Friday, December 19, 2008
Richards turns 65
LONDON (AFP) — Famously drug-addled Rolling Stone Keith Richards turns 65 this week, but he remains tightlipped about any wild party plans he might have to celebrate becoming a pensioner.
The legendary guitarist, songwriter and archetypal wild rocker will reach the landmark age -- more usually associated with gardening and cardigans -- only a few months after Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who turned 65 in July.
"He wants to keep it very private," was all a spokesman for Richards would say when asked how the musician would mark his birthday on Thursday.
Named by Rolling Stone magazine as the tenth best guitarist in the world, the shaggy-haired star has proved remarkably resilient to a lifetime of substance abuse, explained by his view that his body was a "laboratory".
Richards toured the world with the Stones last year, and continues to release music, although his image as a hell-raiser was nuanced by his recent appearance in an advert for upmarket luggage maker Louis Vuitton.
But the myth surrounding him remains strong, reinforced by tales of him falling out of a coconut tree in Fiji in 2006, reports that he snorted his father's ashes with cocaine and, for younger fans, his reincarnation as Johnny Depp's character Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
Born December 18, 1943 in Dartford, east of London, Richards was initiated into the world of the blues by his mother.
In 1960, he met up with Jagger, an old primary school classmate, and with Brian Jones they formed Rolling Stones, named after the Muddy Waters song.
Having built up a dedicated following, the band rose to prominence with the release of "(I can't get no) Satisfaction" -- Richards said the song's signature guitar riff came to him in the middle of the night.
With the talent came turmoil, however. As the Stones' success grew, so did their reputation as hell-raisers, with riots breaking out at many gigs as well as numerous drugs episodes involving Richards and Jones, who died in 1969.
Speaking to Esquire magazine earlier this year, Richards was asked about his intake of cocaine, to which he replied: "After the first maniac year of taking it, my intake of cocaine was, yeah, once after a meal."
In 1967, a now legendary drugs bust at Richards' Redlands home saw both him and Jagger given jail terms, although the guitarist's sentence was quashed on appeal and Jagger's was reduced to a conditional discharge.
For Richards, this marked only the beginning of his close relationship with drugs, epitomised by his remark: "My body was sort of a laboratory. I wanted to see what I could do with it."
His partner in much of this was Anita Pallenberg, the ex-girlfriend of Brian Jones with whom Richards had three children, although one died as an infant. He had two others with Patti Hansen, who he married on his 40th birthday in 1983.
In 1977, Richards was arrested for possession of heroin in Toronto, Canada, and in return for clemency, he and Pallenberg entered rehabilitation.
But the respite was brief, with Richards later remarking: "I've never had a problem with drugs. I've had problems with the police."
After the Canadian episode, the Stones returned in 1978 with what many considered their best album so far, "Some Girls". But in the early 1980s, Jagger moved the group towards a more modern pop sound, which Richards opposed.
The future of the Stones seemed rocky when, in 1985, Jagger launched a solo career. Three years later Richards released his own solo album, the well-received "Talk is Cheap", although this was not his first venture on his own -- he released a version of Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run" in 1978.
But talk of a break-up proved premature, and the Stones returned with a new album, "Steel Wheels", in 1989, which kicked off a massive world tour. Through to the mid-2000s they continued to produce new music and kept playing live.
Richards has since released several songs from his back catalogue and it has even been suggested that he is planning an easy listening album.
Asked in an interview with GQ magazine in 2008 about his dances with death, Richards noted: "There were plenty of times I could've given up the ghost. But it just seemed like such a cheap way out."