Little, Brown and Company
Keith Richards reveals something in his new memoir, Life: he did drugs. "I've done so much bloody blow in my life, I don't miss it an inch. I think it gave me up."
But really, that the Rolling Stones guitarist regularly used heroin until 1979 and cocaine until 2006 isn't exactly news, nor is the candid way that he is talking about it. Given how much was already known about Richards' drug use (rumors even surfaced years ago that he snorted his dead father's ashes with a line of cocaine—Life confirms that he did, by the way), some recent murmurings from Disney are a little surprising. According to Drudge Report, the "shocking admissions" of drug use in Richards' book could lead to his part being edited out of the next Pirates of the Caribbean film installment:
"They very well could end up cutting Keith out of the new movie over this," claims an insider close to Disney.
Prior to the release of this book, was Disney unaware that Richards had been tried for drug-related charges five times? That he was sentenced to a year in prison for allowing weed to be smoked on his property in 1967? Or that in 2007—the year when made his first cameo in the Pirates franchise—he gave this interview in which, yes, he talks about using drugs? Why is it that it took Richards' memoir coming out for Disney to raise a moral fuss?
MORE ON CLASSIC ROCK:
Colin Fleming: How Bob Dylan Sounded Before He Was a Star
Hampton Stevens: John Lennon's Many Lives
Joshua Green: Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead
But Disney's possible firing of Richards is just one of many exaggerated reactions to seemingly obvious statements made in the book. Richards refers to Rolling Stones bandmate Mick Jagger as "Your Majesty" and "Brenda" in Life, calls him "unbearable," and declares that his solo record was "like Mein Kampf. Everybody had a copy, but nobody listened to it." Many writers are shocked by the jabs at Jagger, but the two had been feuding—quite publicly—since the '80s (for example, this barb at Jagger after he was knighted).
Similarly, Richards' disparaging comments against Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, and even John Lennon are making headlines. Is it all that surprising that a musician—one who calls himself the "coolest rock star in the world"—will take an egotistical shot at his contemporaries? It's not like that happens often.
And the New York Times' Maureen Dowd devotes an entire column— titled "When a Pirate Is the Voice of Chivalry"—to what she considers an eyebrow-raising idea: based on his memoirs, Keith Richards is "the consummate gentleman." Surveying the way he wrote about the women in his book, Dowd makes it seem as though Richards' respect for them is unexpected. But...is it? Richards spent 12 years in a relationship with Anita Pallenberg—with whom he has three children—and has been married to model Patti Hansen since 1983. When someone has had two long-term relationships last over a decade (an anomaly for rock stars), is his chivalry and respect for women really surprising?
It seems that in searching for ways to cover Life, reporters are jumping on the opportunity to lift juicy quotes and write scandalous headlines. But they are falling into a trap. In true rock star form, Richards hasn't kept his secrets from us. As a result, he's not using his memoir to reveal some dark truth about his past—the way, say, Mackenzie Phillips did last year when she wrote about her incestuous relationship with her father, or Andre Agassi when he opened up about his crystal meth addiction.
Instead, he's created an insightful narrative— a story of fame, struggling with demons, and rock and roll. Particularly with Richards— someone whose larger-than-life persona has consistently shocked us—there's the temptation to search that narrative for the next juicy bit, something that will top all the rest. But in that fruitless combing of Life, perhaps the juiciest bit of all is going unnoticed. That with the help of co-writer James Fox, Richards has written an opus on a lifetime of brutal honesty, an all-encompassing account of what it's been like to be one of the coolest rock stars in the world.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.