The song says that if there is a rock n’ roll heaven they must have a hell of a band, and it is true, partly because of the messed-up nature of the beast rock n’ roll itself, and partly because of the failures of civil aviation of 50s. So there is, in fact, a decent supply of great musicians who have fulfilled rock’s alleged desire to die before they got old and I thought it might be good to take a look back at some of them on semi-regular basis.
To kick things off, I’ll start with Keith Richards.
Now I know what some of you are going say: Tim, why start with someone who has been dead for so long?
Well, no particular reason other than the fact that I was a fan and that sometimes when I listen to his music it actually feels like he hasn’t left us.
Anyway, for all the details of his life, this Wikipedia entry is pretty good, and there is also his offical site: worth a look. OF course, there are numerous fan sites, including this one, appropriately called The Keith Shrine. (The shot there of the site owner with that waxwork model of Keef is excellent.)
So yeah, go to those for all the details, but for me its the music that counts. KR wasn’t called the Human Riff for nothing, and the signature licks that adorn rock classics like Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Start Me Up, Gimme Shelter, Tumbling Dice, Brown Sugar, and on and on and on are testament to his inate talent and the wonders of full-body blood replacement therapy.
One of my fondest memories is of his performance at a benefit for his old drug buddy, Gram Parsons. Parsons, one of the pioneers of country-rock crossover music and as I say, a drug buddy of Keef, died young and pretty after a drug overdose at the Joshua Tree hotel in California in 1973 aged 26. The benefit was organised by his daughter, aged around seven at the time of her dad’s rock n’ roll death, and the proceeds were to go to the “Musicians Assistance Program (MAP), a nonprofit group that provides drug-and alcohol-addiction treatment for people in the music industry, regardless of their financial situations.”
Keith, one of the star attractions, came on to thunderous applause and did a couple of Gram’s songs. He was good too. But who could forget his tasteful jokes about doing drugs with his old, dead buddy, his hints that the same was going on there in the dressing rooms back stage, and then his not-at-all creepy manhandling of his co-performer, Norah Jones? Pure class.
Anyway, all hail to the Riff for the music that he gave us, and maybe for the music that we never got from him or those around him. Being dead and all. Here’s a clip from that Gram Parsons tribute concert. Enjoy.