Keith Richards On The Trauma Of Losing A Child
Few things in life can be as traumatic as losing a child, so it's understandable Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards now admits that after his 10-week-old son Tara died suddenly in 1976, he contemplated suicide. Instead, he coped by throwing himself into performing with his famous band.
In an interview with the BBC's Desert Island Discs, Richards explained he'd gotten a phone call with the tragic news just as he was about to hit the stage at a concert in Paris, and decided he had to go on with the show.
"It was such a shock at the time, especially [since I was] getting a phone call in Paris and this happened in Geneva, and I thought, 'I'm going to go mad unless I do this show tonight," he explained. "Maybe it was a sense of self-preservation…It was a rough, rough thing. And I had a feeling [that] I must go on stage now and I'll worry and grieve and think about all this after the show. Because if I didn’t go on stage I'd have probably shot myself."
Tara, who apparently died of sudden infant death syndrome, or "cot death" as it was known, was one of three children Keith had with model/actress Anita Pallenberg, who was Richards' partner from the late 1960s to about 1980. In the BBC interview, Keith admitted another reason he decided to play the concert after Tara's death was he didn't want to upset his son, Marlon, who was accompanying him on the Stones tour at that time.
Richards also discussed his often contentious relationship with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. "Mick and I have a great relationship, except when we don't, which is when everybody hears about it," Keith explained. "With Mick, I always felt it was a brother thing and what brothers don't fight occasionally? And we're always fighting for the right reasons. We just think that our version is more right than the other's."
As for the pieces of music Richards chose for his "Desert Island Discs," they included Chuck Berry's "Wee Wee Hours," Hank Williams' "You Win Again," Aaron Neville's "My True Story," Etta James' "Sugar on the Floor," Gregory Isaacs' "Extra Classic," Little Walter's "Key to the Highway," and the "Spring" movement of classical composer Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." Keith said if I could only save one of those discs, it would have to be the Isaacs song.
You can listen to the entire interview with Richards for a limited time at BBC.co.uk.