How can you not love Keith Richards?
Keith Richards has done enough. He need never do any more. His eminence (his, if you will, satanic majesty) is assured in all departments. Music. “Refreshments.” Life.
Strip away all the music and the myth, the assumed-over-the-years sozzled aristo speaking voice, the bourbon-gargling, perma-scarfed persona.* You are left with a very fine human being, a well-read gent with strong, absolute and righteous values.
In 2015 he continues to deliver the goods. As with Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, it is my contention that any interview with Keith Richards – no matter how inane the topic nor how flimsy the literary merits of the publication – will contain words of wit and wisdom, life lessons from a somewhat pickled Buddha.
I read a terrific wee interview with Mr Richards just this morning. Despite the try-hard tone of the joint-smuggling Esquire hack, there is prime Keef to be had here.
I love his five-word summary of what keeps the Stones rolling after five decades (when even the most cynical of observers would have to concede they may well not need the money):
“[S]ome sort of inner itch.”
I love his words on true freedom:
“I’ve said yes to many people only because I respect them. But no, I’ve never had a boss. Even my bankers and my lawyers have all gone through the mill. Even royalty go through it – they’re told what to do. I’ve lived a totally free life. They gave me wings.”
Of course, it’s somewhat easier for Mr Richards (who has, as John Cooper Clarke noted in part three of the BBC’s excellent How to be Bohemian series “lived the life of a king” for the best part of five decades) than for most people. But as a principle, saying to yes people only because you respect them is hard to beat.
Can you hang?
What I really want to write about in this post is Keith Richards’ views on friendship. In his outstanding autobiography Life, he says that friendship is sacred to him. And so it should be to all of us. I love his definition of friendship as “a diminishing of distance between people”:
“Most guys I know are assholes, I have some great asshole friends, but that’s not the point. Friendship has got nothing to do with that. It’s can you hang, can you talk about this without any feeling of distance between you? Friendship is a diminishing of distance between people. That’s what friendship is, and to me it’s one of the most important things in the world. Mick doesn’t trust anybody. I’ll trust you until you prove you’re not trustworthy.”
“[U]ntil you prove you’re not trustworthy.” Perfect. If friendship fails this test, it was never friendship.
We should all of us have principles as clear, as absolute, as right as those of Keith Richards.**
Keith Richards also gave the world the best ever song to be entitled Happy. Why would you want to keep a dollar past sunset?
* I must own that I felt somewhat naive reading a music magazine interview with him last month. For some reason, I was genuinely surprised for a mo when the hack sent to meet him let slip that Keef is not always to be found in eyeliner and scarves. Keith Richards has done enough. Even Keith Richards doesn’t need to be that Keith Richards all the time.
** As naive as the previous footnote proves I might sometimes be, even I am not going to suggest Mr Richards’ life has been a blameless one. For example, his offhanded talk in Life of always expecting (and always getting) his friends and/or crew in years gone by to carry certain of his “supplies” through customs for him is more than a little rum.
- Keef ‘65, via Wikimedia Commons.
- Keef 2015, pic from August 2015 Esquire interview, as tweeted by one @mjcarty.