The Real Reason Keith Richards Hated Prince

Keith Richards is the legendary guitarist of the Rolling Stones, and one of the last true rock stars to walk the planet, even if he doesn't trash quite so many hotel rooms these days. Richards is also an incredibly direct man, who habitually blurts out his current opinions about whatever happens to be on his mind, up to and very much including his longtime creative partner, Mick Jagger

Jagger is far from the only musician who has been in the receiving end of Richards' acerbic wit. For a long time, the guitarist seemed to have a bone to pick with Prince. In 1981, the legendary Minneapolis sound pioneer opened for the Rolling Stones on their American tour, and as drummer Charlie Watts told Alex Needham of the Guardian, he and Jagger adored the Artist's 1980 album Dirty Mind. However, the audiences were less welcoming, as was Mr. Richards. According to Watts, the Stones guitarist outright hated the record, and apparently, the hate bled right through to Prince himself. 

Richards has made some rather disparaging comments about his colleague over the years, but what was the real reason he hated Prince? Let's find out!

Keith Richards thought Prince was all style and no substance

In 1988, Keith Richards told Rolling Stone (via the Los Angeles Times) what's what about a fair few famous artists of the day, and Prince received more than a few choice words. Richards' review of the man was pretty scathing, to say the least. "To me, Prince is like the Monkees," the guitarist said. "I think he's very clever at manipulating the music business and the entertainment business." 

Given the Monkees' status as a highly successful, but utterly manufactured American carbon copy of the Beatles, it certainly seemed like Richards didn't think Prince was all that ... especially since the Stones guitarist then doubled down to make his point of view extra clear. "I think he's more into that than making music," he said, reaffirming his belief that Prince's preferred game was manipulating the industry. "I don't see much substance in anything he does." Finally, he called Prince a "Pee-wee Herman trip." Ouch.

Keith Richards felt that Prince insulted the Rolling Stones' audience

As Larry Bartleet of NME notes, Keith Richards has had nasty words for several musicians, from David Bowie and Elton John to Oasis and Justin Bieber. However, Prince seems to have a special place in his heart. He's on record calling the Purple One "an overrated midget," and has even taken issue with the fact that he called himself Prince. "Prince has to find out what it means to be a prince," Richards has stated. "That's the trouble with conferring a title on yourself before you've proved it." The story doesn't tell whether Richards was aware that Prince Rogers Nelson was merely using his given name.

At least some of Richards' dislike comes from a disastrous touring experience in 1981. As Bryan Wawzenek of Ultimate Classic Rock tells us, the Rolling Stones recruited a relatively unknown Prince to open for two concerts. Unfortunately, their fans weren't too receptive to a falsetto-singing pop-funk guy who hit the stage wearing thigh-high boots and bikini bottoms. Cue booing, rampant insults, and a torrent of food and thrash thrown on stage. Prince was not a happy camper, and some say he later made some unflattering comments about the crowd's musical tastes and mental faculties.

 "His attitude when he opened for us ... was insulting to our audience," Richards remembers. "You don't try to knock off the headline like that when you're playing a Stones crowd. He's a prince who thinks he's a king already." 

Keith Richards mellowed out after Prince died

As harsh and critical as Richards' comments about Prince have been over the years, it seems that the Rolling Stones guitarist has turned over a new leaf in recent years. Prince's death on April 21, 2016 was a tragic and untimely one, and many people were quick to praise the artist's legacy. Perhaps surprisingly, Richards joined among the ranks of musicians who professed their utmost respect for the Purple One. On his official Twitter account, Richards reminisced via his social media team: "A unique talent. A true original. So sad, so sudden and, I will add, a great guitar player. We are all going to miss him."

Such kind words were a pretty significant U-turn from his old comments. Still, game tends to recognize game, and even though Prince wasn't around to hear Richards' words anymore, it was nice to see the guitarist finally publicly recognize his colleague's immense talent.