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Ringo Starr's turning 80 -- with a little help from his friends, of course
Ringo Starr cannot be with his friends for his 80th birthday.
But, as he's wont to do, the Beatles and solo hitmaker will get by with a little help from them.
Since 2008, Starr (born Richard Starkey) has used his birthday as an opportunity to promote "peace and love" — "I haven't stopped doing peace and love since the 60s," he noted — and play music with friends and family members (son Zak Starkey plays with the Who, Joe Walsh is his brother-in-law). Most recently he's done it at the iconic Capitol Tower in Hollywood, but this year the novel coronavirus pandemic has forced Starr's celebration online.
So at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 7, the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee will host "Ringo's Big Birthday Show" on YouTube, with a combination of quarantined home performances and unseen concert footage from Beatles mate Paul McCartney, Walsh, Sheryl Crow, Sheila E., Gary Clark, Jr. and Ben Harper.
The show will also include an all-star performance of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends" filmed last September during a concert celebrating the 30th anniversary of Starr's All-Starr Band tours.
"Because of the pandemic, of course, we had to think of something new to do," Starr, in the studio of his home near Los Angeles, said during a Zoom conference call announcing the event. "We decided...to ask our friends to do either something new or give me some footage from one of their shows...and it's still going to be on my birthday.
"That's all we can do, really. There's no crowds anymore, so..."
In addition to the performances, the streamcast will also benefit four charities -- the Black Lives Matter Global Network, MusiCares, the David Lynch Foundation and WaterAid. There will also be a birthday playlist on YouTube, as well as musical tributes from All-Starrs such as Peter Frampton, Steve Lukather, Colin Hay and Gregg Rolie as well as admirers like Elvis Costello, Judy Collins, Bettye LaVette and Ben Folds.
"Ringo's Big Birthday Show" has given Starr a chance to stretch out a bit, too, during his 11 weeks at home. He canceled his planned All-Starr Band tours for this year and has been spending his time working on new music, recording for others, painting and visiting with family members. "We social distance, even with our own family," noted Starr, the father of three, who was knighted in Britain during 2018. "It's usually lunch or dinner, and we're outside. The kids are on that table, I'm on this table and friends are at another table. It's the only way we can connect right now."
On Sunday mornings, meanwhile, he takes his dogs for a walk -- early, Starr said, "so I don't bump into a lot of people." But he's not complaining -- too much, at least.
"I don't mind being at home," Starr said. "I'm doing things, but in, like, May I did go through a bit of a downer, 'cause everything has stopped...and I feel it may go on a lot longer. Next year, all being well, we're hoping that the May-June tour can go, but I'm not completely confident about that.
"It's an up and down situation, but I do have stuff to do. But...I want to go shopping!" Or, he said when asked about an 80th birthday wish, "I'd like to go to the park."
"I'm missing playing with other people," he noted. "Some people are sending me tracks they’ve done in the studio; They send me the files...and I go and play to the record and send it back and they use me or lose me. It's up to them. I do miss the audience. I miss touring. I love to play with other musicians...
"So we're just sort of hanging out there, keeping busy...just doing stuff at home."
A silver lining amidst the pandemic, he added, has been the protests that erupted in the wake of George Floyd's death while being handled by police March 25 in Minneapolis.
"What is incredible to me is all the streets of L.A....were filled with 18 to 25 year olds," he said. "The next generation are coming up to do it. I think every time there's a big madness like this things change a little bit. This time we stand a really good chance of them changing a lot. I can only hope."
Another project that's been pushed into 2021 due the pandemic is director Peter Jackson's Beatles film "The Beatles: Get Back,” an alternative take on 1970's "Let It Be" culled from 56 hours of unused footage -- including the full Jan. 30, 1970 performance on the roof of the band's Apple Records headquarters that was the last time the Beatles ever performed together. It was due out this fall but has been moved to Aug. 27, 2021, a disappointment though Starr is still anticipates a blockbuster end product.
"He did the music on the roof section first and we had a showing down here and it was just great, and then he went back to work on the rest of the documentary," Starr said. "I always believed that ('Let It Be') was a bit dull...When (Jackson) comes to L.A. he'll show me (footage) and we're all laughing and telling jokes and we're having fun and we're always playing. It's a lot more joy."
That's part of what Starr hopes is more joy to look forward to in the coming year. This is not necessarily the way he envisioned turning 80, but he's hopeful that his message of "peace and love" will still resonate as significantly on this birthday as it has on others -- and that there will be many more to come.
"I feel like I'm 24," Starr declared. "A long time ago, one of my songs was turning 50 and he came sand said, 'Man, I don't feel older. I feel like I'm 27.' I said, 'You cannot be 27 -- I am only 24!'
"This is what 80 is. Everyone asks, 'How do you feel?' How should it feel?' From when we were kids, 80 was like, 'What?! That's crazy!' But now a lot of people are 100 out there, so I'm just aiming for 100. I'll still be playing."
"Ringo's Big Birthday Show" with Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Sheryl Crow, Sheila E., Gary Clark Jr., Ben Harper, the All-Star Band and others takes place at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 7 on YouTube.com. Free, with donations benefitting MusiCares, the Black Lives Matter Global Network, the David Lynch Foundation and WaterAid.
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