I am listening to Keith Richards’ at-once fascinating and repellent memoir, masterfully read by Johnny Depp and Joe Hurley. (For terrific essay-reviews, see this one in Slate, and this one, ironically enough, in Rolling Stone.)
My own reaction, as someone who knows very little about the Stones or their music, is two-fold.
First, the relentless drive for excellence is palpable. The drive and hard work required to reach the top in this profession is really something. Richards’ musical genius and sheer craftsmanship shine through.
Second, he is a rather repellent person. Like some others with great talent and wealth, he has largely escaped accountability for the worst consequences of his own behavior. George Steiner noted that the bright light of Albert Einstein’s genius cast dark shadows over nearby surrounding lives. The shadows were much darker, more numerous, and less excusable in Richards’ case.
This memoir gets attention because of Richards’ dissing of Mick Jagger, another unattractive character. At least Jagger deserves some sympathy for his co-dependence on Richards as a brilliant but unstable collaborator and business partner over the decades.
Pondering all the trashed hotel rooms, the overdoses and drug arrests, the romantic and human casualties of many other kinds, I am taken back to a high school English class thirty years ago.
They were careless people, Mick and Keef. They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess….