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- Posted on Jul 1st 2010 5:30PM by Gaylord Fields
What sort of birthday gift is appropriate for the man who has everything? Well, if that man is Ringo Starr, who celebrates his milestone 70th on July 7, there's only one present on his list, and it's one that won't cost its givers a penny. He would simply like to have "peace and love." And all anyone has to do to gift-wrap and deliver this special present to him is to say or tweet or communicate any way at all those three little words that mean a lot at the designated time of noon.
For fans who would like to celebrate with Starr in person, the legendary Beatles drummer will be reconvening his All Starr Band – featuring Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer and Gary Wright, among others – for the 11th time in order to play a series of US dates, including a gala on his actual birthday at New York's legendary Radio City Music Hall. To prep for his big day, the man born as Richard Starkey in Liverpool seven decades ago spoke to Spinner about why "peace and love" is not just a '60s concept, how he realized he was destined to be a drummer when he was a seriously ill 13-year-old and why he's not quite ready to retire almost 60 years hence.
You're clearly a man who has enough material goods, and you surely don't need more of that. You do say you want one thing for your birthday, and that's peace and love.
I do. At noon, wherever you are in the world; but in America while I'm talking to you – you're in Florida, Atlanta, L.A., anywhere – at 12 noon wherever you are, just for me, if you could put your fingers up and go, "Peace and love," that would be great. That's the world's present to me.
Many of the songs on your most recent albums tend to be about universal themes rather than of more personal topics. What brought upon this shift in perspective?
Well, I honestly feel that no matter what I write, it's a love song. It's the love of a person, it's the love of life, it's being open and honest. So I don't actually sit there all of the time to just write a universal song, but I write these songs so that they have mainly a positive attitude to the song.
Back in the '60s, the Beatles were able to get the message of peace and love across, and it was reciprocated in kind. Do you still think musicians in this day and age can affect the world for the better?
I do, I think they can. But I'm out doing it my way, which is the "peace and love" way. And you know, "All you need is love." It started in the '60s, but I like to equate it to – like, that's when the flower started opening and it's still opening. And I decided that that's the way I wanted to present myself, in a peace and love way.
And accordingly, you're having this big peace-and-love birthday celebration at noon.
We're celebrating at the Hard Rock in [New York's ] Times Square.
You're also hosting a series of concerts, getting the All Starr Band back together and on the road again to spread the message of peace and love, as well as to celebrate your birthday. What inspired you to go, "Let's get the boys together again and really get this going"?
Well, first of all, I just wanted to put the All Starr Band together again and go on tour this year – and it coincided with my birthday, because I have one every year. And we were booked into Radio City Music Hall, so I thought, "Well, let's have fun with this." I think we've got six gigs before we get to Radio City Music Hall. I've got 31 gigs in all, and it's just become part of that week now.
You just recently released your 'Y Not' album and now you're going on tour at age 70. Why do you still feel the need to rock 'n' roll when most septuagenarians are collecting a pension?
I'm still a musician, and it's the dream from when I was 13 – to be a drummer and to play with good players. And thank God I still get the opportunity to do this. And I found the best way for me to do this is to go on tour with an all-star band; that way I get the best of both worlds. I'm in the front, but then I can get back on my drums and play with all of these other great musicians.
So it sounds like it's a perfect setup to be the frontman – be the person getting your message across – and also just do the thing you enjoy doing most: playing drums with a bunch of people you like being with.
It's perfect for me. Exactly.
So you started drumming when you were 13?
I didn't start when I was 13, I dreamt when I was 13 of being a drummer. I was in hospital with tuberculosis, and to keep us entertained – I also learned to knit in this hospital – they used to bring these percussion instruments once every 10 days or two weeks. And, you know, you could hit the little snare drum, or you could shake your little maraca or hit the triangle. Anyway, I hit the drum and fell in love with it.
Now, looking back at the 13-year-old Richard Starkey, do you think, "It's so surreal that I'm in a time and place where I could credibly ask the world for peace and love and actually get responses"?
Oh, yeah, I'm asking. But I'm doing it for me. My thought is "peace and love." Now, if you join me on that, it's great because that's two people. Now if a hundred people join me on that, that's a hundred people. You know what I mean? It can build up. And I have fantasy that one day, the whole world at noon on July 7th will go, "Peace and love."