Although as a group the Beatles were renowned for their firsts, Ringo Starr hasn't always received his due as a trailblazer. But he was the first Beatle to announce his intention to quit the band (his decision was kept quiet for PR reasons), and the first rock star to pay serious attention to music that predated rock, with his 1970 solo album of pop standards, "Sentimental Journey."
Along with John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, Starr took part in the first worldwide satellite television broadcast in 1967, playing "All You Need Is Love," a message that still resonates powerfully with him.
After the Beatles split up in 1970, Starr (born Richard Starkey) became a solo star with a string of peppy, novelty-style hit singles—"The No No Song," "You're Sixteen," "Only You," "Photograph" and "Oh My My." But by the late '70s he was one of many rockers who had been wiped out in the disco blitz.
The '80s were marked by an inability to come up with hit songs. First there was the 1981 album "Stop and Smell the Roses," for Boardwalk Records. "It wasn't that good," Starr concedes. A 1983 album, "Old Wave," produced by Walsh, got only limited foreign release, and a late-'80s project with producer Chips Moman was tangled in lawsuits and never released. "That one wasn't very good either," Starr added.
Part of his problem during the decade was drug and alcohol abuse. "I wasn't very pleasant to be around," recalled Starr, who kicked his habits with his wife, actress Barbara Bach, at a rehab center in 1988. "Some of my musical judgments weren't that good either. I guess I was hard to work with. Record companies didn't trust me and I don't blame them."
In July 2010, Starr will turn 70.
"I feel the older I get, the more I'm learning to handle life," said Starr, the charming Liverpudlian accent nearly as strong as ever, even though he's maintained a home in Los Angeles for the last 34 years — the majority of it with actress Barbara Bach, whom he married in 1981 — along with residences in England and Monte Carlo.
"Being on this quest for a long time, it's all about finding yourself," Starr said. "For me, God is in my life. I don't hide from that. . . . I think the search has been on since the '60s. . . . I stepped off the path there for many years and found my way [back] onto it, thank God."
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