Behind Keith Richards’ Claim He Did (Or Didn’t) Snort His Dad’s Ashes

There are countless ways a rock and roll icon could make their way into major news headlines around the world. But the legendary Keith Richards might win the award for the most shocking method: admitting to snorting your late father’s ashes.

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…then denying that it ever happened, then admitting it again years later in a memoir. On the 17th anniversary of the Rolling Stones guitarist’s eyebrow-raising interview with NME on April 3, 2007, we revisit this wild story to separate fact from fiction.

Keith Richards’ Ripe-For-Headlines Interview

While Keith Richards’ admitting to snorting his father’s ashes might sound like the drug-induced ramblings of a punky young adult, the guitarist’s admission came much later in his career. In an interview with NME in April 2007, Richards pondered the strangest thing he had ever snorted. “My father,” he said. “I snorted my father.”

“He was cremated, and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow,” the story read. “My dad wouldn’t have cared. He didn’t give a s***. It went down pretty well, and I’m still alive.” Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for news publications around the world to start doling out shocking headlines of rockers snorting cremated remains.

The Rolling Stones’ Representative’s Comments

If Keith Richards’ liver works hard, the Rolling Stones’ communications manager works harder. Bernard Doherty of LD Communications released a statement the day the story broke, claiming it was a bad joke. “It was an off-the-cuff remark, a joke, and it is not true,” Doherty said. “File under April Fool’s joke” (via CBS).

Richards published a statement on the Rolling Stones’ website disputing the details of the story. Per the guitarist’s statement, NME took a few creative liberties with the rehashing of Richards’ story. As it turns out, most of it was true—at least the snorting bit that the world was hyperfocusing on. But some key details were missing.

Did Keith Richards Actually Snort His Father’s Ashes?

In short, yes. But if it makes you feel any better, Richards denies mixing his father’s cremated remains with c******… so there is that. The Rolling Stones guitarist described the experience in his 2010 memoir Life. He outlined the initial blowback: op-eds on cannibalism, arguments that the rowdy rocker had finally crossed the line, etc. “Old pro that I am, I said that it was taken out of context,” Richards writes, his smugness practically oozing off the page. “No denying, no admitting.” 

Later in the book, Richards explains that the “truth of the matter” was that he had kept his father’s remains in a box for six years. (Bert Richards died in 2002, two years before his salacious story went public.) Unable to toss his father’s ashes into the breeze, Richards decided to plant an English oak and spread Bert’s ashes among the roots.

“As I took the lid off of the box, a fine spray of his ashes blew out onto the table. I couldn’t brush him off, so I wiped my finger over it and snorted the residue,” Richards explains. “Ashes to ashes, father to son. He is now growing oak trees and would love me for it.”

(Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images)

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