As Keith Richards marks his 80th birthday on December 18, Tom Waits, his close friend, pays a unique tribute in the form of a poem titled “Burnt Toast to Keith.” Scheduled for publication in the January 2024 issue of the U.K. magazine Uncut, the poem captures the essence of Richards’ songwriting and guitar prowess with irreverent and surreal flair.
The poem opens with a reflection on Richards and the origins of great songs, suggesting that they emerge from the metaphorical gutter. It whimsically describes the challenge of fishing in such a place, sitting on the curb, and humorously contemplates the unconventional bait needed, like a piece of red cloth or a candy wrapper. According to Waits, good songs willingly latch onto the hook, ensuring a lasting connection between the song and its audience.
Waits elaborates, stating, “Keith has this ability to clench his teeth and play chords using his upper lip. As the night winds down, his sound resonates like an orchestra tuning up.”
As the poem reaches its culmination, Waits expresses, “Keith, may you continue to spin, create ripples, make bold strokes, transform a mundane moment into something extraordinary—like turning a simple blue marble into a ’49 Mercury, sawing a girl in half, and making the elephant disappear…”
The 74-year-old singer and songwriter concludes his heartfelt tribute with a birthday wish: “Happy 80th Birthday, KEITH! Embrace it boldly, shake it awake. With love, T O M W.”