“If you don’t know the blues… there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music.” — Keith Richards
Keith Richards may well be the iconic lasting legend of rock ‘n’ roll—an unstoppable force in music. He may well be the ultimate gun-slinging guitarist, spilling his Jack Daniels as he swaggers up to the amp, plugs in and lets a riff rip through the entire crowd. It was this image that helped propel Richards and The Rolling Stones into the pantheon of rock and roll but without the blues, soul and R&B, Keith Richards would be nowhere.
The guitarist, who, alongside Mick Jagger is one of rock’s most important songwriters, has always been indebted to the masters of the past and doffed his cap accordingly. Having formed a bond with Jagger over a love of music straight from the heart of America’s bubbling scene of soul, blues and R&B, Richards has often cited some of the forefathers of rock as his own greatest inspirations. In a piece with Uncut magazine, Richards once shared a little more detail on his love of the music which soundtracked his formative years.
With the publication, Richards created a compilation of 26 songs entitled The Devil Music: Keith Richards Personal Compilation of Blues, Soul and R&B Classics. Naturally, the LP is littered with some of the finest songs in the genres mentioned and some of the iconic stars of rock’s earliest moments.
The record provides not only an education in soul, blues and R&B but also a chance to see some of Richards’ biggest influences. One notable name on the list is Muddy Waters and his song ‘Rollin’ Stone’. Naturally, the singer was an influence on Richards’ band, Brian Jones named the group after seeing the spine of the iconic Waters single while on the phone to a promoter requesting their name—but Waters was a massive influence on Richards too.
In 1981, The Rolling Stones shared the stage in with the icon, a time Richards’ remembers with glee: “You want to be a blues player, the next minute you fucking well are and you’re stuck right amongst them, and there’s Muddy Waters standing next to you. It happens so fast you really can’t register all of the impressions that are coming at you… It’s one thing to play a Muddy Waters song. It’s another thing to play with him.”
Another artist on the list that the Stones man got to play with was Little Richard, “I’ve gotten used to playing with my heroes,” effused Richards when speaking to Rolling Stone. “I played with Little Richard in his dressing room when I was 19, thinking, ‘This’ll do!’” but this was the crème de la crème. It was a session of good old boys. There was plenty of whiskey that day. There will never be another Scotty Moore.”
There are plenty of other huge names on the guitarist’s list, the iconic figure of Robert Johnson is another legendary guitarist, Leadbelly is also featured as is Little Richard, BB King, Howlin’ Wolf and other classic acts. There are also some more leftfield suggestions too including Hank Williams (a huge favourite with Richards) and Bob Marley.
But otherwise, what constitutes Keith Richards’ favourite soul, blues and R&B songs of all time is about as clear education in music that you could hope to receive.
Listen below to the complete playlist and let the music of the past lift your present day.
Keith Richards’ favourite soul, blues and R&B songs:
- Amos Milburn – ‘Down The Road Apiece’
- Jackie Brenston – ‘Rocket’
- Robert Johnson – ‘Preachin’ Blues (Up Jumped The Devil)’
- Muddy Waters – ‘Rollin’ Stone’
- Jimmy Rogers – ‘Goin’ Away Baby’
- Leadbelly – ‘The Midnight Special’
- Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown – ‘Okie Dokie Stomp’
- Clifton Chenier – ‘Ay-Te Te Fee’
- Professor Longhair & His Shuffling Hungarians – ‘Mardi Gras In New Orleans’
- Little Richard – ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’
- Billie Holiday – ‘He’s Funny That Way’
- John Lee Hooker – ‘I’m In The Mood’
- Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Jah Is Mighty’
- Hank Williams – ‘You Win Again’
- Ike & Tina Turner – ‘I Can’t Believe What You Say’
- BB King – ‘Everyday I Have The Blues’
- T-Bone Walker – ‘(They Call It) Stormy Monday’
- Howlin’ Wolf – ‘Moanin’ At Midnight’
- Blind Willie McTell – ‘Talkin’ To Your Mama’
- Clarence ‘Bon Ton’ Garlow – ‘Bon Ton Roulet’
- Aaron Neville – ‘Tell It Like It Is’
- Albert King – ‘That’s What The Blues Is All About’
- Irma Thomas – ‘Ruler Of My Heart’
- Otis Redding – ‘Pain In My Heart (alt. take)’
- Booker T & The MGs – ‘Baby, Scratch My Back’
- Al Green – ‘Take Me To The River’