Ringo Starr is in the room, flashing V-signs as if it were 1969 all over again.
“Peace and love,” he says to the crowd assembled at Fallsview Casino’s Avalon Theatre in Niagara Falls, Ont., where he recently kicked off a 31-city North American tour. “Peace and love.”
It’s the kind of life-affirming message espoused by the Beatles more than 40 years ago, when Ringo was at the tom-toms steadily keeping time. And he still believes it now.
In fact, for his 70th birthday on Wednesday, he’s asking everyone in the world to join him in a peace and love salute at noon. You can also leave a message on the Beatles’ Facebook page or watch for tweets for the drummer on Twitter – in other words, this isn’t just a Sgt. Pepper-inspired nostalgia trip.
“It‘s a way of life,” says the world’s luckiest drummer before his concert in Niagara Falls later that night. “And I have a great life. Peace and love is something I really believe in. I’m just like that.”
He’s just like what you might imagine if, as a Beatles fan, you grew up relishing his every turn in the movies, fanzines and books that have grown out the band’s enduring legend.
His fingers are decorated with the same variety of rings that long ago gave the man born Richard Starkey his nickname. He still speaks with a Liverpool accent, despite living mostly in America with his wife of 30 years, Barbara Bach. He wears tinted shades and a head- to-toe uniform of rock ‘n’ roll cool in the form of black t-shirt and tight-fitting jeans worn with rhinestone studded black running shoes.The only difference these days, besides the absence of his ubiquitous cigarettes, is that his former mop top is a crew cut matched to a clipped beard. But that’s just on the surface.
Go deeper and you’ll see that Ringo has lately undergone something of sea-change, musically speaking.
His latest release, Y Not (so-called because he says it’s the answer to the universal question, why?) is the first-self-produced record of his career. As such, he says, it is also his most personal project, filled with self-penned songs that are deeply autobiographical in nature. They include a track called Peace Dream, a direct tribute to his late bandmate John Lennon, and the album’s first single, Walk With You, a song about the enduring value of friendship, featuring a duet with one his oldest friends, Paul McCartney. (The Cute One also plays bass on Peace Dream.)
The song talks about his life as the only son of a poor barmaid whose husband abandoned her when Ringo was still a boy. Not a particularly Fab story. “I wasn’t born a Beatle,” a truth born out by the lyrics, “The other side of Liverpool is cold and damp/Only way out of there/Drums, guitar and amp.”
“I don’t really want to write a book, even though I’ve been offered big money to do one,” he says, explaining his decision to write self-exploratory personal songs after a career crooning such hummable pop tunes like Octopus’s Garden, Yellow Submarine and You’re Sixteen.
“All they want to know anyway is the eight years of my life, from 1962 to 1970. But I’m much more than that. And I can say it in song, in just two lines, what might take me five pages in a book.”
Ringo Starr celebrates his birthday with a private concert in New York today. He plays Windsor, Ont., on July 23 and Calgary on July 28.