Alongside The Beatles, it was The Rolling Stones that led the British Invasion into a new direction, introducing a fresh brand of rock and roll to the masses. As they developed their sound, rooted in genres such as blues, beat and skiffle, these bands became symbols of counterculture and a burgeoning youth-led movement.
Whereas The Beatles began their career wearing matching outfits and mop-top haircuts, The Rolling Stones were presented as a scruffier, more dangerous alternative that were a little rougher around the edges. Through the decade, the bands became friendly rivals, constantly in competition as they both exploded across the worldwide music industry. However, the Stones wouldn’t have reached such heights if their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, hadn’t encouraged Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to begin writing their own songs. The band was running low on interesting material to cover that would sustain attention; thus, Oldham suggested they become a songwriting duo, much like Lennon and McCartney.
From that moment, The Rolling Stones began moving in the right direction, with Richards and Jagger becoming one of music’s most iconic songwriting pairings. Their first penned song to be released was ‘Tell Me (You’re Coming Back)’, which eventually appeared on their eponymous debut album.
Although Jagger took the duties of singing lead vocals on most of the band’s tracks, Richards occasionally picked up the slack, taking a break from his backing vocal responsibilities to demonstrate the full breadth of his talents. The first songs that Richards sang a significant chunk of were 1967’s ‘Something Happened to Me Yesterday’ and ‘Connection’, both appearing on Between the Buttons. The following year, Richards sang a verse on ‘Salt of the Earth’ from Beggar’s Banquet. However, the first track in which he performed lead vocals on his own was ‘You Got the Silver’ from Let It Bleed.
The singer’s leading tracks rarely became singles, although his contribution to Exile on Main St., ‘Happy’ became a hit, reaching number 22 in the charts and earning the title of one of the record’s most excellent cuts. Discussing the song, Richards said, “That’s a strange song, because if you play it you actually become happy, even in the worst of circumstances. It has a little magical bounce about it. I wrote it one afternoon when we were cutting Exile on Main St. in France and the studio was in my basement.”
Since the 1960s, Richards has sporadically continued to contribute lead vocals, with his most recent performances appearing on 2005’s A Bigger Bang in the form of ‘This Place is Empty’ and ‘Infamy’. Find a complete list of Stones songs sung by Richards below.
The Rolling Stones with Keith Richards on vocals:
‘Something Happened to Me Yesterday’ (with Jagger)
‘Connection’ (with Jagger)
‘Salt Of The Earth’ (with Jagger)
‘You Got The Silver’
‘Coming Down Again’
‘Memory Motel’ (with Jagger)
‘Before They Make Me Run’
‘All About You’
‘Little T & A’
‘Wanna Hold You’
‘Can’t Be Seen’
‘Thru & Thru’
‘You Don’t Have To Mean It’
‘Thief in the Night’
‘How Can I Stop’
‘Losing My Touch’
‘The Nearness of You’ (live)
‘This Place is Empty’