Keith Richards had an extremely close and mutually adoring relationship with his "Mum," who was both nurturing and vituperative - with perhaps predictable results for her sensitive son.

 

The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, October 29, 2010. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

How Keith Richards Became Keith Richards (and John Lennon - John Lennon)

Keith Richards' Life is getting rave reviews - not only from the NY Times book critic, but from the irascible Maureen Dowd , who notes that Richards is the model of a sensitive, woman-loving male! Who knew? He was kind of a girly boy - "I was mates with a lot of girls as I grew up."

This started with Richards' - an only child - relationship with his Mom, Doris (sample comment: Doris had "six sisters - I come from a matriarchy on both sides of my family"). Richards is a thoughtful man who processes his life experience intellectually (much more so than Mick Jagger, who attended the London School of Economics). Who knew?

You don't grow up in a working-class English family - or in any family - and become a genius without your mother's influence. But such relationships can be double-edged swords. This is made especially clear since the film, Nowhere Boy, about John Lennon's flirtatious relationship with his adoring but mentally unstable mother, is screening simultaneously with the release of Richards' book. The film makes the case that Lennon was deeply drawn to his mother, whom he only met as a teenager, but that he could never count on her emotionally, almost like they had a bad love affair.

Other than that Lennon didn't actually live with his mom, his and Richards' stories are remarkably similar. Not good students (both were expelled from their secondary schools), both were recognized as talented people and encouraged by a school administrator to go to an art college (let's hear it for the English school system), where they majored in becoming musicians by playing music non-stop.

And both were introduced to music by their Moms, who bought them their first guitars, and encouraged them to play - despite the discouragement of Richards' father and of Lennon's aunt, Mimi, who actually raised him (footnote: Mimi and Lennon's Mom were two of five sisters, and Lennon remained close with his aunt).

Richards was far closer to his mother than to his father - a distant figure.

I used to sit there watching for hours while my mother decided what she couldn't afford to buy. But what can you say about the first woman in your life? She was Mum. She sorted me out. She fed me. She was forever slicking my hair and straightening my clothes, in public. Humiliation. But it's Mum. I didn't realize until later she was also my mate. She could make me laugh. There was music all the time, and I do miss her so.

Okay - first wipe the tears from your eyes - and then - any psychoanalysts out there? Drug-popping devil Keith Richards is a momma's boy! Who knew?

This is despite Doris' being a tough nut. She killed all Richards' pets, including his cat (he still remembers and resents that experience acutely), because they were too messy.

And, then, there was this, after Richards came home covered with rotten tomatoes he and his mate (a boy - typical!) had found outside a grocery and, naturally, started throwing at one other:

"I've called the man. He's going to take you away, because you're out of control."

And I broke down.

"He's coming here in fifteen minutes. He'll be here any minute now to take you away into the home."

And I shat myself. I was about six or seven. (This is a man writing in his late sixties.)

"Oh, Mum!" I'm on my hands and knees, I'm pleading and begging.

"I've had it up to here with you. I don't want you anymore."

Ouch!

Oh, did I mention Richards (like Lennon) also became a heroin addict?

Well, nobody's perfect - parents or children.