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The one song Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards couldn’t live without

We are dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you the one track that The Rolling Stones’ legendary guitarist Keith Richards couldn’t live without. Richards is an artist who has created some of pop music’s timeless riffs and party-starting rock numbers and his favourite song shows a man who knows a thing or two about keeping the vibe going. No matter where you are.

There aren’t many institutions in British rock and roll that outstrips The Rolling Stones’ unstoppable guitarist and all-round rock star Keith Richards. But back in 2015, the guitar-slinger met his match when he was invited on to the BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs a show that which has been running since 1942. On the show, Richards is asked to imagine oneself on an unescapable desert island, equipped with only a few luxury items. Luckily, the island does have a jukebox filled with the eight songs of your choosing—these are the songs Keith Richards couldn’t live without but there was one absolute favourite of the bunch.

Rock and roll may have started in the American deltas but The Rolling Stones, guided by avid blues consumers Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and Keith Richards, did a very good job of establishing the genre on both sides of the pond in the 1960s. It’s a trait that they’ve extended into this century too with an unstoppable continuation of their “It’s only rock and roll but I like it” ethos that sees them continue touring to this day, filling stadiums and selling records as easily as they did in those first moments.

It’s an ethos that Richards has always held close to his heart alongside an unfathomable rebellious streak. Before detailing his favourite tracks to the radio show host Kirsty Young, the singer offered some glistening glimpses into his life off stage too. You can listen to the full interview, below.

It seems rebellion was in his blood since the very beginning as Richards details: “The school said ‘you have to go down a year because you haven’t done your chemistry’ [because he’d spent too much time on being in choir]. There was no fairness here. Suddenly you’re 13 and you’re down with the 12-year-olds. So that’s when it started to ferment.” He put that same power into every song he made and every song he loved also had a streak of the same searing intensity.

As part of the eight songs that Richards picked during his time on the show, which included some legendary tracks by Etta James and, of course, his biggest influence the granddaddy of rock ‘n’ roll, Chuck Berry. What Richards was apparently unaware of was having just slimmed down his huge record collection to just eight songs now the Rolling Stones guitarist was forced to pick a single song as his favourite—the one track he couldn’t live without.

As Kirsty Young explains of the feature called ‘castaway’s favourite’: “If I were to force you to just save one of the discs from the waves that were threatening to be washed away which one single disc…” the guitarist quickly replies, “Oh you’re killing me, Kirsty,” drawls Richards smokey gurgle, “really, that’s unfair.” Young naturally presses. “Okay, because I’m on an island and I wanna keep the mood the same, Gregory Isaacs, ‘Extra Classic.'”

Earlier in the show, Richards had spoken about the song and shown his clear love of reggae. While Richards’ love of rhythm ‘n’ blues is known to any who have heard a lick of The Rolling Stones, he picked a reggae classic with Gregory Isaacs ‘Extra Classic’, as it reminded him of a special time. “Gregory Isaacs, well many many years I lived in Jamaica and I’ve always thought that Gregory was one of the best songwriters that came out of that island and a sweet singer.”

“There was a sense in the seventies in Jamaica that gave me a reminder of the early sixties in England, that something was happening” Richards concluded: “‘Extra Classic’ was a song where I met my old lady, so I thought I’d carry that through.”

You can read the full list of track Richards picked below and find the full podcast here too. For an insight into one of the most potent songwriters of his generation, it’s a short while well spent. But for now, put on Keith Richards most cherished song of all time, Gregory Isaac’s ‘Extra Classic’.

Keith Richards’ ‘Desert Island Discs’:

  • Chuck Berry – ‘Wee Wee Hours’
  • Hank Williams – ‘You Win Again’
  • Aaron Neville – ‘My True Story’
  • Etta James – ‘Sugar On The Floor’
  • Freddie Scott – ‘Are You Lonely For Me’
  • Gregory Isaacs – ‘Extra Classic’
  • Nigel Kennedy and the English Chamber Orchestra – ‘Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons’
  • Little Walter – ‘Key To The Highway’
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