When it is in front of it, or at least on the other side of the computer, it is difficult to believe that in a few days it will be eight decades old. It is that with his obviously dyed hair, his jovial clothes and his unmistakable smile, Sir Richard Starkey, better known to the world as Richard Starr, seems to be barely over 60.
Although today he is one of the richest musicians in the world, with a fortune of more than 300 million euros, it is surprising that when he speaks one can hear the child who lived in the poorest poverty in his native Liverpool and the factory worker who He dreamed of moving to Texas to be closer to his musical idol than he was in his youth, before a chance meeting made him one of the fabulous 4. Although from time to time he goes around the bush and repeats some things , Ringo keeps his alertness intact and before saying goodbye he leaves a request for the readers of The vanguard: May everyone ask for love and peace at 12 noon to celebrate this special birthday.
How are you going to celebrate your 80th birthday?
In a slightly different way than I did in the last 12 years, in which I have always celebrated them with my moment of love and peace in a different place. It all started in Chicago in 2008. They were interviewing me before my birthday and the journalist asked me what I would like people to give me. I don’t know where I got it from, but I replied that at noon on my birthday they asked for peace and love. That’s how it all started. A week later we organized an event in front of the Hard Rock Café, they brought cakes, and we had our moment of peace and love at 12. Now it is something that is done in 27 countries. In each of them they have their moment of peace and love. This year was going to be different because we were going to put up a big stage in front of the Capitol Records building in Hollywood and friends would come to play for the people who gathered there. We were planning it for a year but as we all know things have changed a bit. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, the virus is there. So to celebrate I have asked some of my friends to send me footage of their concerts and I am using some of the ones I did with the All Stars last year. It will be different, we will do it online, but there will be no lack of peace and love.
For many people The Beatles have made the soundtrack of their lives. Who are the musicians who inspired you?
When I started listening to music the ones that impressed me were all of the country genre, like Hank Williams, Kitty Wells. I remember seeing Willie Nelson play in a suit in those days. Plus he composed great songs. The same goes for Johnny Cash. I’ve always loved the blues. I guess everyone knows that when I was 19 I tried to emigrate to the United States to move to Houston, Texas, because I wanted to be in the same place where Lightin ‘Hopkins lived, who was my favorite blues singer of all the times. I even had a list of factories where I could get to work, because at that time I was working in a factory. I remember that we went with my friend to the US embassy and we filled out a lot of forms. And when we took those papers they gave us even more forms, with more questions, sheets and sheets to fill out. But in the end we get fed up. It would have been an interesting move if it had happened. I started playing with bands in the factory where I worked. I was playing with Rory Storm and then I went on to the greatest band of all time, The Beatles, who are still relevant today for new generations. If you are interested in music, you will listen to what we did. Thanks to Giles Martin who keeps remixing it all, I keep playing those songs. I recently did a show for Sirius Music, for the Beatles channel. They ask me the same question all the time: which drummers did you like? And the truth is that I listened to records for the music, I didn’t pay attention to the drummers, even though my hero is Cozy Cole.
I started playing with bands in the factory where I worked “
Is there anything left to achieve?
I just like to play, and I still do. It should have been played right now, on the first tour of the year. Then I was going to take a break for my birthday to go on tour again in September and October. That’s what I really miss right now. Is that before everything stopped he was playing more than ever. With the All Stars we always did one tour every year and now I’m doing two. I certainly have a privileged life. My children are my blessing. I have eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and each of them is a blessing. I was an only child and now I look at everyone sitting at the table and I can’t believe it. Are these all my descendants? It is truly amazing. Barbara is in my life, and that is another blessing. As for the things that I did not do, they are those in which one is left thinking.
Many times I wonder what would have happened if, as a teenager, I had gotten a visa to go live in Houston. It was a great dream for me. What if I had stayed with Rory and the Hurricanes? But it is also not something that I examine very seriously. Now here I am, this is the route I chose with some good decisions and some not. Many times I think of when I was 13 years old and in the hospital with tuberculosis. A music teacher came to entertain us and it was she who gave me a small drum set to play. From then on, all I wanted to be was a drummer. Look at me now: I keep doing it. Luckily I have been part of a wonderful industry. We can continue until they give us the strength. In my case, I have plans to continue well beyond my 80 …
Before everything stopped I was playing more than ever “
What did you learn from being a father and a grandfather?
