The foundations of rock have been shaken to their core— the now 75-year-old rock god, Keith Richards, has completely given up hard liquor, and is making his slow journey towards complete sobriety. Everybody knows that hedonism is an integral part of Richards’ legend, and that his intoxication has been fundamental to his image for the past sixty years of his career. Richards solidified this perception of him as a hardcore, fast-living, rogue rocker in the 1970s following a series of high-profile drug busts. Now, it’s been a year since he’s stopped drinking hard liquor and will only occasionally allow himself a glass of wine or a beer.
When asked why he gave up alcohol in a Rolling Stone interview, Richards simply said that “It was time to quit. Just like the other stuff.” After decades of drinking as if he were still in his 20s, Richards “pulled the plug on it” because he “got fed up with it.” Infamous for performing drunk onstage in the past, Richards admitted that it was an interesting experience to play in front of a crowd without being some form of intoxicated. Although he admits learning how to function without liquor was an adjustment, he says “I don’t notice a difference, really— except for I don’t drink.”
Guitarist Ronnie Wood, another longstanding member of the Rolling Stones who got sober in 2010, says that he’s noticed big changes in Richards since he made the decision to work towards sobriety. According to Wood, Richards has become more open to ideas, more mellow, and a pleasure to work with. Prior to giving up hard liquor, Wood said that Richards “had this cutoff point where if he had one more, he’d go over the top and he’d be nasty,” and that the cutoff point “became shorter and shorter.” Richards’ commitment to cutting alcohol from his life has also affected the way that they play at shows, with Wood stating that they’re both “more aware of the gaps and spaces” in their performances. Although Richards hasn’t completely committed himself to giving up drinking, Wood has high hopes that his friend will be able to let go of it, and says that “I’ll be there, full support.”