As if anybody could ever really forget, Ringo Starr was part of the most totally Fabsuccess story of all-time, and the greatest rock band of all time: The Beatles.
More than 40 years after the Fab Four went their own ways, Ringo Starr continues to write, record and perform music regularly, while continuing to effectively spread his signature positive message of “Peace & Love.” As Starr explains:
“The way I see it, ‘Peace & Love’ has always been a very good and necessary message. It’s always been part of the power of The Beatles. And it’s a message that people still need to hear even all these years later.”
Born Richard Starkey, Jr., on July 7, 1940, Ringo has seen a great deal in his time. He went through some pretty tough times growing up on “The Other Side of Liverpool.” As a young man, he experienced rock stardom in the biggest way possible, along with his friends and fellow Beatles, John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney. He then became a major solo success story in his own right with acclaimed and best-selling albums like 1973’s Ringo and 1974’s Goodnight Vienna.
Following his memorable screen debut alongside his bandmates in Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night, Starr became something of a movie star, too. He appeared in films like 1973’s That’ll Be The Day and 1981’s Caveman, in which he met and fell in love with his co-star—and future wife—Barbara Bach.
By the middle Eighties, however, Starr’s own stardom was in serious decline thanks, in large part, to a period of excess and alcoholism. But in 1988, Starr sought help, cleaned up his act and got back on the road with his first-ever tour as “Ringo Starr and The All-Starr Band.”
Soon The All-Starr Band Tour became a more-or-less biannual summer event—an ever-changing super group featuring Starr singing and playing, with a little help from new and old musical friends. Performing live for fans—for the first time on a regular basis since The Beatles stopped touring in 1966—proved to be a meaningful and positive change for Starr.
“For too long a time, I forgot who I was and what I do. The truth is I’m a drummer, and a drummer should drum, or else he’ll get himself into trouble—which is exactly what I did.”
Ringo also returned to the recording studio, issuing a new album every couple of years. Starting with the acclaimed Time Takes Time comeback album in 1992, Starr has continued to grow as a singer-songwriter on subsequent recordings like ’Vertical Man (1998), ’Ringo Rama (2003) ’Choose Love (2005), ’Liverpool 8 (2008) and’ Y Not (2010)
That album marks the first time that he has produced himself, and it even features Starr sharing vocals with his old friend and bandmate, Paul McCartney, on a moving new song called “Walk With You.” As Starr explains with a laugh, “Why not work with the best?”
In 2012, Ringo released Ringo 2012 featuring nine tracks, including new versions of “Wings,” and “Step Lightly.” Also in 2012, Ringo assembled His 12th All-Starr Band, which toured through the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Mexico and South America. The live DVD Ringo at the Ryman was recorded with this band as well, on Ringo’s birthday, July 7, 2012.
In June 2013, The GRAMMY Museum opened “Ringo: Peace & Love,” a record-breaking undertaking that hosted more than 90,000 visitors and is the first major exhibit to focus on a drummer. It remained open for nine months. In September that same year Ringo was awarded the prestigious French Medal of Honor, being appointed Commander of Arts & Letters in recognition of his musical and artistic contributions. Photograph, a limited-edition collection of never-before-seen material, including Ringo’s photos and exclusive images from his own personal archives, was published in December 2013.
On January 20, 2014, Ringo was awarded the “Lifetime of Peace & Love Award” by the David Lynch Foundation. One week later, Starr and McCartney appeared together again at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in 2014. The appearance by the pair of musical legends was part of the 50th anniversary celebration of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. A few days later they performed together again at a taping of The Night That Changed America: A Grammys Salute to The Beatles, which aired on February 9, 2014, on CBS—the anniversary of the historical show that launched their U.S. career.
For Starr, music continues to be a powerful form of therapy and a kind of musical audio-biography, as well:
“Music is my best way of telling my story—three or four minutes at a time.”
Famously charming—yesterday and today—Starr says that the biggest obstacles he has overcome in his life have been largely of his own making. When asked, Starr thought for a moment and responded:
“The biggest obstacle in my own life? Well, the biggest obstacle in my life has been getting over myself. For instance, I know if I get up and walk into the sun, it will be great. But I end up bashing my head into the wall sometimes. We all do it. So getting over myself is my biggest obstacle.”
That’s the same sort of positive, life-affirming, no-nonsense message that comes through loud and clear in much of Ringo Starr’s most recent music. As he explained:
“There’s a song on my new album, Y Not, called ‘Can’t Do It Wrong.’ I wrote it with a man named Gary Burr from Nashville. The song says ‘As long as I’m doing it/I can’t do it wrong.’ That’s a line I had, and it’s basically another way of saying the same thing—that we have to get out of own way. And if we can do that, and stop making things harder for ourselves, I think we’ll all be much better off.
“Don’t be your own worst enemy. Be your own best friend. As long as it’s for love and for peace, then I’m okay. That’s the sentiment I’m always trying to send out to the world: peace and love. That was the message we were handing out to the world with The Beatles—and I think you could say it went pretty well.”
Starr paused and offered in that famous Liverpudlian accent: “So does that answer your question?”
Yes, it does, Ringo—with peace & love.
Copyright 2014 Jerry Gladstone