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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Do you feel old yet?
Posted by Jill | 5:08 AM

Can you believe it: this man is 70 years old today

Today is Ringo Starr's seventieth birthday.

I remember when 70 was an age at which not even the most delusional could kid themselves that they were still young, or even middle-aged. Perhaps if you make it to 100 you can look back at 70 as your relative youth. But even now, fifteen years away from that milepost (assuming I make it), it's hard for me to fathom that Ringo fucking Starr is seventy. It isn't just that when people my age think of the Beatles, they think of four young guys from England who turned the world upside down in 1964. I mean, LOOK at him! Sure, this photo is from two years ago, but still. Does this look like a sixty-eight-year-old man?

When the Beatles were young, there were "John girls", "George girls", and "Paul girls". The John girls were the artists and poets who became political activists. The George girls went on to embrace New Age spirituality. Paul girls were those who were either very conventional or desperately wanted to fit in. (Your humble blogger, at the age of nine, was in that last category.) But only a very few geekettes had the self-confidence to truly be Ringo girls.

Ringo always seemed like the village idiot of the Beatles. He wasn't even a particularly good drummer. He was homely, he never seemed particularly bright, but he was clearly always aware of, and thankful for, his incredible good fortune. Here's a guy who could have been at best (no pun intended) just a footnote to American musical history (Do YOU remember Rory Storm and the Hurricanes? I thought not), but instead sat in on a session one day in 1961 and the rest is history.

It's hard to say if Starr's happy-go-lucky nature, which resulted in a slew of almost novelty songs in the Beatles' oeuvre, allowed him to live a life relatively untouched by the hazards of fame, or if he is a case of the Lord looking out for babies and fools. Consider the murder of John Lennon, at George Harrison dying painfully of cancer and being exploited by his own doctor, at Paul McCartney's disastrous attempt to recapture what he had with Linda Eastman by marrying a lookalike -- and how THAT ended up. Then look at Ringo Starr. He's married almost thirty years to Barbara Bach, he's had a consistent, if hardly revolutionary career, he's done fun projects like the "Shining Time Station" children's show, and he continues to tour every year with a ragtag band of has-beens, almost-wases, and who-the-fuck-is-thats.

No one will ever say that Ringo Starr was an influential musician, though he was part of a group that was. But on this, his seventieth birthday, we could do worse as role models than to look at a man who's managed to avoid almost all of the pitfalls of being a rock star, and see the face of a happy man in late life.

Happy birthday, Ringo!

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Blogger PurpleGirl said...
I was at the 1964 concert at Shea Stadium... I may even still have the ticket stub. (Who heard the music? Everyone was screaming.)

I was a John girl first and a Ringo girl second. For a time I wanted to have ring collection to rival his. Never could happen but I was ring wearer for long time. I still have a large selection of rings but wear a few regularly and not on every finger. Ringo always seemed to be the most grounded and sane one. The one who really knew who he was and lived to that knowledge. It's nice that he's been so successful at life.


Blogger molly said...
Ringo was an excellent drummer, by many of his contemporaries comments. He also seem like a guy you would like to share a pint with.

Blogger D. said...
Actually his first marriage ended in divorce, there was apparently some kind of substance abuse problem for a while, and he was sick a lot as a child.

But yes.

(Cara at The Curvature would dispute your estimate of him as a drummer, by the way--" It wasn’t until I read the following layman’s explanation that it finally clicked: if you were to take the drum track from virtually any Beatles song and isolate it, you’d know based on the drums alone exactly what song it is.")

Blogger BadTux said...
I wouldn't call Ringo in his prime a virtuoso by any stretch, he had unique licks but none that required a lot of skill to execute. Which is probably because Ringo was never particularly devoted to drumming. It was well known that once the Beatles stopped touring so he wasn't drumming all the time, he pretty much forgot how to drum between albums, the guys scheduled a week at the beginning of recording just for Ringo to remember which drum made which sound and get the hang of it again. But maybe that was his genius too as a drummer -- he constantly forgot what a drummer is "supposed" to do, so ended up doing his own thing, which was something new and unique every time he learned a new song.

So I have to agree with Jill here. Ringo would have been a good drummer in a bar band if not for the Beatles, nothing more. Keith Moon he wasn't -- not then, not now. But then, he never really aspired to be anything more than what he is -- a good natured bloke who bashes drums because anything more complicated was a bit beyond him. In the end, most drummers aren't particularly intellectual people, otherwise they wouldn't spend their days bashing things with drumsticks. (Phil Collins being the most notable exception to this general rule).

- Badtux the Music Penguin