“About myself, I have no great illusions. I know what I am. I know what I'm good at. I know what I ain't. I'm always hoping to surprise myself. But I do have a love of music and I do love to communicate it, and that's the best I can do, really. And I can raise a good family, too.”—Keith Richards.
It’s safe to say that Keith Richards has cemented his name into the history of rock & roll, not least because of his involvement with the Rolling Stones. Whether it’s his skills at playing guitar, songwriting, or vocals, Richards has made his name across more than 40 years of making music. His name has also become synonymous with his hard-living, hard-drinking, and hard-partying lifestyle. But how much do you really know about this man? Here are 42 immortal facts about Keith Richards.
42. Dad, You’re Embarrassing Me!
Richards’ father, Herbert W. Richards, was a factory worker who served in the Second World War. He was also injured during the Allied invasion of Normandy. Sadly, Richards’ father staunchly opposed his son’s love for music, presumably shaking a cane at the Rolling Stones and screaming at them to cut their hair and go get jobs.
41. Goodness Gracious
When Richards was as young as three years old, he was listening to music on the radio. As a child, his favorite artists included Big Bill Broonzy, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. He also listened to Jerry Lee Lewis, but according to Richards, he had no idea that Lewis was white “for ages.” This was because a picture of Lewis didn’t appear on the British version of his albums.
40. Double the Trophy
As a member of the Rolling Stones, Richards has been nominated for a total of 11 Grammy Awards, two of which they won.
39. Second Time's the Charm
One area in which Richards differs from his bandmate Mick Jagger is in his love life, although it hasn’t been without its share of scandal. Richards has only been married twice. His first marriage was to Anita Pallenberg. She had actually been dating Brian Jones, but left him for Richards when they were all on holiday in Morocco. They were together for more than a decade, but according to Richards, she had a tryst with Jagger in that time. In 1983, he married actress and model Patti Hansen, and they’ve been together ever since.
38. Cool Grandpa
Richard’s maternal grandfather, Augustus T. Dupree, had toured Britain with his own jazz big band group, known as Gus Dupree and his Boys. Talk about setting a precedent!
37. Just Get the Ladder!
It was actually Dupree who first fed his grandson’s dreams for becoming a musician. When Richards was a child, his grandfather put a guitar on a shelf that Richards couldn’t reach. Dupree promised his grandson that he’d teach him the guitar when he could take the guitar off the shelf. Sometimes those Hollywood biopic movies just write themselves!
36. First Victories
After a variety of strategies for getting the guitar eventually led to success—or maybe he just grew a couple inches—Richards’ grandpa kept his promise and taught Richards how to play the song “Malaguena.” When Richards played the tune on his own, his reward was keeping the guitar. Richards later reflected that it had felt like “the prize of the century.”
35. Fantastic Four
In 2001, Rolling Stone magazine listed Richards fourth place on a list of the 100 best guitarists. Some people would say that position on the list is well-earned, others might say he deserved a higher spot, while a few would point out that a magazine named Rolling Stone might be a bit biased in Richards’ favor!
34. Certainly Better Than 13
Speaking of Rolling Stone, the magazine released a list of their choices for the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Of those 500 songs, 14 of them were co-written by Richards.
33. Left of the Dial
Richard’s paternal grandparents were Ernie and Eliza Richards. Both were renowned socialists and civic leaders within their community. Additionally, in 1941, Eliza was elected mayor of the Municipal Borough of Walthamstow in London. Richards himself credited them with being instrumental figures in forming their community’s Labour Party.
32. Chance Meetings
Richards first met Mick Jagger during their time in primary school. They were neighbors until 1954, but their mutual love for rock & roll wasn’t discovered until later, when Jagger bumped into Richards on a train while carrying albums by renowned rhythm & blues artists Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry. Coincidentally, it was a song by Muddy Waters which inspired the Rolling Stones’ name.
31. Inspiration from a Dream
According to Richards, he discovered a catchy guitar riff in his sleep. He managed to wake up just in time to record it on a cassette player. That riff later became part of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the first international hit for the Rolling Stones!
