Keith Richards (Photo: AFP)
The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards hits 70 Wednesday with another tour on the horizon, and probably a smirk for everyone who would not have bet he would make it this far in a life of excess.
The unmatched guitar legend isn’t just hitting 70 — like Mick Jagger did in August. He is also celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary with former model Patti Hanson, with whom he has two daughters. He also has three children with the Italian actress Anita Pallenberg.
With his trademark bandana tied around his head, open shirt and face wrinkled by years of hard partying and struggles with addiction, Richards’ image incarnates pure, undiluted rock and roll.
His low voice sounds otherworldly, while his virtuosity on the guitar has turned even his critics into grudging fans.
Along with the Beatles, the Stones revolutionized popular music in the 1960s.
Richards hits the road with fellow bandmates Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood plus special guest Mick Taylor, who played with the group from 1969 to 1974, on its “14 on Fire” tour that debuts February 21 in Abu Dhabi.
In the run up to the two milestones Richards’ web site is urging fans to send him commentaries that will be presented to him as a gift.
“People say ‘why don’t you give it up?’ I don’t think they quite understand. I’m not doing it just for the money, or for you. I’m doing it for me,” Richards said in “Life”, his autobiography, published in 2010.
Much has happened since Richards left Dartford, a town on the outskirts of London where he lived with his working class family, met Jagger on a train and with him formed in 1962 what is today regarded by many as the world’s greatest rock and roll band.
The Stones in the 1960s drew on the work of black American rhythm and blues and maestros like Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters.
Richards’ guitar riffs are among the most emblematic in the history of rock, etched in the memory of millions with tunes like “Satisfaction”, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Sympathy for the Devil” “Brown Sugar”, “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “Start Me Up”.
Besides their musical wizardry, Richards and Jagger gained fame as womanizing boozers and drug users who were “anti-establishment” in a country steeped in tradition.
Their excesses in the 1960s and 70s brought scandal, trials and jail stints and in 1969 the founding Stones guitar player, Brian Jones, drowned in a swimming pool.
But the band overcame that tragedy — and the surrounding scandal — to pick themselves up and carry on.
Stones fans adore both Richards and Jagger, but most see Richards as the soul of the group — the eternal rebel who formed a raucous duo with Jagger — the lady loving dandy who tired of being manipulated by the music business and himself became an empresario to be reckoned with.
Bill Wyman, 77 and the original bass player of the Stones who left in 1994, will not be on stage this time, although he did play in a 50th anniversary concert in London in London in 2012.
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