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Johnny Marr says Keith Richards “invented a complete guitar style and genre”

“When I was in The Smiths, I felt like I was in my own Rolling Stones.”

Johnny Marr (left) playing guitar. He is lifting the guitar out to the side and is looking over his shoulder with a stern expression. Keith Richards (right) playing guitar on stage. He is wearing shades and is pouting.

Images: (Left) Shirlaine Forrest and (right) Kevin Mazur / Getty

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Johnny Marr has praised Rolling Stones guitar legend Keith Richards for inventing a “complete guitar style and genre all his own.”

Richards celebrates his 80th birthday this month (18 December), and in honour of the special day plus the return of the Stones with their new album Hackney Diamonds, various industry greats have come forward with tales of respect for Keef.

In the new print edition of Uncut, Marr is just one of many artists sharing their own memories and thoughts about Richards.“Keith was a total hero to me as a kid,” he begins. “I loved his guitar-playing, but it was more his ideology, really. I just saw him as someone with ultimate integrity. He was a massive influence on me for his philosophy more than anything.

“When I was in The Smiths, I felt like I was in my own Rolling Stones. We had a very interesting, idiosyncratic frontman and I was able to take care of just the music, taking the Keith Richards philosophy of being behind the scenes, but also being the engine of the band. He seemed to me to be on a total mission, not to self-destruct, but to find something in music that he loved. Almost a crusade,” he explains.

Gimme Shelter [1969] has the best guitar solo that’s ever been on record. I think there’s only about six notes in total, but it’s played with pure feeling and is totally appropriate. Keith invented a complete guitar style and genre all his own, which is no mean feat. He didn’t just invent a sound, but a whole new guitar style, possibly the coolest style since Robert Johnson or Hubert Sumlin. It strips out any unnecessary intellectualising or technical nonsense and just gets to the heart of it.”

Marr goes on to briefly mention Richards’ drug use (which the rocker has often spoke openly about), which he later gave up as the band progressed. “I think it’s very easy to get carried away with the whole junkie martyr nonsense that used to surround him. I’ve met Keith a few times now and, when you get to the core of it and find out what he’s really like, he’s someone who just won’t be told how to live his own life,” says Marr.

“In that way, he’s a true hero in the same way that Muhammad Ali was, standing up for his principles and not being beaten down by uninformed authority. So l don’t think Keith was standing up for drug-taking, he was standing up for his own life,” he concludes.

Hackney Diamonds is out now. You can view the full list of Rolling Stones tour dates via their official website.

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