The man who is the definition of all things rock n’ roll, Mr. Keith Richards, turns 77 years old today. The Rolling Stones guitarist is responsible, alongside his bandmate and writing partner Mick Jagger, for some of rock’s biggest hits. Fourteen of the duo’s songs are listed in Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” only surpassed by The Beatles for most songs on that list.

Richards is known for his very distinctive style of play, due to the open tuning of his guitar, which concentrates more on chords, rhythms, and interplay than off-the-wall soloing. When listening to Richards play, it is quite clear that he is influenced by American blues music, especially Chicago blues and Chess Records artists Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters.

One of the most memorable interviews that Richards ever did was with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson back in 1993. Extremely difficult to comprehend what either was saying, they discuss blood transfusions (Richards says, “Who would want this blood?”), the infamous show at Altamont with the Grateful Dead and Hells Angels, and then The Beatles, to which Richards admits that there would be no Stones without The Beatles kicking down the doors first. “There was very little difference between The Beatles and ourselves,” he said. “We was just a bunch of kids trying to play black American music.”

Richards is as honest a figure in rock as there is, and makes no excuses for anything. He loves playing music, he loves living life, and he does both with a fervor that is both undeniable and enviable. Happy birthday, Keith!

Hunter S. Thompson interviews Keith Richards

[Video: THE LAUGHING TREE]

[Originally published 12/18/18]