After almost 60 years, do you enjoy the whole thing of being on tour, waiting for the concert?
It’s no big drag to travel around. You get to see people that you haven’t seen for a long time…hanging around with musicians and good friends. [The concert] is just something that you do at the end of the day. Actually, I’m quite happy to do it 60 years. After all, what else would I do? [laughs] I made this job up because I couldn’t think of anything else. I’d make a lousy plumber, you know? I’m very fortunate in finding what I wanted to do—and what I could do—very, very early in life and there’s never been any real doubt about that. So, in that case I’ve been very fortunate and give thanks and praises for it.
Did the passing of [drummer] Charlie Watts bring [the band] closer?
Yes, I do think so. When things like that happen, you do tend to draw together more, which I think is for the best of the band. The Rolling Stones are far bigger than any of its parts, you know. I always feel like I’m working for the Rolling Stones. I have no choice, I have to do this…I’m not complaining, I gotta say that. I’m sitting here, I’m ready to go to work.
I think the older you get, the healthier you become. Do you wonder about this yourself?
You know, if I ask questions about it, I might not like the answers. I’m just a fairly old bloke in pretty good shape. I spent half of my life taking up [unhealthy things] and half of my life giving them up. I don’t recommend this for everybody. I’m far from being indestructible. I just don’t break easy, you know?
Was smoking the hardest thing to give up?
I’d given up things far more addictive than nicotine. Actually, once I started doing it, I found it very easy. I stuck on the patch and said, “No more!” I know this doesn’t work for everybody. I’d tried to cut down smoking, but by the end of the week I’d find I’m smoking more. I really got disgusted with it eventually…and that was it. I found I had more stamina after that. Yeah, it’s definitely good. Give it all up. It’s good for you.
I get the impression that you are actually very young, a young spirit, a young man at heart.
I hope so. I’m holding out for my age as much as I can.
Are your grandkids curious about their granddad’s adventures in rock ‘n roll?
They are not old enough to know who I am. This is an incredible process, watching the little things grow up. I love ’em all. Yeah. I’m a grandfather, okay. [laughs]
Editor’s Note: Keith Richards turned 78 last winter. He formed The Rolling Stones with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones in 1962. The Stones are currently on a (briefly COVID-delayed) summer tour of Europe. This Q&A was conducted by Ken Summit of The Interview People.