Ringo Starr is turning 80 on July 7th and he plans on celebrating with a virtual charity concert featuring Paul McCartney, Sheryl Crow, Gary Clark Jr., Sheila E, and Ben Harper. “I love birthdays,” Starr recently told Rolling Stone. “This year is going to be a little different. There’s no big get-together; there’s no brunch for 100. But we’re putting this show together — an hour of music and chat. It’s quite a big birthday.”
Starr originally planned on celebrating his landmark birthday by touring all across America, but the pandemic obviously made that impossible. He hopes to return to the road next year with his current incarnation of the All Starr Band, which includes Toto’s Steve Lukather, Men at Work’s Colin Hay, Santana’s Gregg Rolie, the Average White Band’s Hamish Stuart, drummer Gregg Bissonette, and multi-instrumentalist Warren Ham.
He’s been touring with various incarnation of the All Starr Band since 1989, and picking out the best one is a difficult task, but the 1997 one was very special. It featured Peter Frampton, Jack Bruce, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, Simon Kirke of Bad Company, and multi-instrumentalist Mark Rivera. That lineup gave them an arsenal of classic-rock hits to play every night, including “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” “White Room,” “Show Me the Way,” “Shooting Star,” Ringo standards like “Photograph,” “Yellow Submarine,” “It Don’t Come Easy,” and the inevitable finale of “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
A big highlight of the set was Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” with Frampton handling Eric Clapton’s guitar and vocal parts and Bruce, of course, on bass and vocals, just like on the original recording. It’s the perfect song for everyone in the band to show off their chops and was surely a moment of pure classic-rock bliss for the audience. Here’s video of the song from a stop at the Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan, on May 30th, 1997. Ginger Baker guested during a few nights on the tour, turning the show into a two-thirds Cream reunion, but this wasn’t one of them.
All Starr Band lineups used to change with every tour, but Lukather and Rolie have now been in the mix for the past eight years. Not only do they both bring three huge hits they can sing every night (“Hold the Line,” “Africa,” “Rosanna,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Evil Ways,” and “”Oye Como Va”), but they’re incredibly versatile musicians who can play just about anything. If Ringo is still out on the road when he turns 90 or even 100, they’ll probably be by his side.