Keith Richards, the man who, against all odds, won’t die.
The man who has seen it all and been through it all.
The man who has created some of the most lasting melodies and catchy riffs in popular music history.
Born in 1943 he grew up to become a bad boy legend. Yet he has seemed tortured over something missing throughout his life.
Music journalist Nick Kent dubbed Richards, who as a boy soprano sang before the Queen in Westminster Abbey, “mad, bad and dangerous to know.”
Even his bosom singing buddy Mick Jagger was the victim of this love-hate dynamic.
“I think of our differences as a family squabble,” Richards said of Jagger. “If I shout and scream at him, it’s because no one else has the guts to do it or else they’re paid not to do it. At the same time, I’d hope Mick realizes that I’m a friend who is just trying to bring him into line and do what needs to be done.”
Richards has also cheekily stated that the only things he disagrees with Mick on are the band, the music and what they do with their lives.
However among all the crazy stories from Richards’ life, among all the near-death experiences and gratuitously excessive behavior, one incident stands out as being even over the top for him.
In 2002 Keith’s father, Bert, passed away at the age of 84. He had been a factory worker and veteran of World War II.
In typical Keith fashion, with a mixture of respect and irreverence, he decided the best thing to do would be to snort his father’s ashes mixed with a healthy dose of cocaine.
What apparent insanity caused Keith Richards to snort his father? Let’s hear from him in his own words as he told The Guardian:
“The strangest thing I’ve tried to snort? My father, I snorted my father. He was cremated and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn’t have cared, he didn’t give a shit. It went down pretty well, and I’m still alive.”
Keith Richards was two-years-old when his dad came back wounded from war, and he later tried to talk his son out of a musical career.
After his parents divorced in his teens, he didn’t speak to him for twenty years. Was snorting his ashes a closure ritual?
However, this act wasn’t the most life-threatening experience in ol’ Keith’s impressive repertoire of self-destructive behavior.
In Switzerland, as Richards tells it, someone added the poison strychnine into his dope. He goes on to say “I was totally comatose, but I was totally awake. I could listen to everyone, and they were like, ‘He’s dead, he’s dead!’, waving their fingers and pushing me about. I was thinking, ‘I’m not dead!’”
Richards has put down his amazing longevity in the face of seemingly nonstop brushes with death to pure luck. However, he’s not flippant about his survivor status and advises others not to follow his lead. “I’ve no pretensions about immortality … I was number one on the ‘Who’s Likely To Die’ list for 10 years. I mean, I was really disappointed when I fell off the list,” Richards said.
And perhaps his best line about on his indestructible constitution: “Some doctor told me I had six months to live, and I went to their funeral.”
Throughout his decades living the quintessential rock n’ roll lifestyle, Richards has kept an elusive smile on his face and scraggly strands of hair on his forehead.
His reinvention into one of the godfathers of the wisdom of excess, providing comical inspiration and serious musical chops to generation after generation, has been a remarkable journey.
As Richards himself said: “If you’re going to kick authority in the teeth, you might as well use two feet.”