Everybody knows that Keith Richards is a lover of the blues, and that’s been the way that it’s been for as long as he can remember. His mother, Doris, is the person to thank for his indoctrination, and one of the first artists he fell in love with through her brainwashing him is Billie Holiday.
If it weren’t for his mother being such a devout music lover, perhaps, Richards would have never rekindled his childhood friendship with Mick Jagger after they bonded over blues records at a chance encounter at a train station. A world without The Rolling Stones does not bear thinking about, quite frankly.
He grew up in a musical household, and it forged him into the person he is today. His grandfather is the person to thank for his first guitar after he promised Keith that if he could reach it from up high in his home, then he could have it, which provided the first chapter in a lifelong love affair.
Speaking to The Guardian in 2009 about his indoctrination to the blues, he revealed: “It’s very difficult to say – when did I identify the blues as a particular form of music? My mum was playing me jazz – a lot of Billie Holiday, Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan.”
Adding: “I mean, it’s not your country blues but, as I went on, I realised that I was brought up on a broad basis of blues music without even knowing it, so, in a way, I’m a result of what my mum played. I had a natural affinity for it, I think, so it wasn’t like a conscious thing or anything like that.”
Even though he was barely able to walk when he first started growing a fondness for Billie Holiday, that “natural affinity” which Richards mentioned is something that has only grown as his life has continued. When Q Magazine asked the guitarist to pick a selection of his favourite records, he didn’t disappoint. He even revealed which album from Holliday’s he holds the strongest feelings about.
Surprisingly, he selects 1954’s Lady Day, a compilation of some of her hits rather than a studio album. “I really have to thank my mum,” he recalled. “She was playing Billie on the radio whenever possible, which was not a lot because the BBC were not that hip.”
“It was all good stuff. In other words, if you’re growing up at four years old and you can sing Billie Holiday songs, you realise that ‘ya, brought up on the blues without even knowing it,'” he said on another occasion.
Doris Richards deserves recognition for teaching Keith about the finer things in life and making him a son of the blues without even realising. It was simply in his blood. Holiday has been with Richards through every step of life, and her music is a reminder of a childhood spent with his ear glued to the radio.