I just finished reading Keith Richards' new memoir, Life. I feel like I've emerged from a smoky bar where I've spent the last several hours listening to Keith tell stories about his many adventures over several bottles of Jack Daniels & way too many cigarettes, lol.
It's a hugely entertaining book, written in such a way that you can almost hear Keith talking as you read (with the occasional raspy laugh thrown in between drags on a cigarette). I imagine his cowriter relied heavily on interview transcripts for the wording. If you have any interest in the Stones, what it was like to grow up in post-WWII Britain, the evolution of rock & roll, how Keith invented certain chords for certain Stones songs, what the 60s were like, or how hard it is to kick drugs, Keith's your man.
It's a long book, dragged a little at times (e.g., I don't play guitar, so the lengthy explanations of guitar chords were lost on me, although I'm sure any guitar player with rock & roll ambitions or fantasies would find it fascinating). And there were certain topics that were glossed over, or that I read with a mixture of fascination & horror -- the drug stuff, for example -- and particularly the fact that Keith took his young son, Marlon, on tour with him and made him his "minder." Marlon contributes a few first-person accounts to the book about his bizarre childhood (referring to both of his junkie parents by their first names) that had me going "hmm....". But overall, I thought it was a great read.
You probably wouldn't expect a book by & about Keith Richards to be of interest to bereaved parents, but think again. As I blogged a few months ago when the book was first published and excerpts began appearing, Keith is a bereaved father: his second son & third child, Tara, died of SIDS in 1976 when he was a few months old. This part of the story is told as only Keith could tell it... and although I daresay there aren't too many of us who would refer to our lost babies as "the little bugger" (!), the emotions sound very familiar.
Keith was in Paris at the time, on tour with the Stones & just getting ready to go onstage. He turned down an offer to cancel the show & went on. ("What am I going to do?... It's happened already. It's done.") The mother, Keith's longtime girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, took care of the coroners, cremation, etc., while Keith stayed on tour, accompanied by Marlon (then 7), "the only thing," he writes, "that kept me going... Thank God he was there... I've lost my second son, I ain't gonna lose the first."
To this day, Keith says, he and Anita have never talked about their lost son: "It's too painful... Neither of us, I'm sure in her case too, have got over it. You don't get over these things."
"What happened? I know very little about the circumstances. All I knew about Tara was this beautiful little boy in the cradle. Hey, little bugger, I'll see you when I get back off the road, right? He seemed perfectly robust. He looked like miniature Marlon. Never knew the son of a bitch, or barely. I changed his nappy twice, I think. It was respiratory failure, cot death. Anita found him in the morning. I wasn't about to ask questions at the time. Only Anita knows. As for me, I should never have left him. I don't think it's her fault; it was just a crib death. But leaving a newborn is something I can't forgive myself for. It's as if I deserted my post..."
"There's no question that losing a child is the worst thing that can ever happen, which is why I wrote to Eric Clapton when his son died, knowing something of what he was going through. When that happens, you go totally numb for awhile. It's only very slowly that the possibilities of your love for the little chap emerge. You can't deal with it all at once. And you can't lose a kid without it coming to haunt you. Everything's supposed to go in its natural order. I've seen my mum and dad off, and that's the natural order. But seeing a baby off is another thing. It never lets you rest. Now it's a permanent cold space inside me. Just selfishly, if it had to happen, I'm glad it happened then. When he was too young to form a relationship. Now he bangs into me once a week or so. I have a boy missing. Could have been a contender. I wrote in my notebook when I when I was working on this book, "Once in a while Tara invades me. My son. He would be thirty-odd now." Tara lives inside me. But I don't even know where the little bugger is buried, if he's buried at all."
Keith later met & married supermodel Patti Hansen. He says, without going into much detail, that she told him she couldn't have babies; with two older children already, he figured his nappy-changing days were over. But surprise! They went on to have two daughters, Theodora & Alexandra (whom Keith refers to affectionately as "Little T&A," in a nod to a Stones song).