2010 was an outstanding year for memoir and autobiography by popular musicians. Patti Smith’s Just Kids (Ecco) won the National Book Award for Nonfiction among other accolades. Composed: A Memoir by Rosanne Cash (Viking) received multiple starred reviews. And, later in the year, Life by Keith Richards burst onto bestseller lists. What is particularly impressive about these titles is the quality of the writing, which only adds to their accessibility and appeal.
For teens who watch famous rock musicians and wonder what their lives are really like, Keith Richards provides one man’s very entertaining answer.
RICHARDS, Keith. Life. 566p. Little, Brown. 2010. Tr $29.99. ISBN 978-0-316-03438-8. LC 2010934918.
Adult/High School–Tumbling dice! Richards serves up a rollicking tale featuring four decades of hard-core musical abandon in this bemused, insightful autobiography. From the first pages, which relate a 1975 encounter with rural police in Fordyce, Arkansas, readers are treated to an insider’s account of life as a world-famous rock star. While drugs, violence, groupies, and squabbles with band members are all part of the story, Richards’s primary focus throughout is on the music. The highly publicized events of Rolling Stones’s history are all here (Brian Jones, Altamont, Mick Jagger’s solo excursion), although most teens will be discovering these incidents for the first time. More vital is Richards’s excitement as he explores his music. Teens who know very little of the Stones’s impressive playlist will find themselves downloading songs to hear Richards’s five-string chords, or digging back even further to hear the seductive influence of Muddy Waters and other blues musicians. Richards is neither bragging nor apologetic about his extraordinary life. He is matter-of-fact about the rigors of mastering the guitar, an obsession that was admittedly both enhanced and endangered by his addiction to heroin. As for heroin, he writes bluntly about the way the drugs create personal havoc and horrific withdrawals. This is not a sad story, however. Rather, this book makes a great recommendation for budding musicians or music aficionados with an interest in rock music.–Diane Colson, New Port Richey Library, FL