Keith Richards, the wild and irreverent rock legend, is back on the road for his latest tour after a brief hiatus. The “The Keith Richards Band” will bring his improvisational “Burning” format to the Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Jan. 19 and 20. Mick Jagger, guitarist Ron Wood, pianist Ian Stewart, bassist Darryl Jones and drummer Charlie Watts will join Keith onstage. Fans will get to watch Keith “Do Whatever You Can and Anything You Want,” as he likes to call his ability to move between the mandolin and the tambourine, as he plays some of his favorite songs in a new and eclectic “Burning” format. “For me, it’s not just a show,” he once told Rolling Stone. “It’s about the show and the music.”
1. Thanks to fans, Keith Richards is almost as famous as Nelson Mandela — or at least that’s what Nelson Mandela might have wished. Keith was living a peaceful life in South Africa when one of Mandela’s friends knocked on his door and invited him to come to his friend’s house. As Keith recounted in Rolling Stone, he showed up and came to his friend’s village — they fell in love and Keith left his South African prison cell to travel to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other prisoners once spent time. (Despite several attempts to replace these traveling tambourines and mandolins, Russell’s Tambourines of New Orleans never became an American company). In 2008, Nelson Mandela saw the name Russell’s Tambourines of New Orleans on The View, the U.S. cable television show, and when he was hospitalized, the office called Keith — “To tell Keith I missed him,” said Nelson’s son, Makgatho Mandela. Keith met the former South African president in 2009 and Nelson dedicated his Nobel Peace Prize to him. (Russell’s Tambourines will be coming to Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan’s Roseland Ballroom on Feb. 8-9.)
2. Keith’s second marriage ended in a very public rupture after he went on a Rolling Stones tour in 1986 and was in Florida visiting a girlfriend when his wife found out. Keith married Patti Hansen of American Bandstand fame in 1985, but the marriage ended in a divorce in 1988 and they remained separated until 2005. Still, that same year he married the author Mary Wilson of the Supremes in a lavish ceremony in Puerto Rico, where Keith planned to spend the rest of his life. But shortly after their Las Vegas honeymoon, in 2001, Mary Wilson was diagnosed with cancer, which was later found to be a malignant uterine tumor. Mary Wilson died shortly afterward, as did Keith’s cousin, Paul Carson. “I just feel his heart broken,” his stepdaughter, Mary-Margaret Cannon, told The Guardian when she lost her father in 2005. “He was so at peace with God and life. It’s just like a death.”
3. As a kid growing up in Aberdeen, Scotland, Keith would stand near his front door — seemingly afraid of what would come crashing through. According to Rolling Stone, Keith’s mother died when he was three and he was sent to live with his grandmother, who worked hard at bringing home enough money to support the family. It was a different kind of hard work that would eventually end his career in the music business. In 1967, Keith was bunking down in his bedroom at the Royal Command Inn at Kirkwall, Scotland, when he heard the news that L.A. club owner Allen Klein had broken up The Rolling Stones and had banned Mick Taylor from the group. Keith was outraged and flew into a rage. “It wasn’t the money that affected me,” he told the London Evening Standard in 2007. “It was being branded a sellout.” Keith would eventually kick Allen Klein out of his hotel, the butler threw a portable sofa on his foot and Keith smashed up a Rolls Royce.
4. Keith did not have an easy time between 1967 and 1968. The fame and money of the Stones, as well as the heavy drugs that were dominating popular culture at the time, made Keith a target of criminal gangs. He was often dragged into witness protection programs. He was not only beaten by thugs in what was described as a “cruel quest for property,” he was also sexually abused by members of gangs and suffered extensive damage to his teeth. When the Stones began touring in Britain, Keith was the only one who was armed. (“They were so afraid I might have been up to something,