Life by Keith Richards

Keith Richards, the Rolling Stone front man has finally recorded his thoughts on his career so far and LIFE, the name of the tell all book is flying off the shelves.

And it is quite a good read.

The queston is why people would read such a book.

Most probably those who would pick this book up are music buffs and would be interested in “the world’s greatest rock and roll band.” Harmless enough one would think.An entertaining read at least.

I read it for the simple reason that one should know the temper of his times if one hopes to understand them.As Donald Nichol the English theologian used to ask,”What do you need to know to teach Sanskrit to Gopal?” Should you know Gopal the student or should you know the Indian scripture? And Gandhi reminded us that “Everybody should have a scripture!”

Well the answer is the teacher should know both—the student who sits in front of him—and the scripture he is trying to teach them. And the great German moralist Bernard Haring  maintained that the best technique was “to know your story—well and deeply.”

So as the teacher I always tried to know the culture, what drives it, what are its values, how is it impinging on my students. And so I read “Keef’s ” story. It illuminates on several levels. The musical bits, particularly Richard’s homage to the gritty Chicago blues and R and B  are wonderful—Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry,Little Richard  were my own musical heroes and of course the architects of modern rock and roll. A generous doff of the hat here.

As a sociological tome LIFE  lights up postwar Britain, the hard times, the ongoing poverty and in Richard’s area the hardscrabble far east end of London, Dartford the author paints a grim picture of how one’s environs shape one life. Dartford was prime Labour territory which was served by post war MP,and Prime Minister Clement Atleee. Unwittingly Richards shows us the crippling effects of such circumscribed lives and in his own case he portrays the sad effects of his totally irreligious upbringing. Particularly hard on the Catholic clergy too.

This was not unexpected—but it was sad.And unlike Bono and Springsteen who internalized much of the Catholic social justice ethos while rejecting the fringes, poor Keef shows us why he never used his celebrity for the common good.Nemo dat quod non habet as another theologian Aquinas said (“Nobody can give what they do not have”) LIFE was an interesting read but in the end, Keef as Gandhi said, had no scripture, no deep story to guide him.


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