5 Best Keith Richards Guitar Riffs

When we think of iconic rockers, Keith Richards is one of the first to come to mind—if for nothing else but sheer time put in. The Rolling Stones are one of the most enduring rock groups ever. While there are many things to love about the band, we’d like to take a minute to recognize Richards for his impeccable riff writing.

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Few guitarists have constructed as many memorable riffs as Richards has. From “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” to “Start Me Up,” find Richards’ best guitar lines, below.

1. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

Despite Richards’ initial reservations about this track, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” remains one of the most instantly recognizable riffs in rock history. Aided by some production magic, the riff sounds like it could sooner be produced by a horn section than Richards’ Gibson Les Paul—which only speaks to the guitarist’s intimate knowledge of his instrument. Few guitarists could produce something as unique and insatiably catchy as this.

2. “Paint It, Black”

The lead riff in “Paint It, Black” is haunting. Given the song’s morose subject matter, the meandering riff pairs perfectly. Though the lead guitar sound was bolstered by a sitar line and organ pedals, the core of the record lies with Richards. The jangly guitar tone will continue to ruminate in the minds of rock fans for decades to come.

3. “The Last Time”

“The Last Time” was the Stones’ first UK No. 1. Though the lyrics are enticing enough, we can’t help but think Richards’ simple, yet alluring riff has something to do with its success. Though Richards would go on to create more famous riffs, we have to stop and pay homage to the song that jumpstarted Richards and Mick Jagger’s success as a songwriting duo.

[RELATED: Then and Now: The Rolling Stones’ Enduring Rock Stardom]

4. “Brown Sugar”

The entirety of “Brown Sugar” is provocative. Though the listener doesn’t need any help focusing in on the song after they hear the ear-drawing first line—Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields—it’s Richards’ opening guitar riff that truly sets the scene. Blues-steeped and a little funky, Richards calls upon his Black influences for this stirring riff.

5. “Start Me Up”

Richards’ guitar line in “Start Me Up” is as rousing as the song itself. Despite being beloved by fans for its infectious energy, Richards had some qualms with this one.

“After they cut it, I said, ‘That’s bloody great! Come and listen,'” Stones Engineer Chris Kimsey once explained (per Genius). “However, when I played it back, Keith said, ‘Nah, it sounds like something I’ve heard on the radio. Wipe it.’ Of course, I didn’t, but he really didn’t like it, and I’m not sure whether he likes it to this day.”

Though we hate to do it, we have to disagree with Richards. “Start Me Up” remains one of his best creative strokes to date.

Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images

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