30. He Wanted Me to Add an “O” at the End
Early on in his Rolling Stones career, Richards was persuaded by the band’s manager at the time to drop the “s” from his name in the aim to make Richards’ name appear “more pop.” However, Richards decided that wasn’t for him in the 1970s when he welcomed back the “s” at the end of his surname.
29. Keith B. Goode
Richards’ first solo single was released in 1978. In keeping with his lifelong love of Chuck Berry’s music, it was a cover of Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run.
28. Get Outta Here!
As a youth, Richards attended the Dartford Technical High School for Boys. However, this ended in 1959, when Richards was expelled for truancy. Oh, if only they’d known that it was just a foreshadowing for things to come in Richards’ life!
27. Are They Autographed?
Richards is a true man of his trade; he owns more than 3,000 guitars in his private collection!
26. When Giants Meet
In 1967, Richards and Mick Jagger astounded music fans everywhere when they joined the Beatles for their TV broadcast of their song “All You Need is Love,” with Jagger and Richards providing backup vocals. Truly, it was a legendary moment when the Stones played second fiddle to the Beatles!
25. Did it Win a Pulitzer?
It’s well-known that Richards has said a few… interesting things in his lifetime, as you’d honestly expect from a rock star like him. However, his quirky quotes go one step further than most in that they’ve literally filled a book. It was titled What Would Keith Richards Do? Daily Affirmations from a Rock & Roll Survivor and published in 2009.
24. It was One Nibble!
One of Richards’ well-known—and bizarre—obsessions is with the traditional British food known as Shepherd’s pie. This became clear to fellow musician Stuart Cable when he took a bite of Shepherd’s pie meant for Richards and suffered Richards’ wrath in response!
23. Should We Call Him the Pagemaster?
Surprisingly, Richards is an avid fan of reading. The unlikely bookworm not only has a very large collection of books in his possession, but he’s also expressed an interest in being a librarian! To be honest, though, it’s very difficult to imagine anyone actually obeying a librarian telling them to be quiet when that librarian is a Rolling Stone!
22. Everyone’s a Critic
It turns out that Richards doesn’t have a high opinion of rap or hip-hop. He dismisses the genre as comprising of just a “drum beat and somebody yelling over it.” To be honest, that also describes a lot of rock music, buddy.
21. Going it Alone
In total, Richards has released three solo albums in his career thus far. These albums are Talk is Cheap, Main Offender, and Crosseyed Heart.
20. Limited Range
Aside from his role as Captain Teague in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, the only other acting that Richards has ever done is when he appeared as a soldier in the 1969 film Man on Horseback. And no, appearing as himself on The Simpsons doesn’t count!
19. Richards vs. Richards
Around 1962, Richards’ parents divorced, just as Richards left college to pursue music full-time. He and his father became estranged in the aftermath of the divorce and remained so for nearly 20 years.
18. Just Couldn’t Resist Playing Guitar, Could You?
Despite his hero-worship of Chuck Berry, and releasing many covers of his music, Richards managed to earn himself a nasty punch from his idol! After a show that they had both performed in was over, Berry discovered Richards strumming music on his personal guitar. Infuriated at Richards’ gall, Berry punched Richards in the face while yelling “Nobody touches my guitar.” Suppose you can call it Richards’ Shepherd’s pie moment!
17. Perks of Being Famous
In 1967, Richards, along with Mick Jagger, was arrested for drug possession in London. It was the first of several instances where Richards’ substance use got him in trouble with the police, but it was the only time in his life that he was actually sentenced to jail time. However, his jail sentence of three months was eventually overturned on appeal, in true celebrity fashion.
16. Fitting Tribute
In 1969, the Rolling Stones suffered a grievous loss when their bandmate, Brian Jones, was found dead on the third of July in that year. Two days later, the band gave a free concert in Hyde Park, London. In honor of his fallen friend, Richards released 3,500 butterflies during the event and read some personal poetry to the crowd.
15. We Fight Like We’re Family
One famous aspect of the Rolling Stones is the famous love/hate relationship between Richards and Mick Jagger. Richards famously referred to Jagger as “unbearable” in 2010 but amended his harshness in 2015 by confirming that he still “love[s] him dearly.” Keep that bromance going, boys!
