I streamed the new Keith Richards documentary Under The Influence this weekend and it is must-see TV for anyone who cares about rock and roll and why music matters. The Telegraph recently reviewed it and claimed it “was more about the myth than the man.” Horseshit. Richards is one of the few remaining rock stars —perhaps the ONLY one — where the myth and the man are inextricably linked. It is impossible to dissect where Richards the musician ends and where Richards the person starts and stops. Music IS Keith’s DNA and to try separate the two— aside from being a fools errand — misses the point entirely, in my opinion.
It’s easy to brush off Under The Influence as a puff piece created solely to help promote Crosseyed Heart, Richards’ first solo album in 23 years, but I’ll take any chance I can get to hear Keith’s death-rattle music digressions. He says “the world went from black and white to Technicolor” with Elvis Presley and, about Little Walter’s “Blue and Lonesome, simply “you can’t get any bluer than that.” Music, Richards says, is “the center of everything. It binds people together…there’s no answer to it.” I don’t know about you, but that’s as good a summation of the power and beauty of music as I can come up with.
He takes on the Stones body of work — “We were working so hard in those days, we couldn’t write ‘em fast enough,” Jagger —“we have a mutual appreciation society still going on to this day" and, in perhaps my favorite moment, today’s music scene — “Excuse me, but I prefer the roll.” And if that doesn’t get it exactly right, if you don’t get that…well….then….you just don’t get music.
Any documentary of Keith is going to come up short, perhaps woefully so. He is walking, talking, smoking and drinking music incarnate. Of his destiny with music, Keith recalls “hearing an echo in my bones that I shouldn’t be hearing.” Upon looking at the 71 year old, wizened guitar player, with the strangest, funkiest hands and knuckles I’ve ever seen, I could only think of the giant shadow he alone now casts. There will likely never be another movement so powerful as the one that birthed the Stones. There will probably never be another band like the Rolling Stones. But there decidedly will never be another Keith Richards. Catch him while you can. And smoke 'em if you got 'em...
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