As a father I learned that I could have been a much better father. I love being a grandparent because you can have fun with the grandchildren and then send them back home. I was the best father I could be at the time and I still carry in my soul this incredible image of when Zack, my oldest son, was born and they gave him to me to have. I couldn’t move, it was like glass. It was like a miracle, something truly crazy. The incredible thing was when he had his son and they gave him the baby. I was looking at him in that instant and it was like seeing myself. It was a unique moment. Children are a blessing, especially for someone like me who is an only child. My biggest dream as a boy was to have an older brother. It was an impossible dream. But life rewarded me: I was in the best band in the world and I adored each of its members, they were like brothers to me. I had three brothers, John, Paul and George, so I feel like life was very good to me.
The Beatles were famous for not wanting to perform in front of segregated audiences. What do you think of the current situation?
Which is still amazing. We didn’t want to play in Mississippi, because it was a segregated audience. All of our heroes from Ray Charles to Lightin ‘Hopkins to Stevie Wonder were African American. We said no, that we played for people, and that people were people. It was the first time that someone said something like this to them and it was also the first time that they put us in that situation. But what has happened this year has opened the eyes of many. The demonstrations were impressive. We want there to be a change. And one of the things I appreciated the most about this new movement is that three-quarters of those who took to the streets were between 18 and 25 years old. They are the new generation and it is time for things to change for the better. They have to change the old-fashioned outlook of the people and the governments.
What was your first impression when you met Yoko Ono?
It was unforgettable because I walked into the studio and she was in bed. Our wives never came to the recordings. Maureen, my wife, may she rest in peace, if she spent 45 minutes in the 8 years that I was with The Beatles, it was a lot. She would arrive, say hello, and leave. It’s that we were working. So meeting the bed and Yoko in the studio was very rare. The first thing we did was go ask John what was going on. We said “we are in the studio and Yoko is here”. John told me: “when you go home Maureen asks you how it went and you tell her that you did some songs, or that you had tea. What we want to do is for her to know exactly what I am doing and for me to know exactly what she is doing. In this way we will get to know each other better ”. And that was it, I had no problem after that conversation.
As you know, she made a lot of records. And I was the one who told him one day that he had to make a record with his songs. Come on, it’s a lot of fun. I think the press put it in a strange place. I was never uncomfortable with her and I played on the first album she did with John, Plastic Ono Band. We support each other and if we see each other we greet each other with affection. I saw her a couple of years ago in New York.
There is not a person in the world who does not know who n is Ringo Starr. Has fame been a burden to you?
At first yes, with The Beatles. What we wanted was to make good music, and we did. We wanted to play in front of the public and we succeeded. But the price we paid was too high because we couldn’t go to a restaurant to eat. What’s more, I will never forget what happened to me one day while I was having dinner. I had the fork in my mouth and a woman pushed it away from me while asking me to sign an autograph. I said no, I was eating. This was in ’67. She told me then: “You have ruined your career.” I lived in Monaco for a long time and there I could go for a walk without problems because everyone knew me and I never went to the places that tourists frequented. Now everything has calmed down and I can go wherever I want. Thanks to the pandemic, we all have to put on a mask so no one recognizes me …
What was the strangest request a fan made of you?
He asked me for fire … See if I’m going to fall for something like that …
Do you feel that there are musicians today who can keep it going for as long as you have?
To tell you the truth, I don’t know who will last and who won’t. Nobody imagined that we were going to last. When we first started we were rejected by several record companies. What has changed in relation to how we did it is that it is more difficult to find where to start. There are very few clubs you can go to today to play with a band. They are all great spaces to earn money, so the opportunities are only for those who are already known. At least today there is the opportunity for streaming. You can see everyone on the internet including The Beatles. Things have changed a bit since I started, when the records were 78 and later they were 45. Not to mention the cassettes. But today kids can put their things on the internet. It’s a different way of finding your way …