Most people have dual citizenships. Keith Richards has dual personalities.
In the documentary ‘ Under the Influence ‘ ( available on Netflix) – the lines are blurred with orgasmic pleasure for a true music fan.
The general population love Keith Richards. The masses also know very little about the man.
They know the myth. They have read the tales of decadent behavior and the seemingly endless nine lives which appear to pursue Richards on and off the stage. Everyone loves a survivor. Especially one who has written the songbook of Rock n Roll with a middle finger left off the fret and pointed straight at the powers that be.
Keith Richards at seventy – one years of age, can do no wrong. He has earned the right to captain the Black Pearl.
‘Under the Influence’, the documentary which coincides with the release of Richards ‘ first solo album in over twenty years (Crosseyed Heart), is a showcase of Richards’ mindset in the studio as he lays down tracks with his ‘Xpensive’ mates.
Instead of this documentary being solely a marketing tool to help sell copies of an album made by a Grandfather who ( in Rock n Roll history) should be passed his prime, the film instead utilizes the celluloid moments to open the drapes and let the rays of American music display Richards’ crevasses on his worn face as valleys of knowledge. In short – ‘Under the Influence’ is a proper documentary.
In short – Keith Richards is a proper musician.
The Stones’ guitarist has forgotten more than most know. The Stones’ guitarist happily has not forgotten more than most know.
Director Morgan Neville takes that knowledge and places it elegantly into a history class. Not a Blues class. Not a Rock n Roll class. Not a Country music class. Not even a Great American Songbook class.
Neville and Richards deliver a top of the line University music class with the above ingredients both separate and blurred together. Just as elegantly as Richards himself.
The best thing? Lazy people need not apply …
In the 1960’s, the Beatles reinvented popular music. They too were influenced by the same men who laid the foundation for the Stones’ songbook. The Beatles remained white British boys while the Stones transformed into a bunch of Black kids playing the Blues to anyone who would scream. The Rolling Stones with Brian Jones , Mick Jagger and Keith Richards leading the way, introduced American Blues to America white folks.
In 2015, in glorious irony, at a time when the music business and an entire generation of musicians appear ‘lost for words’, along comes Keith Richards ‘under the influence’ once more.
Satan, God or whoever runs the show – every once in a while sends Richards into the forest as a musical Robin Hood. A rich man giving back to the poor.
In the eighties, when Rock n Roll and all it’s edgy guitars took backseat to synthesized drums machines and keyboards, it was Richards’ ‘Start Me Up’ riff that kept Chuck Berry sane. While Mick Jagger was experimenting with every sound heard by dogs and people as a solo artist, Richards angrily released the album ‘Talk is Cheap.’ A project that is held in highest esteem by any musician worth their weight in music.
Richards’ kept the Rock n Roll/ Blues and R and B barge afloat without a ‘Life’ jacket.
Here is where the dual personality kicks in.
Richards’ has also kept Country music in people’s consciences. From ‘Country Honk’ off of Let It Bleed’, the entire Beggars Banquet album and into ‘Dead Flowers’ off of the Stones’ classic 1971 album Sticky Fingers and everything in between, Richards continues the tradition and love of Country on his new album Crosseyed Heart. Keith Richards along with Hank Williams, George Jones, Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Wanda Jackson and thousands or millions more – have kept the world balanced within the structure of ‘Rock n Roll’.
No Country music equals no Blues or vice versa. No Blues / Country means no ‘Roll’ in the Rock.
Richards likes his Roll … thank you very much.
There is so much in Keith Richards songwriting than meets the bloodshot eye. ‘Under the Influence’ gives a glimmer of what makes one half of The Glimmer Twins glimmer.
Hogey Carmichael and the Great American Songbook were a huge part of Richards’ post – war English environment. Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke and all the Soul and R and B men are the foundations of Richards’ indestructible frame. Mix them all together within a man with the backbone of a lion? The main ingredient of Richards’ and the Stones’ longevity. The ability to place a song ahead of the solos.
‘Under the Influence’ is a thoughtful insight into an ageing man’s psyche. Musically and as a human being.
Many times during the film Richards’ is on the cusp of melancholy and wistfulness. Tears are welling up behind the shades as much as his influences are masked by the shades of Rock n Roll. The documentary – a rare peek into Keith Richards as a man who has conquered everything on his own terms and has no idea how he has ended up as one of the most – loved people on the planet. No idea how he has ended up still ‘ on the planet’ for that matter.
It is called integrity Mr. Richards. See you at The Crossroads ….