The Rolling Stones co-founder and guitarist Keith Richards always loved American music. Alongside Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Brian Jones in the 60s, he helped to show the United States how great the music being made there was and how far that kind of sound could go.
So mixing the Blues with Rock and Soul, The Rolling Stones became one of the biggest bands in the world. Their longevity and legacy can be seen now more than six decades later. The band released 31 studio albums and have sold an estimated amount of more than 200 million records worldwide.
Over the decades, Richards had the chance to meet and play with many artists he likes. The musician once mentioned an American one that in his opinion is brilliant and original.
The artist that Keith Richards called brilliant and original
Besides being known for his talent, Richards is also remembered for being a very sincere person, so when he says he likes an artist he is really telling the truth. One of the American artists that he loves and called brilliant in an interview with Esquire in 2015 was Tom Waits, who is also a poet and an actor.
Born in Whittier, California in 1949, he is only six years older than Richards and released his debut album “Closing Time” in 1973. Known for his raspy voice, he often composes songs mixing Rock, Blues, Jazz and experimental music.
“I love Tom dearly. He’s a true American eccentric, and we need more of them, you know. Brilliant guy, brilliant musician. I always had that hankering to do ‘Irene’. I think maybe Tom doing ‘Shenandoah’ a few years ago, the great American folk song, and being involved in that—suddenly I’ve got a 12-string in my hand and it’s time for ‘Irene.'”
“I’ve had the opportunity with Merle Haggard. All of these guys that I used to listen to — the amazing thing is that even at my age, I’m living in a place where I know all of my heroes, warts and all, and still love ’em. Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, man, if that is not Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll, I don’t know who is. Little Richard. I love those cats,” Keith Richards said.
More recently to celebrate Tom Waits’ birthday in 2023, Keith shared in his social networks a video from 2001 in which he calls him one of the most original artists of the last century. “He is one of the most original, one of the most talented, most daring and artists of the last century, like me (laughs)” Keith Richards said.
During his career, Waits has released 17 studio albums. He has sold an estimated amount of more than 4.6 million records in the United States. Waits also has a successful acting career, having been featured in movies like “Rumble Fish” (1983), “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992), “Mystery Men” (1999), “The Book of Eli” (2010) and “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (2018).
Richards already played on Tom Waits’ albums and described him as “a great bunch of guys”
In an interview for his Youtube channel in 2016, Richards talked about what it was like to work with Waits. (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) “Tom, bless him, it was great to work with him. Because I only find out later that he never actually writes with anybody. He only writes with his wife. So I realized (It was nice) to work with a guy that doesn’t collaborate with other lads,” Keith Richards said.
The first time Richards appeared on a Tom Waits album was in the 1985 record “Rain Dogs”, when he played the guitar in a few tracks. They worked again in 1992 and besides playing on the album, Richards co-wrote the track “That Feel”.
The two would reunite again in 2011 for the album “Bad As Me”. But this time Richards only played the guitar and didn’t co-wrote songs with Waits.
The American artist also performed with the Rolling Stones live in Oakland, doing the song “Little Red Rooster”. That track was originally recorded by Howlin’ Wolf and written by Willie Dixon.
Curiously, Richards once described Tom Waits to Uncut magazine in 2023 as a “great bunch of guys”, since he is always mixing many different genres into his music. “Tom’s music is so American. Probably more folk-American than anything, but somehow modern. He’s a weird mixture of stuff; a great bunch of guys!” Keith Richards said.