On July 7th, 2020 Ring Starr celebrated his 80th birthday. He says that he is grateful for his past and is upbeat about his future. His celebration will mark the musical legend turning 80, and he plans to celebrate it with his musical friends, this time, however, it will be online due to the ongoing pandemic.
Starr said: “I’ve got a huge birthday; I’m going to be 80. But I am going to celebrate it a little differently this year from the last 12 years, where we had the peace and love moment at noon.”
Starr’s birthday gatherings started in 2008, marking the birth of a tradition at the Hard Rock in Chicago in front of 100 guests. Since then, with the epicenter of the Hollywood stage, the gathering has expanded its reach to 27 countries.
Every year the drummer for the legendary Beatles celebrates his birthday event in front of 100s of fans by performing alongside his friends in the music industry. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he had to cancel the annual event.
Instead, Ringo plans to host a virtual charity event on YouTube, calling it Ringo’s Big Birthday Show. This concert will donate its proceeds to benefit The David Lynch Foundation, Black Lives Matter, Water Aid, and MusiCares organizations. It will include performances by not only Starr himself, but fellow Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, Ben Harper, Joe Walsh, Gary Clark Jr., Sheryl Crow and Sheila E.
“I’ve asked several of my friends to either send me footage from a show they’ve done and I’m using some of mine from the All-Starrs (his band) last year and I’ll be there introducing,” said Starr. “We’re putting the show on at 5’clock (PST). But it’s still my birthday and still peace and love.”
Ringo’s lively spirit was not dimmed by the pandemic nor his age, even though the former caused him to cancel his upcoming tours.
“I’m playing actually more now than I ever did,” Ringo said. “With the All-Starrs we do one tour a year, now I”m doing two tours a year. And I have many blessings: family blessings, children blessings. I’ve got eight grandchildren now and a great-grandson. Life has been very kind to me. And we’re in a great business because we don’t have to retire; we can just go on as long as we can go on. And I plan to go on a lot longer than 80.”
Ringo, who hails from Liverpool, began his passion for music when he was only 13, as he was in a hospital bed recovering from tuberculosis.
“The music teacher came round to keep us busy. We were all in bed with tuberculosis. He gave me a little drum. And from that minute I only wanted to be a drummer. And look at this now; I’m still doing it.”
Soon after he was listening to music and grew to like country, but he fell in love with the Blues. It is, in fact, what prompted him to apply for immigration to the US and move to Houston, Texas. He went to London to file the paperwork at the US embassy.
“I wanted to be where Lightnin Hopkins was – my all-time favorite Blues player” Starr explained. “We even had a list of factories that we could’ve applied for jobs. But they gave us more paperwork and more sheets to fill, so we ripped them up.”
As a 19-year-old drummer back in Liverpool, Ringo was recruited to be a drummer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, until 1962 when he became the fourth member of the iconic Beatles, joining Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and John Lennon. It wasn’t long after that the Beatles rose to prominence, becoming world-renowned and infusing musician influence for generations to come.
“At the beginning, we wanted to make music, which we did. But we got so big the price to pay was that we couldn’t go to a restaurant. But now it’s eased off. We can go where we like. And thanks to the pandemic we’ve all got masks so they don’t know me,” Starr jokes.
With the death of the band’s manager Brian Epstein in 1967, the overwhelming pressure of “Beatlemania”, and disagreements between band members ultimately led to the Beatles breaking up in 1970. While many blamed the wife of late John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Starr sees it a bit differently, saying that “the press put it all in a strange place.”
Starr recalled that he first met Ono at their studio. “She was in bed, and John. We never had our wives there, because we were working. They’d come in, say ‘hi’ and leave. So we saw this bed and that was pretty freaky.”
Starr recalls that Lennon explained: “What we are planning is for her (Ono) to know exactly what I’m doing and I’ll know what she is doing. So we know each other better.” Lennon would also say: “When you go home, and your wife asks you: ‘What have you been doing today?’ You say: ‘Oh, we made a few tracks’ or, ‘We had a cup of tea.’”
Starr was willing to accept Lennon’s stance on the issue and got to be friendly with Ono. He even later played on Ono’s first record with her band, The Plastic Ono Band. “You know, she made a lot of records and I said one day: ‘Yoko, you should make a record, sing the songs.’ And she did. The next time I saw her I said: ‘You should go back to yodeling,” Starr laughs. He mentioned that when he was in New York, he would make it a point to say hello to her during his visits.
Once the Beatles parted ways, Starr released several solo records and even scored a few hits in the 70s before he took a break from the business until 1989 so he could deal with alcohol-related problems. In ‘89 he made a comeback by forming the All-Starr band.
He has always remained attached to the Beatles however. “The Beatles are still relevant today to the next generation. If they’re interested in music, they listen to our stuff. And to this day, thanks to Giles Martin, who’s remastered everything, I’m still playing it.”