Ahead of pandemic-friendly 80th birthday bash, Ringo Starr says show must go on
Interview'We're celebrating a little differently this year'

Ahead of pandemic-friendly 80th birthday bash, Ringo Starr says show must go on

Speaking with TOI sister site Zman Yisrael before July 7 YouTube concert with Paul McCartney, Beatles drummer says he’s working harder than ever, promises more post-COVID tours

Illustrative: Ringo Starr performs in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, June 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Illustrative: Ringo Starr performs in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, June 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t stopping Beatles drummer Ringo Starr from ringing in his 80th birthday in the usual fashion on July 7, with a show dedicated to spreading “peace and love.”

The birthday bashes are a tradition for Starr for the last 12 years, after he spontaneously told an interviewer in 2008 that he’d like people to come spread good vibes with him on his special day.

While in 2008 a crowd of over 100 showed up for music and birthday cake, this time Starr’s celebration is going virtual and accessible to all. The 2020 Ringo’s Big Birthday Show (airing July 7 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET/3 a.m. Israel) still boasts an all-star cast, including onetime fellow band member Paul McCartney, guitar player Joe Walsh, Gary Clark Jr., Sheryl Crow, Sheila E., and Ben Harper — all hosting pandemic-friendly performances from home.

The show also features footage of the remaining Beatles cast performing the hit “With a Little Help From My Friends’” live at a 30th anniversary celebration of Ringo’s All Starr Band tours, filmed this past September. Proceeds from the birthday event, which will broadcast live on YouTube, will benefit four charities: the Black Lives Matter Global Network, MusiCares, the David Lynch Foundation, and Water Aid.

Ahead of the show, Starr sat down for a long-distance conversation with Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site (an English version of the interview appeared in the Financial Times).

“My 70th birthday was great,” Starr told Zman Yisrael, “but this year I’m going to celebrate it a little different than I have for the last 12 years. We started the movement in 2008 in Chicago. We celebrated it in Nice last year, and I’ve done it in Hamburg and other cities.”

Illustrative: This photo taken on September 14, 2017 shows British musician and former Beatles member Ringo Starr speaking to the press to promote his new album ‘Give More Love’ in London. (AFP PHOTO / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE)

The annual shindig has become a phenomenon celebrated in 27 countries.

“When we’re in LA, which I am now,” says Starr, “we have a big stage put up by the Capitol [Records] building in Hollywood and we have bands playing, friends come and play to the audience who gather, and we have a big brunch.”

“We were planning it for this year but things have changed,” he says. “Now it doesn’t matter where we are in the world, there’s a virus everywhere. And since we can’t do that now, to celebrate I’ve asked my friends to send me footage from a show they’ve done, and I’m using some of mine from the ‘All Starr’ last year, and I’ll be there introducing. And they’ve done some things differently — they’ve done it themselves — so I’ll be surprised, too.”

Starr also took a moment to promote his upcoming — as of yet untitled — documentary.

“We began long time ago, it was a live show on the roof of the Apple [Records] building,” he says. “Then we found 56 hours of unused footage. And we asked [Oscar-winning director] Peter Jackson to help us, and he put the concert together. It was initially 12 minutes, and it’s now 46 minutes and it’s incredible.”

Illustrative: Graham Gouldman with Ringo Starr on tour in 2019 (Photo: Courtesy)

“In the first version,” Starr says, “there wasn’t a lot of joy — too many down moments. And in this one, we’re all laughing and having fun. It’s got a completely different outlook — a joyous outlook.”

“It’s a shame, because the feature should have been out, but nothing’s coming out this year. I’m not touring this year, we’re all sort of in limbo.

“I even heard that ‘James Bond’ isn’t coming out,” he says, laughing. “So it really must be hell out there.”

But don’t think the octogenarian percussionist is calling it quits anytime soon.

“I just love to play,” Starr says. “I’m still playing. I should have been playing right now, and in the first tour this year, then having a break for my birthday, then September and October tour. I really miss that. I’ve been playing actually more now than I ever did. We’re in a great business and 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.”

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