Keith Richards

When Rolling Stone Keith Richards was 17, he met former childhood friend Mick Jagger,

whom he hadn't seen in years, at a Dartford, England, train station. Richards was

impressed that Jagger was clutching rare American LPs by Muddy Waters and Chuck

Berry, his favorite rockers. The two struck up a conversation, which soon led to one of the

most important musical collaborations in the history of rock.

This fateful encounter changed the lives of Richards, Jagger and, later, millions of

youthful fans on both sides of the Atlantic. It led to the two teens playing together in a

band that would soon become the Rolling Stones -- who, along with the Beatles, were

the prime catalysts of the British Invasion.

Richards was born into a poor Dartford family 55 years ago today. At 12, he was a

Westminster Abbey choirboy, but after his voice cracked, he was booted from the choir.

Richards also was expelled from school for being a troublemaker before eventually

enrolling in an art college. Early on, though, he was attracted to music, teaching himself

to play the guitar his mother had bought him.

After Richards hooked up with Jagger again in 1961, the two played in the former's

blues-rock band, Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys. After Jagger left the band, Richards

hooked up with Brian Jones in another group. On Jagger's return, the bandmembers

christened themselves "the Rollin' Stones" after a Muddy Waters song. After the addition

of drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman, budding manager Andrew Oldham

changed the group's name to "the Rolling Stones" and secured a contract with Decca


Though the Stones immediately drew attention on the British rock scene for their R&B

influences and Jagger's strutting performances, their early years were spent in the

shadow of the Beatles. Still, the Stones' hits came soon enough, and the band won

America over with the 1965 #1 smash "Satisfaction."

Paralleling the Beatles' work, the Stones' music matured quickly, and by the time of

Aftermath in 1966, the Stones' sound and lyrical scope had widened

considerably. Due to the commercial and critical misfire of 1967's Their Satanic

Majesties Request, they didn't make as grand a splash as the Beatles in the

psychedelic years, but in 1968, the Stones came into their own as one of a handful of

major forces in rock with the spare but urgent classic Beggar's Banquet. By this

time, the band's penchant for sex and drugs was well documented, and Richards, Jagger

and Jones all had been busted for drugs.

After Jones' death in 1969, Richards remained the Stones' -- and rock's -- poster boy for

bad behavior as he fell into heroin abuse. But Richards' blues-based guitar-riffing and

songwriting contributions still were central to the success of such classic Stones LPs as

Let It Bleed (1969), Sticky Fingers (1971) and Exile on Main Street


Despite his battle with drugs, Richards' contributions to the Stones continued unabated.

By the start of the '80s, he had apparently cleaned up his act, and his musical rapport

with the latest Stones guitarist, Ron Wood, brightened such efforts as Tattoo You

(1981). When the Stones took a hiatus later in the decade, Richards issued the solo LP

Talk Is Cheap (1988) and toured with his band the X-Pensive Winos.

Richards and Jagger reunited near the end of the decade -- after a highly public feud --

and the Stones resumed recording and staging massive world tours behind such LPs as

Voodoo Lounge (1994) and Bridges to Babylon (1997). Richards also took

over lead vocals on some numbers on each album, including Bridges'


music/Rolling_Stones,_The/Thief_In_The_Night.ram">"Thief In The Night"

(RealAudio excerpt), which also appeared on this year's live Stones' collection, No


Age has not seemed to slow down the Stones, though Richards did injure his ribs in a

fall at his home earlier this year, causing the postponement of several tour dates. But

soon he was up and about, getting ready for the Stones' 1999 arena tour of the U.S.

Ex-Stones guitarist Mick Taylor may have best summed up Richards' effect on the

Stones when he told the Los Angeles Times: "Playing with Keith was a very

intuitive thing. It was like no other working relationship I ever had. It was a 24-hour-a-day

... thing. It was a whole lifestyle, a whole way of living, playing and recording."

Other birthdays: Sam Andrew (Big Brother and the Holding Company), 57; Geordie

(Killing Joke), 40; Greg D'Angelo (White Lion), 35; and DJ Lethal (House Of Pain), 26.

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