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Patti Smith and Keith Richards: a study in contrast

With details including his first meeting with Mick Jagger and a look at his well-known attempts to get high, the Rolling Stone reflects on 50 years of rock-and-roll.

This was not Richards's approach. While taunting both death and the cops, the guitarist sired five children - three with model-actress Anita Pallenberg (one died as an infant) and two with model Patti Hansen. There are pictures of the four surviving kids in "Life,'' and they seem to be doing fine. But it's hard to read the book and not fear for the older two, Marlon and Angela. Their father was a junkie when they were born, and for years after that. So, by the way, was their mother.

Incredibly, Marlon became his father's "road buddy'' at 7. The boy navigated as Richards drove to gigs on the Stones' 1976 European tour, and was designated to awaken his father when he nodded off before a show. That's because Richards kept a "shooter'' under his pillow, and the road crew decided that Marlon was the member of the entourage least likely to get plugged for awakening the zoned-out guitarist.

"He was a great minder,'' Richards writes of Marlon, with no apparent irony.

Angela soon became the responsibility of Richards's mother, still living in Dartford. Marlon later joined a Long Island rock-and-roll household headed by the guitarist's father. (Richards's parents had split as soon as their only child left home.) Eventually, Marlon sent himself to school in Britain.

Despite his routine references to "bitches'' and "old ladies,'' Richards doesn't seem to be a woman-hater. He insists he's not a soulless seducer like longtime bandmates Jagger and Bill Wyman, or a batterer like the late Brian Jones, another "leader'' of the Stones. He claims to prefer cuddling to sex and to "have never put the make on a girl in my life.'' His affection for early love Veronica Bennett - later Ronnie Spector - seems genuine, and he's been married to Hansen for 27 years.

But many of the people on "Life's" enemies' list are there because of the brief period in 1968 when Pallenberg slipped from Jones to Richards to Jagger and then back to Richards. If the guitarist underestimates Jones's contribution to the Stones, it's at least in part because Jones abused Pallenberg. (Actually, most of Richards's stories about this mistreatment involve Jones's failed attempts to hit his then-girlfriend, often injuring himself in the process.)

Among the many injuries sustained during Richards and Jagger's long working relationship, one that still festers is the singer's alleged fling with Pallenberg on the set of "Performance.'' Richards continues to seethe at Donald Cammell, the movie's co-director, calling him "a twister and a manipulator'' for casting Jagger and Pallenberg as lovers in the film. The guitarist is clearly pleased that the director (who also has a cameo in "Just Kids'') ultimately "topped himself.''

Although Richards says he "never put the make on a girl,'' he responded to Jagger and Pallenberg's supposed dalliance by bedding Marianne Faithfull, Jagger's girlfriend at the time. He crows about it in one of "Life's'' most discussed passages, where he calls Jagger (or some part of him) a "tiny todger.'' But the betrayal didn't really bother him, Richards protests, and besides, his distress inspired him to write "Gimme Shelter.''

"Just Kids'' has a gentler tone, but it's not free of jealousy. When Mapplethorpe first started having sex with men, he kept his exploits secret from Smith, who was shocked and hurt to learn of them. (Although a devotee of Genet and Rimbaud, she was initially unprepared to learn that her real live boyfriend had this desire in common with her poetic crushes.) Later, Mapplethorpe regarded Smith's lovers with suspicion. That's not unreasonable, since she had a string of affairs with men who made no commitments.

"Just Kids'' and the first part of "Life'' each recount their authors' apprenticeships, but much of Richards's education was pursued from a position of strength: He was male and a rock star. He may not have been a great guitarist when he first started encountering such musical heroes as Waters, Don Everly and Elvis Presley sideman Scotty Moore, but he was somehow on their level. An ingenue who lucked into a spot in the Chelsea Hotel scene, Smith lacked that status. She was fed and supported, educated and encouraged by such lovers as poet Jim Carroll (who turned tricks on the side), playwright Sam Shepard (who was married at the time) and Blue Oyster Cult keyboardist Allen Lanier (who lived the promiscuous rock-star life on the road). But she wasn't their peer.

As a woman in the late 1960s and early '70s, Smith was limited by other people's expectations, but also by her own sense of possibilities and responsibilities. She wanted to be an artist and a poet, but her exemplars for those vocations were mostly male. Often she looked to famous wives and lovers as role models. She prayed for "the mistress of Jules Laforgue,'' identified with the "mutinous spirit'' of Zelda Fitzgerald and constructed a poem "from the perspective of Jesse James's girlfriend.'' She writes that "the girls interested me: Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, Amelia Earhart, Mary Magdalene.''


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