Who said: "When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you."

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"When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equaliser." - Keith Richards

Born on December 18, 1943, in Dartford, England, Keith Richards is one of the driving forces behind the Rolling Stones. Richards developed a passion for singing as a child, performing in choirs at school, and was part of a choir that sang at Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953. When he was about 15 his mother gave him a guitar, and he spent much of his time learning how to play. He was expelled from Dartford Technical School for truency in 1959 and, at his headmaster's suggestion, moved to Sidcup Art School where he met guitarist Dick Taylor who was in a band with Mick Jagger. Richards already knew Jagger as they'd been at primary school together. Soon after, Richards joined their band, Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys.

A few years later, in 1964, after a number of band members had come and gone, and the group's name had morphed into the Rolling Stones, the band had their first British hit with a cover version of Bobby Womack's "It's All Over Now" and, later the same year, their first US hit with "That Girl Belongs to Yesterday". At first, the band mostly recorded cover versions of other people's songs, but Richards and Jagger soon emerged as a powerful songwriting duo.

Fast forward 40+ years and Richards, according to his autobiography, Life (due to publish in October 2010, co-authored with James Fox) has become quite the bookworm. His homes in England, and Connecticut contain thousands of books including rare histories of early American rock music and World War II, which he tried to sort by the the librarian’s standard Dewey Decimal classification system but gave up as "too much hassle." Instead, like most of us, he keeps favorite volumes close at hand while the rest languish on shelves. Apparently, this is not a new found love as, in his autobiography, he reveals how, as a child growing up in the post-war-austerity of 1950s London, he found refuge in books before he discovered the blues.

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