Keith Richards – The Human Riff Unplugged

Let’s talk about a man-myth, a legend – Keith Richards. Known for his timeless riffs, bad-boy image, and somehow being immortal, Keef is much more than just the guitarist of The Rolling Stones.

Grab your five-stringed guitars, it’s time to unravel the enigma that is Keith Richards!

Table of Contents

Early Life: Before The Riffs

Born on December 18, 1943, in Dartford, Kent, young Keith wasn’t initially the poster child for rock rebellion. He was a choirboy, believe it or not! But by his teenage years, Richards was deeply immersed in the blues. A chance meeting with Mick Jagger at the Dartford train station in 1961, both clutching blues records, would eventually lead to the creation of one of the most iconic rock bands in history.

The Stones Start Rolling

Richards and Jagger, along with Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wyman, formed The Rolling Stones. While the band was influenced by blues, it was Keith’s innovative guitar playing that truly defined their sound. Those open tunings and signature riffs on tracks like “Start Me Up” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?” Yep, that’s all Keef.

The Glimmer Twins: Keith and Mick

Richards and Jagger, often referred to as the “Glimmer Twins,” have shared a partnership that’s both fruitful and fraught with tension. From childhood friends to leading one of the most successful rock bands in history, their journey is nothing short of epic. Their bond has survived public feuds, competing solo careers, and all the challenges of rock ‘n’ roll fame. Songs like “Beast of Burden” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” are testaments to their combined genius. It’s hard to imagine one without the other.

That Signature Sound: 5 Strings and Open Tuning

Many guitarists strive for a unique sound, and Keith sure found his. Often opting for a five-string setup (removing the low E string) and favoring open G tuning, he crafted riffs that were both raw and intricate. This approach allowed him to meld rhythm and lead parts seamlessly, creating that distinctive Stones sound.

Songwriting Prowess

Together with Mick Jagger, Richards penned some of the most memorable rock songs ever. Tracks like “Angie,” “Wild Horses,” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” showcase not only his musical prowess but also his songwriting depth. From hard rockers to soulful ballads, this duo crafted the soundtrack for generations.

Guitar Techniques: It’s All In The Fingers

Keith’s approach to the guitar is quite distinct. While many guitarists rely heavily on the pick, Keith often uses his fingers, delivering a mix of rhythm and lead simultaneously. This fingerpicking method, combined with his unique tunings, contributes to the gritty, rhythm-heavy sound that distinguishes many Stones classics.

Not Just The Stones

While most famous for his work with The Rolling Stones, Richards has ventured outside the band too. His solo work, particularly albums like “Talk Is Cheap” and “Main Offender,” has allowed him to explore different musical landscapes and showcase his versatility.

But Keith’s contributions to music aren’t just limited to his own projects. He’s played alongside legends like Aretha Franklin, Tom Waits, and Johnnie Johnson, to name a few. Always distinctive, always Keith.

Over the years, Richards has collaborated with a wide array of artists across genres. From his work with the X-Pensive Winos in his solo ventures to teaming up with legends like Norah Jones for duets, Keith has shown his versatility. Not to forget his collaborations with the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Tosh, and more, adding his distinctive touch to every project.

Influences: Blues At The Core

Keith has always worn his influences on his sleeve. The likes of Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, and Scotty Moore shaped his early guitar style. The Stones even named themselves after Muddy Waters’ track “Rollin’ Stone.” Keith’s deep respect for the blues is evident in the Stones’ covers of classics and his approach to songwriting and guitar playing.

Resilience: Rocking Against The Odds

Keith Richards has faced his fair share of challenges, from substance abuse battles to near-fatal accidents. However, his resilience and passion for music have always seen him through. His autobiography, “Life,” delves into these personal struggles, providing an intimate look at the man behind the legend.

The Myth, The Legend: Off The Stage

Ah, the tales of Keith Richards! From his tumultuous relationship with Anita Pallenberg to the legendary drug escapades, Keith’s life off the stage is as talked about as his music. Despite the controversies, he’s also known for his wisdom, often doling out unforgettable one-liners in interviews.

Legacy: More Than Just A Rolling Stone

While Keith will forever be known as the indomitable guitarist of The Rolling Stones, his legacy is multi-faceted. He’s a songwriter, a pioneer of rock guitar techniques, a collaborator, and, above all, a true music enthusiast. His contributions to rock ‘n’ roll are immeasurable, influencing countless musicians across generations.

From iconic riffs to unforgettable tales of rockstar excess, Keef’s legend will continue to inspire, intrigue, and rock on for generations to come. Here’s to the human riff, the immortal one, Mr. Keith Richards!