- The Washington Times - Friday, July 31, 2009

Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has survived addiction and brain surgery. He’s been electrocuted and burglarized. He’s crashed cars and been jailed. He’s weathered more than 40 years on the road with the band.

Along the way, he has garnered a lot of wisdom (and scars and police reports and bad press and good albums).

New Jersey author Jessica Pallington West has turned her collection of Keithisms into a new book, “What Would Keith Richards Do? Daily Affirmations From a Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivor.”

Hers is part of a miniwave of books on the subject. A similar book, “Stone Me: The Wit and Wisdom of Keith Richards,” by Mark Blake also was released this spring. Apparently, one can never have too many sources for Keithisms. Love him or revile him, Mr. Richards has been a great interview through the years because he is authentic, Ms. West said in a phone interview. A self-described “huge Stones’ fan,” Ms. West has been collecting the best of Mr. Richards for years.

“Keith Richards is a great philosopher,” says Ms. West, who points out that it is an unauthorized book and that Mr. Richards did not work on it with her. “Initially, I thought the book would just appeal to Stones fans, but surprisingly, I’ve heard from people who aren’t necessarily Keith Richards fans. Who knew?”

Ms. West writes: “The Tao of Keith is one of humanity, seeing with clarity and looking for the bigger picture of history and culture. There is a respect for the mystical and a reverence for the creative. It is human and down to earth. Imagine Abraham Lincoln with a skull ring, an earring and a scarf. A little of Ben Franklin and a little Billy the Kid.”

The book is part short biography, including sections on “Everything You’ve Always (Maybe) Wanted to Know About Keith Richards but Were (Maybe) Afraid to Ask,” and “The Keith Timeline: A Chronology of Trouble,” the highlight of chapter six. The rest is divided into sections that look at the world according to Mr. Richards, taken from decades of articles and TV and radio reports.

“The principles of Keithisms come directly from his own words,” she says.

To start, there are the 26 Commandments of Keith — or how Mr. Richards can save your life. Most of the 26 make sense. Among the highlights:

1. Know yourself. From this doctrine, everything will fall into place.

“To me, the main thing about living on this planet is to know who the hell you are and to be real about it,” Mr. Richards has said. “Once you have a sense of what your limitations are — how much, where and when — it is not so daunting to live with yourself. And you don’t need to fight so hard against it.”

3. There are no secrets. Says Mr. Richards: “I’ve got nothing to hide.”

This credo is similar to the old saw “the truth will set you free,” Ms. West says.

“Keith always maintained that if you want to look into his windows, he’ll pull the curtain farther open for you so you can get a better view,” she writes.

6. Accept (or at least tolerate) your inner and outer Mick. Mr. Richards and Stones frontman Mick Jagger have collaborated since the 1960s, and have fought famously and written and recorded brilliantly. They are like each other’s evil twins, Ms. West says. Or, as Mr. Richards has said: “Mick’s rock. I’m roll.” And: “It’s like a marriage with no divorce. I can get rid of my old lady. I can get rid of my kids. But I can’t get rid of you.” Anyone who has to find a way to make it work with their spouse or deal with a bad boss can find some wisdom in what Mr. Richards has to say about Mr. Jagger. Ms. West writes, “We all have a Mick, so you might as well put him to work.”

17. Be tough, be brave, and don’t give in to the dictates of authority.

“Since I’ve left school, no one has ever heard a ‘yes sir’ from me,” Mr. Richards has said. “Apart from a few exceptions: In court and in jail.”

Regular folks may not be able to get away with that level of rebellion, but sticking to your instincts may take you far, Ms. West writes.

Another section of the book is “Keith and Nietzsche, or the Philosophy of Keith as Viewed in Relation to the Great Philosophers.” Ms. West takes famous quotes from great thinkers and stacks them up against quotes from Mr. Richards. Among the most sage:

Ralph Waldo Emerson: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”

Keith Richards: “I looked upon myself as a laboratory.”

Finally, there are daily affirmations. Want to know what Mr. Richards has to say on any given subject — the afterlife, aging, ambition, fashion, family, inner demons? Keithophiles will find a library of sayings. Among the best:

Survival: “Everybody wants to make like, ‘Oh, I’ve been to hell and back.’ You’ve only been halfway. Nobody’s been there and back.”

Identity: “You’ve got to be cool with yourself. If you’ve got to think about being cool, you ain’t cool.”

Family: “Sometimes the only thing you’ve got to hang onto is family.”

Friendship: “The only way to find out whether a guy is worth anything is to take a risk. Sometimes friends let you down. Sometimes they don’t. But you take the risk, otherwise you get nothing at all.”

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