Ringo Starr is one of the few stars to take his birthday celebrations public every year — with in-person and online recitations of his “peace and love” mantra at an appointed hour — and he did not let the pandemic dissuade him from making his 80th a shared experience. In lieu of his usual gathering outside Capitol Records in Hollywood, Starr took to the web with a 65-minute show that included old and new performances by himself and famous friends.
All these appearances were, of course, hosted remotely, with the exception of Joe Walsh, who technically is family (he and Starr are married to the Bach sisters, Marjorie and Barbara) and gets special quarantining privileges as a result. “There’s always one guy who doesn’t read the invitation, because look who just stopped by,” Starr quipped.
“Eighty?” said Walsh, in mock shock, before adding: “You’re the youngest of us all.” (Walsh is 72, but seemingly ageless point taken.)
Starr said that while “people have been asking what it’s like” turning 80, “I don’t know, because in here I’m still 24.” On a lighter note, he quoted the old admonition that if you can remember the ’60s, you weren’t really there. “That may have been true for me with a couple of other decades, too,” added the once famously inebriated, now even more famously sober Starr. He introduced a video montage of images of himself through the decades, set to the soundtrack of his early ’70s smash “Photograph,” “to remind me of how old I really am.” And then he added, for emphasis: “24.”
Starr took to his home drum kit to participate in one remotely assembled performance, a full-band version of the Beatles’ “Come Together” led by Sheila E. — or, as it sounded with Starr’s accent, “She-ler E.” (“Come Together” actually came up twice during the hour, as a clip of Gary Clark Jr. doing his own version at a recent festival was presented later in the webcast.)
The ex-Beatle was seen playing drums one other time in the special, not in a newly filmed performance, but in a reprise of last summer’s Dodger Stadium moment that had Starr joining headliner Paul McCartney on “Helter Skelter,” which was being seen for the first time by many viewers.
Sheryl Crow did not need Starr’s help, or that of anybody else except a trumpet player, as she turned in a one-woman-band version of “All You Need is Love” that included split-screen images of her playing the ukelele, accordion, piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and tambourine on top of providing her own overdubbed harmonies.
The most unexpected choice by far was Ben Harper and Dave Grohl appearing in split screen to perform “Down and Out,” a now somewhat obscure pick from Starr’s most popular solo album, 1973’s “Ringo.” The Foo Fighter appeared to have been been a late addition to the proceedings, as his name was announced in a separate voiceover right after Starr introduced Harper.
Walsh, for his part, turned in a slide guitar-filled version of “Boys,” the Shirelles song that became Starr’s first lead vocal for the Beatles when they covered it on their 1963 debut album. Starr’s fondness for the song is evidenced in the fact that it has still showed up in shows by his All-Starr Band in recent years.
As advertised, the webcast included a newly assembled music video for his song “Give More Love” that included newly contributed snippets of many famous friends singing a line or three, including Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, T Bone Burnett, Rodney Crowell, Peter Frampton, Kenny Loggins, Keb Mo, Steve Earle, Michael McDonald, Jeff Bridges and Ray Wylie Hubbard.
Among those popping up for quick birthday greetings, besides family members, were Ron Howard, Jaden Smith, Bettye LaVette, Nils Lofgren, Colin Hay, Edgar Winter and, as a couple, Mick Fleetwood and Olivia Harrison. Said famed photographer Henry Diltz, “I’m told this is the big eight-oh. I’ve been there myself and it’s no big deal. You’ll sail right through, okay?”
Producer Giles Martin had the funniest comment — not when he was calling Starr “the greatest drummer in the world,” but when recalling an infamous moment when his father, George, replaced him on a seminal Beatles recording. “I know that dad always regretted ‘Love You Do.’ I hope you’ve forgiven him now,” said Martin.
The stream was raising money for WaterAid, the transcendental meditation-promoting David Lynch Foundation (Starr mentioned that he is still grateful to have gotten his mantra from the Maharishi) and MusiCares.
“A lot of money’s been bet on whether he can blow out any candles,” joked Walsh. “The two good organs in my body are my lungs,” responded Starr.