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Music

The song Keith Richards felt he "stole" from The Rolling Stones

@josephtaysom

As Keith Richards has found out the hard way, throughout his career, that there’s no time like the present, and that’s why he felt compelled to steal a song from the grasp of his own band, The Rolling Stones.

While Richards is one of the most accomplished songwriters of his generation, it’s another story when he’s stood in front of a microphone and expected to take Mick Jagger’s place on vocals. He’s taken up the role of lead vocalist on several occasions, but only ‘Happy’ has entered the Billboard Hot 100.

It’s a joyous explosion of emotions, and Richards rises to the task as a frontman deputising for Jagger. The Exile on Main St. effort was recorded during their infamous stay at Villa Nellcôte in Southern France and only took a portion of the afternoon to create. In truth, the main reason why it got completed so quickly is down to selfishness on Richards’ behalf. After writing the song, he felt compelled to nail down his vocals straight away because there was no way that he was handing over ownership of ‘Happy’.

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During an interview in 2010, Richards explained the song was finished before any of his bandmates knew it even existed. He recalled: “I’d ‘stolen it’ and captured it before anybody else knew it existed. So that was it.”

It’s a track that Richards still has a strong affinity towards all these years later. He added: I play ‘Happy’ quite a lot, more often than any of the others. I love playing it.”

Richards continued: “It’s not usually my genre,” Richards noted. “I’m not known for happy and joyful stuff. I’m probably more aligned to Lucifer and the dark side.” While Richards admits that he’s “not known for happy and joyful stuff”, and he’s usually influenced by the darker side of life, despite sounding uplifting, ‘Happy’ was written while the guitarist was at his lowest ebb.

“Some of the best songs, some of the happiest ditties in the world come out because you’re feeling exactly the opposite,” he once explained. “Sometimes you write to counteract that feeling. I was feeling anything but happy when I wrote ‘Happy.’ I wrote ‘Happy’ to make sure there was a word like that and a feeling like that.”

The process of writing ‘Happy’ was Richards trying to trick himself into getting into that state of mind and allowing that feeling to become all-encompassing.

It’s an unconventional method to deal with suffering, and a therapist almost certainly wouldn’t recommend this coping mechanism. Still, if writing uplifting ditties works for The Rolling Stones guitarist, then who are we to judge?