The Rake

ELEGANTLY WASTED

“Five notes, two strings, two fingers, and one asshole.” That’s all Keith Richards has ever needed to get by. Well, that, and perhaps an indestructible physical make-up from hell, a few hip cats with a thing for the blues by his side, and the blessings of the gods. Drug busts, heartbreak, heroin: there isn’t much the archetypal rock ’n’ roll guitar-slinger hasn’t endured. That he’s managed to emerge from the madness of his misadventures (relatively) unscathed, to the disbelief of lovers and naysayers alike — let alone keep one of the world’s greatest bands charging forth for more than five decades — is cause enough to hail him as the definition of a rake.

There was once a time when the world’s most “elegantly wasted” man (as the critic Nick Kent christened Richards in his heyday) was but a shy and soft-spoken wight with wonky ears. A few miles away from central London, in Dartford, Kent, the young Keith quelled the boredom of the ’burbs with Charles Dickens and grooved to down pat.

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