The second most famous of The Rolling Stones is guitarist Keith Richards who has earned a place in rock’s pantheon by playing some of the most recognizable licks and progressions in modern music history.
Born in 1943 in Kent, England, Richards is now in his sixties and was only eight years old when he first became acquainted with future bandmate Mick Jagger. The two parted ways for a time, but eventually joined forces in one of rock music’s most famous pairings. Perhaps only The Beatles’ Lennon-McCartney or Motown’s Holland-Dozier-Holland on a song credit meant more star power than Jagger-Richards.
Richards, whose first drug bust occurred in 1967, is the epitome of excess and excellence in blues-based rock. The guitarist has been arrested multiple times since then, and rumors of his various attempts at detoxification have swept fandom for years. Simply put, Richards (who dropped the “s” from his name for a time) is one of rock’s guitar gods, playing more in the style of Chuck Berry than Eric Clapton or Eddie Van Halen. While speaking of his idol Berry, Richards told Rolling Stone, “To me, Chuck Berry always was the epitome of rhythm & blues playing, rock & roll playing. It was beautiful, effortless, and his timing was perfection. He is rhythm man supreme. He plays that lovely double-string stuff, which I got down a long time ago but I’m still getting the hang of.”
Stories of Richards’ exploits in pursuit of rock are the stuff of legend. He was obviously present during the Stones’ infamous concert at Altamont and has been on stage for a number of famous shows. Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof recalled one such time, noting that at the world’s largest rock concert ever, Richards played out of tune with the band. Since his wilder days, Richards has slowed down somewhat, seeming to prefer the pace of events such as the 2004 concert he played in memory of Gram Parsons.
While the bulk of Richards’ recorded word has been with The Rolling Stones, he released three albums, including two original studio albums between 1988 and 1992. His first solo offering, Talk Is Cheap, was by far the most successful, cracking the top 25 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart.
As he reached the mid-2000s, however, Richards remained a firm member of The Rolling Stones despite the band’s overall drop in new music production.