Keith Richards has admitted that his arthritis is now affecting his guitar playing and that age is slowing him down.
The Rolling Stones rocker, 79, and his bandmates are releasing a new album for the first time in 18 years, called Hackney Diamonds, featuring Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder.
The Kent-born musician is still as vibrant as ever on stage and last year the Stones performed a sensational 60th anniversary tour.
But while he insisted everyone in the band is still in ‘good spirits’, Richards admitted he’s been forced to change the way he plays guitar as he’s gotten older.
Speaking about how his arthritis affects his musicianship, he told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme: ‘Funnily enough, I don’t doubt it, but I don’t have any pain: it’s kind of a benign version.
It’s Only Rock n Roll: Keith Richards has admitted that his arthritis is now affecting his guitar playing and that his age is slowing him down (pictured on stage in 2022)
Heyday: Richards pictured performing in London in July 1974
“I think if I’ve slowed down a bit, that’s probably more age-related.”
But he’s found a way to adapt so he can keep performing.
Richards continued, “I thought that was interesting too, if I’m thinking, ‘I can’t quite do that anymore,’ the guitar will show me that there’s another way to do it. A finger goes somewhere else and a whole new door has just opened there.’
The new album will also be the band’s first since drummer Charlie Watts passed away in 2021 and was presented by frontman Mick Jagger after the tour.
Richards was ranked fourth on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists in 2011.
The rock ‘n’ roll person, who favors the acoustic guitar, would sometimes play all the guitar parts in a song, most notably in Paint It Black, Ruby Tuesday and Sympathy for the Devil.
In March 2022, Richards revealed he felt “fitter than ever” ahead of the band’s 60th anniversary tour, having finally quit smoking after 55 years.
He told how during rehearsals for the shows he felt like he had “more air in his lungs and voice” after giving up the unhealthy habit.
I still get it: the Kent-born musician is still as lively as ever on stage and the Stones performed a sensational 60th anniversary tour last year (photo: Sir Mick Jagger and Richards)
Superstar: Richards was ranked fourth on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists in 2011
He told CBS’ Sunday Morning: “I didn’t notice things until I started rehearsing for the tour last year and when I started working I noticed I had more air in the lungs and in the voice.”
Keith is known for his wild parties, heavy drinking and drug use and smoking.
He gave up his heroin habit in 1978 and eventually stopped using cocaine after a 2006 accident in which he fell from a tree, requiring brain surgery and a metal plate in his skull.
“I have now given up everything, which is a journey in itself,” he said afterwards.
But he also joked that the secret to his longevity was treating his body like a “temple” by using only “high quality medicine.”
He said in his memoir Life: ‘When I was using drugs, I was completely convinced that my body is my temple. I can do anything I want with it and no one can tell me yes or no.’
He had a ten-year love affair with heroin and was also a heavy cocaine user.
But he explained in his memoir why he thinks he survived, while many of his peers overdosed and died young.
He wrote: ‘It is not just the high quality of the drugs I had to which I attribute my survival. I was very meticulous about how much I took. I would never stop trying to get a little higher.
‘That’s where most people screw up on their drugs. It’s the greed that comes with it that has never really affected me.’
Together: Keith is known for his wild parties, heavy drinking and drug use and smoking (pictured with the band in 1964)
Habit: Keith Richards previously revealed he feels fitter than ever after quitting smoking
But the relatively calmer lifestyle still couldn’t keep him away from some unexpected injuries.
In 1998, during a break in their Bridges to Babylon tour, Richards slipped and fell from a ladder while trying to retrieve a book from the library of his mansion in Westchester, Connecticut.
He broke three ribs from the impact and after being hit by books on the ground.
“It was one of those moments where you have to make a decision: take it in the ribs or take a shot in the temple on the desk.” All part of the rich spectacle of life,” he said later.
There were even fears he had punctured a lung when he fell while stretching between the floor-to-ceiling shelves of the library. The NME reported at the time that his agent said he ‘hadn’t been drinking’.
Richards’ recovery from the fall forced the band to reschedule upcoming tour dates in Berlin, Munich and Gelsenkirchen, Germany, and in Zagreb, Croatia.
When later asked if the fall had made him think about quitting the Stones’ extensive touring schedule, Richards replied, “Retire?” I can’t spell the word. I continued to play in a wheelchair. This is what we do. What else is life about?’
In addition, near the Pacific leg of their record-breaking A Bigger Bang Tour in 2006, Richards and Ronnie Wood took their wives for a weeklong break on an island off Fiji to recuperate ahead of shows in Italy.
After an afternoon of swimming at their exclusive resort, Richards sat down on a tree – described as a ‘gnarled low tree that was essentially a horizontal branch’, just a few meters above the ground.
Group: The new album will be the band’s first release since the death of drummer Charlie Watts (left) last August at the age of 80
But when he tried to jump down and go to lunch, he slipped and hit his head ‘hard’ on the trunk.
Richards claimed not to have felt much at the time, until days later when he suffered a “blinding headache” during a boat trip. That same night, his wife Patti Hansen woke up to Richards having seizures in bed and calling for medical help.
He was then flown on an excruciating four-hour flight to Auckland, New Zealand, where it was discovered that Richards had cracked open his skull and had a potentially fatal blood clot in his brain.
Referring to the journey in his book Life, Richards called the flight “the worst of my life,” adding, “They strapped me into a straitjacket on a stretcher… I couldn’t move.” I cursed the bastard. “Give me painkillers, for God’s sake.”
He underwent successful cranial surgery with hospital neurosurgeon Dr. Andrew Law.
“I woke up feeling great,” Richards said. “And I said, ‘Well, when are you going to start?’ to which Law said: “It’s all done, mate.”
The incident delayed the Rolling Stones’ 2006 European tour by six weeks and forced the band to reschedule several shows. In a brief statement about his return to the tour, Richards said it was good to be back and apologized for “feeling out of place.”
Although he became visibly weaker as he recovered, Richards completed the next forty scheduled shows that year and kept Dr. Law (his ‘main man’) at his side.
When the band returned to New Zealand in 2014 on their ’14 On Fire’ tour, Richards was reunited backstage with Dr. Law and thanked him for taking care of his “tree-induced ailments.”
The incident is also said to have marked the end of Richards’ days of drug use and wild partying.