The Rolling Stones have long heralded the American blues for inspiring their sound. Disciples of the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, the rock icons wouldn’t exist as we know them without their early influences. Though the band went on to evolve their idols’ sound, the Stones have never been shy about what songs they treat as the blueprint.
Videos by American Songwriter
Videos by American Songwriter
There is likely some overlap in what each member considers their favorite songs, but we’ve narrowed down the list to just Keith Richards’ preferences. Find five of Richards’ favorite songs, below.
1. “Rollin’ Stone” – Muddy Waters
First and foremost, we have to look at Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone.” Richards and the rest of his bandmates have long cited Waters as an inspiration for their American blues-inspired sound – so much so that they derived their moniker from the blues icon’s “Rollin’ Stone.” The Rolling Stones would not be what they are today if they didn’t develop an early affinity for Waters.
2. “He’s Funny That Way” – Billie Holiday
“My mother, she loved jazz: she loved Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, and Duke Ellington, and that’s what was around the house,” Richards once explained about how his parents’ music taste influenced him. “There’s a lot of blues in jazz. And so, in a way, it was in the bones before I actually got to hear country blues – I already felt familiar with it.”
To represent the jazz pack, Richards cited Billie Holiday’s “He’s Funny That Way” as one of his favorites.
3. “Please Please Me” – The Beatles
Richards also made a nod to the Beatles in the same interview and an early hit of theirs, “Please Please Me.”
“I’ve always told McCartney, ‘Please Please Me’ [is my favorite Beatles song],” Richards once said (per Songfacts). “I just love the chimes, and I was there at the time, and it was beautiful. Mind you, there’s plenty of others, but if I’ve got to pick one, ‘Please Please Me.'”
4. “Spring” – Antonio Vivaldi
While the list thus far has been what you would likely expect from Richards, fans might be surprised to see this Vivaldi composition among his favorites.
“Suddenly, I got classical,” Richards told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. “I was agonizing about this as Mozart was my man. But I found out, while reading some of his letters, that the only good word he had to say about any composer in the world was Vivaldi.”
5. “Extra Classic” – Gregory Isaacs
Lastly, Richards chose Gregory Isaacs’ “Extra Classic” because it reminded him of a special time in his life.
“Gregory Isaacs, well many many years I lived in Jamaica and I’ve always thought that Gregory was one of the best songwriters that came out of that island and a sweet singer,” he once said. “There was a sense in the seventies in Jamaica that gave me a reminder of the early sixties in England, that something was happening. ‘Extra Classic’ was a song where I met my old lady, so I thought I’d carry that through.”
(Photo by Sven Hoogerhuis/BSR Agency/Getty Images)