EXCLUSIVE: Ringo Starr Reflects On Brotherhood And The Beatles 60 Years After Appearing On The Ed Sullivan Show
The legendary drummer reveals he could never join another band. PLUS: The Making of his new EP “Rewind Forward,” and a new Beatles song “Now and Then”
WASHINGTON—Musician, songwriter, and occasional actor Ringo Starr appreciates his memories of The Beatles but does not let them take hold of him. In the December 2023/January 2024 issue of AARP The Magazine (ATM), the legendary drummer opens up about his early musical memories, his joyous path through life, his new EP Rewind Forward and his ongoing relationship with The Beatles 60 years after their iconic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
While Starr’s life has always revolved around music, his memories of music as a child hold a significant influence on him. He recalls how his stepfather shared both music and an open mind with him, moments so poignant that he made it a point to share music with his own children the same way.
He also shared with ATM about his time with The Beatles and the brotherhood they shared. From laughing off rumors of John Lennon following him around with a pen and paper to note his every thought to his memory of the band hearing their song “Love Me Do” on the radio for the first time, no one could understand The Beatles like The Beatles. Starr’s fondness runs so deep that he never could join another band full-time. However, he’s never let that fondness hold him back. With his All Starr Band, he continues to tour and make music with friends and even works out every day to put on the best show possible.
The following are excerpts from ATM’s December 2023/January 2024 cover story featuring Ringo Starr. His story kicks off a special AARP multimedia report on music and memory that deeply explores the role music plays in identity, happiness and increasingly, as a form of medicine for many health conditions, including dementia. The issue is available in homes starting in November and online now at www.aarp.org/magazine/.
On the title of his new EP Rewind Forward:
“One of my producers said, ‘We need a song with ‘rewind’ in it.” ‘Rewind’ is a great word, but I don’t want to be in the past, so out of nowhere, I said ‘rewind forward.’ My brain is faster than my mouth. All my life, strange things like that have come out, like the phrase ‘hard day’s night.’ It means that you rewind to a space that was happy, and then you go forward. Which makes perfect sense now.”
On the “new” Beatles song “Now and Then”:
“Last year, Paul called and said, ‘You remember that unfinished song of John’s, ‘Now and Then’? Why don’t we work on that?’ He sent it to me, and I played the drums and sang. We had a great track of John singing and playing piano, and George playing rhythm guitar. There were terrible rumors that it’s not John, it’s AI, whatever bullsh- – people said. Paul and I would not have done that. It’s a beautiful song and a nice way to finally close that door.”
On songs that bring back specific memories of his stepdad:
“I have great memories of my stepdad, who was a fan of big bands. When I hear big band music, I think of him. I was playing my music to him one day, and he said, ‘Have you heard this?’ And he played me Sarah Vaughn. That’s a huge memory for me, because he didn’t say, ‘The music you’re listening to is crap, get it off.’
On sharing music with his children:
“When my son Zak [a drummer who now plays with The Who] was 9, he came running in with a vinyl record. ‘You’ve got to hear this, Dad. It’s this guy named Ray Charles!’ And it was Ray Charles’ big band. I didn’t say, ‘Eh, I’ve heard hundreds of big band records.’ I took the position, well, let’s hear it together.”
On working with Paul McCartney on the song “Feeling The Sunlight”:
“Paul and I were in England, having dinner together [along with our wives]. I told him I was making an EP, and I said, ‘Why don’t you write me a song?’ He wrote the song and put bass on it, he put piano, he put the drums on—and I had to take the drums off.”
On Paul McCartney and John Lennon writing “With a Little Help From My Friends” for his voice and personality:
“John wrote several songs for me over the years, and George too. I used to be a rock drummer, and then they ruined my whole career. [Laughs.] ‘With a Little Help’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’ are the reasons I’m onstage every night.”
On his relationship with The Beatles:
“Paul loves me as much as I love him. He’s the brother I never had. As an only child, suddenly I got three brothers. We looked out for each other. We all went mad at different times. You can’t imagine what it was like, being in the Beatles. It got bigger and crazier.”
On staying fit before going on tour:
“I prepare every day. I work out with a trainer three times a week, and I do a couple of days on my own as well, just to keep moving. In the first All Starr Band, Joe Walsh was the guitarist. I said to Joe, ‘Let’s rock!’ I went down on my knees, but I couldn’t get back up. [Laughs.] That’s when I started getting myself together physically.”
On holding The Beatles together:
“I was the glue. [Laughs.] That’ll be in big letters: I WAS THE GLUE, SAYS RINGO. George was the first one to make a solo album [Wonderwall Music], and I was the drummer. John started the Plastic Ono Band, and I was the drummer. Paul likes to play drums himself, or I would’ve been on his albums too.”
On his marriage to Barbara Bach:
“Love is deep and odd. People think, Oh, you never have a bad day. We have bad days, and we’ve had a few rows, but we get through it. We don’t have bad months. I still love her, and hopefully she’s still got some feelings for me.”
On the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show 60 years later:
“I can’t tell you how incredible it was. All the music I loved came from America: country, blues, probably half the records I bought were Motown. It was always American music, and 60 years later, I’m still here talking about it. Ed Sullivan was at the airport in London when we came back from a tour of Sweden. He didn’t know who we were, but when he saw the reaction of the crowd, he booked us. By the time we got to America, we had a single [‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’] that was number 1. Everything just worked out for the Beatles.”
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