Today is a rock ‘n roll holiday. Keith Richards, the legendary lead guitarist for The Rolling Stones, is 71 years old. To celebrate that he’s inexplicably made it this far, let’s look back at the fascinating life of the legend. Warning: Reading this may lead to blackouts.
1. He snorted his father’s ashes.
The veracity of this story had been in question for years. In 2006, Keith claimed that he mixed his father’s ashes with cocaine and snorted them. Afterwards, his aides claimed that he was just kidding. Finally, though in 2010, when Keith released his memoir Life, he confirmed once and for all that he really did snort up his pops. Well, he didn’t get his reputation as one of the hardest partiers in rock for nothing.
2. He once fell out of a tree in Fiji.
In 2006, while vacationing in Fiji, Keith fell out of a coconut tree, and suffered a mild concussion. He was taken to a hospital in New Zealand. What’s really surprising about this story is that there’s a Keith Richards injury that didn’t involve drug use. Or maybe that’s how it happened in the first place…
3. “Jumping Jack Flash” was named after his gardener.
“Jumping Jack Flash” is one of the most beloved Stones songs ever, but what you might not know is that it was named after Keith’s gardener, Jack Dyer. Apparently, Mick Jagger saw him walking around the house, and wondered who it was, to which Keith responded “oh, that’s Jack. that’s Jumpin’ Jack.” And the inspiration took off from there.
4. Contrary to popular belief, he did not have all his blood removed.
This was one of the more enduring urban legends of rock. That Keith Richards had all of his drugged-out blood removed as a way of getting clean. But it’s not true. Keith would later explain that he was just joking when he said that, and well, people ran with it. Although the fact that this legend was so easy to believe says a lot about just how heavy Keith’s partying was during the Stones heyday.
5. He gave Mick Jagger the nickname “Brenda.”
Perhaps the most notable aspect of Life was how frank Richards was about his relationship with Mick Jagger. He spoke openly about how much the duo fought over the years. One amusing-if-a-bit-sexist anecdote was that he gave Mick the nickname “Brenda,” as a way of complaining about Mick when he was in the room. According to Keith, “we’d be complaining about that bitch Brenda” with Jagger right there. You can see why it took these two a bit of time to make up after the release of Life.
6. Mick did an impression of him on Saturday Night Live
Keith may not have always been friendly to Mick, but at least Mick got a little revenge by impersonating him in this classic SNL sketch. The sketch features a Point/Counterpoint in which Mike Myers portrayed Mick Jagger while Mick played Keith. It’s unknown how Keith reacted to the sketch, but it would be hard to hear Mick-as-Keith utter the phrase “Mick, you ignorant slut!” and not burst into laughter.
7. Keith and the band were ratted out by his chauffeur.
The Stones were first busted for drug possession in 1967, but the weird part of that story is that Keith’s Belgian chauffeur, Patrick, was a big part of why the band got busted. He sent a tip of the band’s drug use to the British paper News Of The World, who would alert the police, who arrested the band shortly after. One can only assume that when the band was released from jail, the first thing Keith did was fire that chauffeur.
8. When the cops came to his door, he hallucinated that they were dwarves.
This is how you know you’re too high: when you hallucinate that the cops who just arrived at your door are actually magical dwarves. Apparently, Keith was so high on LSD that he thought the police who came to his house were identically dressed dwarves, and welcomed them into his home enthusiastically. Presumably, this made the cops job a lot easier.
9. “Happy” is the only Stones top 40 hit that he sings on.
There are a handful of Stones songs that Keith sings lead vocals on (“You Got The Silver,” “Too Rude”) — usually about one or two per album — but those tracks are deep cuts rather than singles. The one track sung by Keith to reach the charts was “Happy,” off of Exile On Main Street, which reached #22 on the Billboard Hot 100. Keith has never embraced the spotlight in the way Mick has, but it was nice to see him get a glimpse of chart success.
10. He will likely be releasing a new solo album next year.
There hasn’t been too much in the way of new Stones material lately — the band hasn’t made an album since 2005’s A Bigger Bang — but Stones fans can get excited for the release of Keith’s first album since 1992’s Main Offender sometime next year. The album will be released after the Stones finish their current tour, likely around June.