On the shelf: ‘Life’, by Keith Richards

lifeOn the Shelf Book Review
By Lisa Boss, Grand Rapids Public Library, Main

The dark, working man’s engine of the Rolling Stones comes across as a modern Odysseus, relating his memoirs. Looking back at 66, he doesn’t pull many punches. All the Stones gossip is here, and the great musical history, but there’s also a wealth of unexpected human experience that adds up to a compelling memoir.

Born in 1943 near London, Keith grew up a mum’s boy, an only child with a pet mouse for company, who sang soprano, and was a devoted boy scout. Surrounded by a bevy of women — mum, aunts, and girl cousins — he “learned about women” early on, much to his later advantage. His grandfather, Gus, a former band leader, used to take him on outings to escape all those females, and sparked his passion for music. Richards combines a unique voice with the storyteller’s art. His ghost, James Fox, did an excellent job of organizing the material, so the result flows like a personal conversation.

The way-of-the-rock-star is known for egregious excess of course, and there were a lot of casualties along the way. Maybe he came out alive, but the betrayal of the 60’s creed of the “free” life, including his struggle with heroin, and the death of friends, relationships, and even his infant son, could hardly leave Richards unscathed. Why he should be left standing is a mystery. He has his theories, but Richards lets his life speak for itself.