I decided to read Keith’s new book, “Life,” primarily for two reasons: (1) my husband’s interest in the Rolling Stones, and (2) his status as an accomplished musician. Unfortunately, because it’s a new book at the library, we could only borrow it for two weeks. When my husband finished it I only had time to read about a quarter of it. I’ve reserved it again; I’m 90th on the list (again.)
I did read enough of it to find something to admire in Keith as a musician. As a traditionally trained musician myself, I couldn’t help but be impressed with his tenacity. There’s something very admirable about a man -a musically untrained teenager, really – who will take his instrument and lock himself in his room and listen to a recording until he can play the music himself. My piano teacher probably would have been grateful if I had ever shown a tenth of that kind of determination.
But, of course, Keith’s “Life” is about more than music, although you sometimes do have to read between the lines to find that story. If his life is the music on a grand staff (or maybe a chord chart in his case) it’s necessary to read the accompanying lyrics in order to truly appreciate the song. One thing I “heard” in his “lyrics” relates to my first reason for reading his book – my husband’s interest in the Rolling Stones.
I’ve been married for 25 years. My husband and I have had our ups and downs, and we work every day to learn how to do marriage better. We’ve learned to enjoy each other’s interests; we’ve learned what ticks each other off and what makes each other tick. One thing that makes my husband tick is a little something Aretha taught our generation, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Aretha’s plea is so convincing and so in line with the women’s movement of our time, that we often forget that the song was written by Otis Redding. It was originally a man’s plea for respect from a woman. Do you see a pattern here? The short list is Otis, my husband, and now…Keith.
On page 181, in comparing “English chicks” to “black chicks” he met on tour, Keith wrote, “They were great because they were chicks, but they were much more like guys than English girls were…I remember being in the Ambassador Hotel with this black chick called Flo…she’d take of me. Love, no. Respect, yeah.” (Emphasis mine.)
I was struck to find, here in a book by a free-wheeling rock-and-roller, this desire to be respected by women. I know it annoys some women. Some would say Aretha is the one that still needs to be getting the message out. However, I have found that my husband’s need to be respected isn’t because of some egotistical chauvinism. And though a young Keith Richards might have been disappointed in the reason, I must acknowledge that my husband’s desire for respect is generally rooted in his love for me. He doesn’t demand conspicuous acts of respect. He wants me to respect him enough to turn the light off when I leave a room because he tries to be good with our money. He wants me to respect him enough to take my cell phone with me when I go out alone, because he’s concerned about my safety. Yep, it’s the little things.
If we remember history, this “little thing” is actually quite ancient. The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus: “…let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.” Otis, Keith, my husband and I – we’re all just demonstrating the truth – that God has created men with the need for respect (and women with the need for love). And if we ever forget the seriousness of the situation, we have another rocker to remind us. Tell us again, Pat Benatar: what is love?