14. Working Together
Richards has never shied away from playing guitar for other artists or bands as part of collaborations. Among the many people with whom he’s collaborated are Eric Clapton, John Lennon, and Aretha Franklin.
13. Sympathy for the Sparrow
Richards’ public persona was famously used by Johnny Depp as an inspiration for his Oscar-nominated performance as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise—along with Pepe le Pew, bizarrely.
12. When Does He Get His Own Spinoff?
In what has got to be one of the most fitting casting choices of the 21st century, Richards would go on to appear in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise as Captain Teague, Jack Sparrow’s father. Thus far, he’s appeared in three of the films, and who knows how many he’ll be in by the time they’re through!
11. Pass with Flying Colors?
Despite Richards’ claim that he is a perfectly fine driver, it’s worth pointing out that he failed his driving test no less than three times. Finally, he gave up and sent his bodyguard to take the test and pass it for him instead. We’re not exactly sure that that counts, Keith!
10. Very Risky Vacation
In 2006, Richards was visiting the island of Fiji when he slipped on a dead tree branch. Striking his head, he had to undergo cranial surgery in New Zealand. He later apologized to fans for delaying the Rolling Stones’ tour schedule due to “falling off [his] perch.”
9. Well, There’s Worse Ways to Die…
In 2016, Richards commented on the subject of his own mortality—which many of you will know has become a common joke at his expense. For his part, Richards quipped that if he had a say, he would “like to croak magnificently, onstage.”
Richards famously used a Gibson Maestro fuzzbox for his guitar riff on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” This led to such a sales boost for said fuzzbox that by the end of 1965, there was no available stock left of it!
7. What’s That Noise?
Back when Richards, Mick Jagger, and Brian Jones were all young and struggling musicians, they came up with an interesting strategy to create a cheap recording studio in the bathroom of the flat where Richards was living at the time. Why the bathroom, you might be asking? Well, they were convinced that the sound of the toilet flushing was similar to the sound of applause. Now, is that thinking outside the box or thinking inside the toilet?
6. The Opposite of Rip Van Winkle
According to his 2010 autobiography, Richards attested that when the Rolling Stones were at the peak of their popularity, he was only getting two nights of sleep per week! The longest he went without sleep was nine days, which eventually led to him falling “asleep standing up, crashing against the edge of a speaker, and waking in a pool of blood.” Maybe a nap here and there before that would have been helpful?
5. Violent Scout
As a boy, Richards was part of the Boy Scouts for two years. This came to an end when young Richards smuggled whiskey in and became involved in a fistfight with his fellow scouts! It was probably for the best though; the only reason he wanted to join them in the first place was for the right to wear a knife, but he was mightily disappointed to find out that he had to earn several badges before he’d be allowed to do that!
4. Close, Jerry, but No Cigar
During the Second World War, when Richards was a baby and his father was away fighting, his mother had to frantically leave their house during a bomb raid. He and his mother barely escaped in time before their home was demolished during the raid. Richards’ crib, where he’d normally be at that time during the day, had been utterly destroyed.
3. Near Miss
After coming back from a performance in Knebworth, England, Richards was driving with his seven-year-old son, Marlon—named after the Godfather himself—in the back seat. Things took a turn for the disastrous when Richards fell asleep behind the wheel and the car made an abrupt halt when it slammed into a tree. Thankfully, neither of them was seriously hurt, but Richards was arrested when LSD was discovered on his person at the time.
2. Forlorn Father
On June 6, 1976, Richards was on tour with his band when he found out that his two-month-old son, Tara, had died of SIDS. He went on to perform that night despite the news. When he was criticized for doing that, Richards defended his actions by saying “it was the only way [I] could cope.”
1. He Did What?!
In one of the most controversial moments of his life—and believe us, that’s saying something—Richards told Mark Beaumont in a 2007 interview that after his father had died and been cremated, Richards had mixed the ashes with “a little bit of blow” and snorted them! Even for Richards, this prompted an outcry of shock, disgust, and presumably admiration from some of his wilder fans. Richards’ manager later maintained that Richards had just been joking, though. To be honest, we’d believe either version of this story.