No, Ringo Starr is Not Ready to Retire


By Staff Writer

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For eight years, The Beatles were the biggest band in the universe. From the 1962 debut of “Love Me Do” to their breakup in 1970, the four boys from Liverpool transcended their simple four-chord origins and completely overhauled what fans expected music to be.

Of course, that first sentence is completely wrong. The Beatles broke up in 1970, but they’re still the biggest band in the world. They’ve sold over 800 million albums, and the company they established in 1968 to handle licensing of their names and images still makes nearly $90,000 each day — and that doesn’t even include the royalties from their music.

Most people on the receiving end of such a guaranteed annual windfall would settle down. But Ringo Starr, one of the two living members of the Beatles, isn’t done making music just yet. His most recent album, Give More Love, is a testament to the 77-year-old musician’s inner drive. At an age when most people are moving into retirement homes, Starr is heading out onto the road to promote the album.

The Give More Love tour, featuring Ringo Starr and the All-Starr Band, opened on October 13 in Las Vegas; from there, it will wend its way across North America and land in Newark, New Jersey on November 16.

Why keep going? What possible motivation could Starr have to subject his aging body to the gruels of the road? “I love to play, and I love to play with this band,” Starr told People. There are probably worse ways to spend the twilight of life than getting paid handsomely to do exactly what you love to do.

Before music could be Starr’s salvation, it spent some time as his demon. Fame is a double-edged sword, and Starr spent much of his time after the Beatles’ acrimonious breakup (and the 1980 murder of his friend and lead singer John Lennon) in an alcoholic haze. In 1989 he told People magazine he felt “absolutely lost” for much of the time from 1970-1988, including the stunning revelation that he was churning through as many as 16 bottles of wine per day.

His intense drinking led to blackouts and amnesia; the gravity of his problem even exerted its pull on his wife, Barbara Bach, who began drinking heavily herself. Starr was physically abusive, but Bach stood by his side relentlessly. Eventually, the couple went to rehab together in 1988, and remain married (and sober) to this day.

Now closing in on his thirtieth year of sobriety, Ringo is one of the last remaining icons of a time when musicians really were larger than life, when careers lasted longer than a summer beach season. He’s achieved a level of fame few ever know; after all, sometimes Paul McCartney and Peter Frampton play backup for him.

How many people on the planet will ever get to say that?