For Ringo Starr, it’s still about peace and love — and laughter

More than 60 years after Ringo Starr first hit the stage with the Beatles, the rock ‘n’ roll superstar and multimillionaire says performing still hasn’t gotten old. 

“Music keeps you young,” Starr said in a video call with CBC. “I’ve never had a day that I’ve said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’

“Musicians have magic nights,” he continued, leaning into the lens with excitement. “The band is together, the audience is together, we’re all joined. That’s the hook.

“Some nights, it’s just great. Other nights, it’s incredible. And I love that feeling.”

The former Beatle is on the second leg of a North American tour that will see him hit more than two dozen cities in under two months — pretty impressive for an 82-year-old. He has a string of upcoming Canadian dates, starting Monday in Laval, Que., and continuing with shows in every province to the west, including an Oct. 4 Winnipeg stop.

That date has been highly anticipated for decades by Winnipeg fans like author and rock historian John Einarson. He was just 12 years old when the Beatles’ plane touched down in Winnipeg to refuel on Aug. 18, 1964 — the band’s first time on Canadian soil.

The Beatles’ plane touched down in Winnipeg for just over 20 minutes to refuel on Aug. 18, 1964, as they travelled to California on their first North American tour. (Archives/CBC)

The layover was announced on the city’s radio stations just an hour before landing. 

“[Beatles manager] Brian Epstein happened to look out the window and saw hundreds and hundreds of kids on the outdoor observation deck,” said Einarson. “He convinced the four Beatles to get off the plane.”

Einarson, who sometimes leads Beatles tours in the band’s hometown of Liverpool, U.K., still laments not having found a ride to the airport that August day.

“It was a big, big deal,” said Einarson. “The Beatles were everything in 1964. They were starting their first North American tour, heading to San Francisco, and they stopped in Winnipeg — in the middle of nowhere — and greeted the fans.

“And it was Ringo who said, as they were going back onto the plane, ‘Hope to see you again!'” 

‘A real, live Beatle coming to Winnipeg always creates excitement’ for fans young and old, says music historian and Beatles tour guide John Einarson. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Six decades later, those 20 minutes on the tarmac might have been less remarkable for Starr.

“I don’t remember landing,” said the rock star with a chuckle. “We were on tour, baby! You know what it’s like.”

But the legendary drummer said he’s happy to return to the city, showing his affection for the local audience with one of his trademark ribbings.

“Just to freak everyone out in Winnipeg, the plane will land and 21 minutes later, we’ll take off,” said Starr, with a belly laugh. “Then you’ll be saying, ‘Yes, and last time you were here for 21 minutes.'”

‘We all make the world go round’

Another thing that puts Winnipeg on Starr’s map is the Guess Who. Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman have both appeared in the All Starr Band over the years.

Einarson interviewed the renowned Canadian guitarist for his book Still Takin’ Care of Business: The Randy Bachman Story. Playing with Starr was one of the highlights of his career, Bachman told Einarson.

“He said that every night, he’d be playing on stage and he’d have to kind of look around and say, ‘Oh my God, I’m playing with a Beatle,'” the author recalled.

Winnipeg-born rock legend Randy Bachman, shown here in a 2008 file photo, told Einarson that playing with a Beatle in the All Starr Band in 1995 was a humbling experience. (J.P. Moczulski/The Canadian Press)

“Randy sold gazillions of records, and he’s an extremely successful rock star. But here he is on stage with a Beatle,” he said. “It really humbles you.”

“Last time I let them in the band,” said Starr with a big grin, when asked about the famous musicians from Winnipeg.

“Burton Cummings had great songs [like] American Woman and, you know, Randy played fine.”

As his quick laugh and non-stop kidding suggest, anyone who plays with Starr must be able to take a joke. Another prerequisite is having hits.

This tour, the rotating cast of the All Starr Band includes Edgar Winter, as well as past and present members of Men at Work, Average White Band and Toto.

But one thing that doesn’t change is the message. Unity is still at the heart of Starr’s music, with lyrics from his latest EP like, “We all make the world go round, you’re not alone in this.”

‘I’ve never had a day that I’ve said, “I don’t want to do this anymore,”‘ says Starr. (Submitted by Beautiful Day Media)

“Some people have sent me other songs that don’t quite say peace and love, and I don’t do them anymore,” said Starr.

“Through all these years, the main thing is peace and love,” he said, flashing a peace sign with both hands several times during the interview.

Einarson said those gestures still strike a chord with fans old and young.

“When you consider the times and the war in the Ukraine, it’s nice to have someone who still believes in peace and love,” said Einarson, adding he can’t wait to see the musical hero perform at Winnipeg’s Canada Life Centre.

“The audience is not going to be all boomers like me,” he said. “There’ll be more graying ponytails … but there’ll be younger fans as well.

“He is a real, live Beatle coming to Winnipeg. That always creates excitement.”

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