He's acknowledged as perhaps the greatest rhythm guitarist in rock & roll, but Keith Richards is even more legendary for his near-miraculous ability to survive the most debauched excesses of the rock & roll lifestyle. His prodigious consumption of drugs and alcohol has been well documented, and would likely have destroyed anyone with a less amazing endurance level. On-stage with the Rolling Stones, he epitomized guitar-hero cool as the quiet, stoic alter ego to Mick Jagger's extroverted frontman, a widely imitated image made all the more fascinating by his tightrope-walking hedonism. Yet that part of Richards' mystique often overshadows his considerable musical legacy. Arguably the finest blues-based rhythm guitarist to hit rock & roll since his idol Chuck Berry, Richards knocked out some of the most indelible guitar riffs in rock history, and he did it so often and with such apparent effortlessness that it was easy to take his songwriting skills for granted. His lean, punchy, muscular sound was the result of his unerring sense of groove and intuitive use of space within songs, all of which played a major part in laying the groundwork for hard rock. Never intensely interested in soloing, Richards preferred to work the groove using open-chord tunings drawn from Delta blues, and his guitars were often strung with only five strings for cleaner fingering, which made it difficult for cover bands to duplicate his distinctive sound precisely. For all his rock-star notoriety, Richards was perfectly happy in the confines of a group, and thus was the last Rolling Stone to release a side-project solo album; his 1988 solo debut appeared more than a quarter century after he co-founded the band that earned him the nickname "Mr. Rock and Roll."