Oct. 27, 2010— -- Rock 'n' roll is not only about the music. Much of the legend involves the real-life feminine muses that inspired, fueled or buoyed the creative impulse that generated the sound, the beat and the riffs that marked a generation.
Elvis Presley worshipped his mother, John Lennon venerated his Yoko, and Eric Clapton created his "Layla."
Now, in his critically acclaimed new memoir, "Life," Rolling Stone Keith Richards, now 66, talks about the women who mattered to him the most. But more importantly, his descriptions of them -- and his reactions to them -- provide insights into the man that seemingly contradict his rough-hewn and sometimes distant persona.
One of the more surprising revelations in "Life" is Richards' inherent shyness with women. He had a preoccupation with "finding the right line, or one that hadn't been used before." And the tunesmith, so spot on about his music, writes, "I just never had that thing with women" and "'Hey, baby' is just not my come-on."
Despite his reservations about how to approach the fair sex, Richards had enormous success. And in "Life," the reader learns what turns Keith Richards on.
He likes strong women.
"My first impression was of a woman who was very strong," Richards writes about Swedish beauty Anita Pallenberg, whom he began eyeing at the end of 1966, nearly four years after the formation of the Rolling Stones.
At the time, she was dating his band mate Brian Jones, whom Richards describes as "a woman beater." "But the one woman in the world you did not want to try and beat up on was Anita Pallenberg. Every time they had a fight, Brian would come out bandaged and bruised."
Describing a house in the south of France which became a production site for the band, and a large number of other people, Pallenberg "became the bouncer, getting rid of people sleeping under beds and overstaying their welcome."
Richards and Pallenberg had three children together, one of whom died in infancy.
He likes artistic women. "Anita came out of an artistic world, and she had quite a bit of talent herself – she was certainly a lover of art and pally with its contemporary practitioners and wrapped up in the pop art world," Richards writes about Pallenberg, who could draw.
He likes smart women.
Richards described Pallenberg as "extremely bright" and speaking three languages, which was "one of the reasons she sparked me."
Years later, when he got together with Patti Hansen, Richards wrote in his diary: "Unbelievably she is the most beautiful (physically) specimen in the WORLD. But that ain't it! It certainly helps but it's her mind, her joy of life and (wonders) she thinks this battered junkie is the guy she loves. I'm kicking 40 and besotted."
He likes fashionable women.
When it came to fashion, "[Anita] could put anything together and look good." And then, in a twist, Richards reveals he began to wear her clothes. "I would wake up and put on what was lying around. Sometimes it was mine, and sometimes it was the old lady's, but we were exactly the same size so it didn't matter. If I sleep with someone, I at least have the right to wear her clothes."
He's a romantic.
"I loved her soul and I knew in my heart I wanted to make this thing legitimate," Richards writes, describing his feelings four years into his relationship with Hansen.
He, plain and simple, likes women.
"I am married to a most beautiful woman," he wrote in his notebook in 2006, of Patti Hansen. "Elegant, graceful and as down to earth as you can get. Smart, practical, caring, thoughtful and a very hot horizontal consideration … I must say that her practicality and logic confound me because she makes sense of my discursive way of life."
Surprised that this leathery-visaged chap is so charming?
"There wasn't a predatory aspect to Keith Richard's involvement with women," said Anthony DeCurtis, popular music critic and writer, and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. "Beneath his stereotypical portrait – he's willing to embody a pirate-like role that's only part of the picture – there's a sweetness and sensibility towards the women he's been involved with."
With his children older, and with a stable relationship – he and Hansen have been married for a remarkable 26 years and have two daughters, Theodora and Alexandra – what's next for Richards?
In 2005, he made a telling comment to Esquire. "Women are a beautiful complication, and I look forward to far more beauties and far more complications," he said. For Richards, it's a good "Life."