birthday.