Keith Richards’ forte might be in the area of guitar playing, but he also knows exactly what it takes to make a sensational vocalist. The Rolling Stones man even revealed on one occasion his favourite singer, and it’s and artist that Richards had the privilege of working closely with throughout his career.
Everybody knows that Keef is a devout lover of rhythm and blues; it is a genre that has soundtracked his life for as long as he can remember. His mother, Doris, indoctrinated him as a child, who kept him occupied by having the soothing sounds of the radio playing constantly, and now he’s in his 70s, it remains a ubiquitous part of his life which won’t change until he draws his last breath.
However, Richards’ music taste isn’t stuck religiously to the blues, as he’s demonstrated throughout his prolonged career. Reggae is a genre close to his heart, and he fell in love so much with Jamaican culture that he even moved relocated to the picturesque island to absorb himself within it.
The Rolling Stones founder is also a great appreciator of soul music, and Richards once said that the greatest singer of all time is ‘Lady Soul’ herself, Aretha Franklin. Richards made the admission back in 2008 when the guitarist participated in a Rolling Stone survey which attempted to uncover the greatest singer of all time by asking musical icons for their selections.
“Being the Queen is not all about singing,” the late soul icon once proclaimed, “It has much to do with your service to people… your social contributions to your community and your civic contributions as well. Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It can take you right back, it’s uplifting, it’s encouraging, it’s strengthening.”
Franklin is an icon that Richards managed to get the thrill of seeing up-close and personal back in 1986, a moment in which when she took on The Rolling Stones song ‘Jumpin Jack Flash’ with the assistance of Ronnie Wood and Keef himself. Spending time in the studio with Franklin clearly left a mark on the guitarist, as 20 years later, she still topped his list.
Franklin became the first woman to be entered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and the person who had the honour of inducting her in Cleveland was none other than Keith Richards. “The dictionary has been used up, there’s no superlatives left, and there’s nothing to read anyway,” Richards said in his muddled speech before bursting into a fit of laughter. “What can I say about Aretha? You’re in baby. My turn next, maybe?” he adds half-jokingly before welcoming her family, who accepted the award on the singer’s behalf.
The fact that Richards was willing to cover his own song with Franklin on vocals says everything you need to know that the respect he had for her majestic talent. Not only did she get his blessing to perform ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, but the guitarist muscled his way onto appearing on her version too.