In this biography, Victor Bockris has stitched together various accounts concerning Keith Richards. As one of the principal driving forces of the Rolling Stones, Richards has come to thought of in almost mythical terms. Bockris relies heavily on quotes from Richards, lovers, close friends, business associates, music critics, and others to flesh out his portrait. The opening section details Richards’ working-class roots, and how he had to be reared by a mother alone after his father had left them. As a child of postwar England, Richards had the freedom to attend art school without the threat of being drafted into the military. As a teenager, he fell in love with the music of Chuck Berry and became inspired to become a musician himself.
His musical aspirations were also shared by a childhood friend, Mick Jagger. In the early 1960’s, Richards along with Jagger, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wyman formed the Rolling Stones. For the reader who is not familiar with the story of the Rolling Stones, this biography provides a competent chronological rehash of their rise to prominence. The most painful section of the book concerns Richards’ decade-long addiction to heroin. During the 1970’s, Richards became a mere cliche of the tortured rock star who indulged himself repeatedly in self-destructive behavior. If not for the concern of valued friends and loved ones, and a lot of luck, Richards would have become another casualty of the rock music life-style. As a survivor, Richards has been able to move forward; in the late 1980’s, he began to carve out a solo career for himself. Bockris provides enough cohesion to the biography to leave the reader with — on the whole — a balanced view of who Keith Richards is, and what forces drive him.