Keith Richards is a legend on too many levels to count. The main thing everyone talks about these days is his longstanding position as living proof that a hard-partying rock and roll lifestyle doesn't necessarily kill every great talent before they reach age 30. Case in point: The Rolling Stones' guitarist turns 73 today, and he's still going strong.
While Richards's life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll is at the core of his legend, what sometimes is missed in discussing Richards are his skills as a musician. Whether he was playing lead or rhythm or even taking over vocals, Richards was still key to many great musical moments in the Stones' amazing history. We've picked out five below.
5. "Honky Tonk Women."
This is as classic as it gets for the Stones, a timeless number that features Richards as the solid lead man. He's not taking over the stage with giant flourishes like Eddie Van Halen but his guitar is the engine of the song that hums along under its unforgettable vocal hook.
4. "Gimme Shelter."
This features Richards's vocal skills, which are underrated for their bluesy, rough-edged power, reminiscent of Tom Waits without the sinus drainage.
3. "Doom and Gloom."
Some Stones of a more recent vintage, "Doom and Gloom" features Keith and Ronnie Wood democratically trading licks. It's a totally vintage Stones song that could've come out in 1969 as easily as 2012.
2. "Start Me Up."
Few songs demonstrate why the Stones hooked an audience early on. They never bothered with the artistic pretensions found in the Beatles' later work. Mick and Keith want to get the crowd up and singing on the chorus too.
Keith handles the lead vocals on this just fine, but the real fun comes when he takes over lead guitar duties in the middle of the song and gets the crowd worked up in the bargain.
Happy birthday, Keith Richards. At this point we wouldn't be shocked if you had about 73 more.