The 10 Of The Best Guitar Riffs By Keith Richards
photo credits to youtube.com/KeithRichards
Contrary to popular belief, The Rolling Stones weren’t built on the foundation of sex and drugs but rather on the pure essence of rock ‘n’ roll, with everything else playing a secondary role. Keith Richards, the high seas Captain of the Stones, epitomizes this commitment to liberation and the rejection of conservatism that shackled their upbringing. Today, despite the sands of time wearing on, Richards remains synonymous with rock ‘n’ roll, a living embodiment of the genre’s enduring spirit.
Richards, born in Dartford, England, immersed himself in the roots of rock during the 1960s, drawing inspiration from R&B records and reinterpreting the blues with influences from Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, and Chuck Berry. His collaboration with Mick Jagger was rekindled through a shared passion for the fundamentals of music.
What sets Richards apart is his commitment to being the most economical guitarist, eschewing the race for speed in favor of creating energy and power through his iconic riffs. In his autobiography “Life,” Richards proudly declares himself as the “riff master,” acknowledging the elusive nature of the magical riffs that flow through him.
Let’s delve into the top 10 guitar riffs that showcase Keith Richards’ unparalleled craftsmanship:
10. ‘All Down the Line’
This track from “Exile on Main Street” is a prime example of the collaborative brilliance between Keith Richards and Mick Taylor. While Mick Taylor’s slide guitar may steal the spotlight, it’s Richards’ rocking rhythm that anchors the song, providing the sturdy foundation upon which Taylor’s mesmerizing guitar work dances.
9. ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’
From the iconic Sticky Fingers album, this track not only features one of Richards’ favorite riffs but also reveals the guitarist’s intuitive approach to music. The fortuitous jam sessions that birthed this song showcase Richards’ ability to let the music guide him, resulting in a riff that stands the test of time.
8. ‘Honky Tonk Woman’
A pivotal moment in Richards’ guitar journey was his switch to open G tuning, defining the Stones’ sound. “Honky Tonk Woman” is a testament to this tuning, offering a crispy and delicious riff. Richards’ storytelling about its origins in Brazil adds a layer of charm to this classic.
7. ‘Beast of Burden’
This track demonstrates a different side of Richards, showcasing his selflessness. The hazy riff serves as a backdrop, allowing other elements to shine. Richards’ personal connection to the song adds depth, debunking the misconception that it’s about a specific woman.
6. ‘Gimme Shelter’
In contrast to his usual steady riffs, Richards’ work on “Gimme Shelter” is as wavering as the stormy mood that inspired the song. The result is a brooding and dense atmosphere, making it a counterculture anthem. Richards’ description of its creation adds a fascinating layer to the song’s legacy.
5. ‘Rocks Off’
As the opening track of “Exile on Main Street,” this proto-punk gem is a quintessential example of Richards’ style. The riff is simple, crisp, and full of fuzz, instantly setting the tone for the entire album. Its strung-out nature and energetic delivery have inspired countless bands.
4. ‘Start Me Up’
The opening riff of “Start Me Up” is undeniably one of Richards’ most iconic contributions. Born from his switch to open G tuning, it remains a mark of his impeccable ear for melody. Richards’ recollection of the song’s evolution adds a layer of complexity to its history, revealing his initial misjudgment of its genre.
3. ‘Street Fighting Man’
Released during a turbulent era, “Street Fighting Man” captures Richards at his most rebellious. The gnarly guitar work and cockney swagger embody the spirit of the late 1960s. Richards’ recounting of the recording process, including unconventional techniques, adds intrigue to the track’s creation.
2. ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’
This thunderous punch to the gut is the archetypal Stones song. Richards’ riff, inspired by his gardener, is bone-rattling and soaked in sauce. The collaborative process with Mick Jagger, as recounted by Richards, reveals the spontaneous and organic nature of its creation.
1. ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’
Richards’ signature sound is immortalized in the iconic riff of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The legend of him writing it in his sleep, complete with a tape of Richards snoring, adds a touch of magic. Despite his humility, acknowledging it as a horn riff, its impact on rock ‘n’ roll history is undeniable, making it the pinnacle of Richards’ guitar mastery.