In the mystery novel Swan Peak by James Lee Burke there is this sentence :

She remembered a statement that Keith Richards once made regarding a famous R&B musician whose hostility to his own audience hid just beneath his skin: Chuck’s tragedy is he doesn’t realize how much joy he brings to other people.

Who is he refering to and what hostility has he shown ?


The first name "Chuck," and the fact that he's a famous R&B musician Keith Richards admires are all clues to one of the fathers of rock and roll, Chuck Berry. Chuck and Keith had a famous love-hate relationship that says a lot about the history of rock & roll in general. Rock itself was basically an adaption, by white musicians, of a sound invented and pioneered by black American R&B musicians. Demographics being what they are, however, and the industry being what it is, the white musicians often became idolized, famous, and fabulously wealthy, even while many of the black musicians they copied from remained relatively poor and unknown.

In the case of British Invasion rockers like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin, the relationship was especially complex. British musicians were often particularly brazen about stealing songs in part or in whole (with or without credit) and about doing open imitations of black artists, including faked-up black American accents, and other acts of theft/homage. They were rewarded with success and adulation beyond their wildest dreams, both at home, and here in America. To their credit, some of them, like Richards and Clapton, did their best as their careers advanced to share the spotlight with their idols, like Berry for Richards, or B.B. King for Clapton. It seems that Berry, however, never got over his sense that Richards was a lesser talent who had been unjustly given what should have gone directly to Chuck (if not for racism). This explains Berry's hostility, both towards Richards, and towards the white audiences that became Berry's largest fan base.

The quote is quite plausible, therefore, but the fact that it's not contained in quotation marks, that the target is alluded to, but not directly named, and that Google finds it only in references to the book, suggests that Burke is either paraphrasing from memory (likely) or simply just made it up based on what he knows of Richards and Berry's relationship.

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