It was quite a rock and roll week for me. At an incredible Genesis-Publications event in Los Angeles, Ringo (no last name needed, thank you) introduced his truly beautiful book, Photograph by Ringo Starr which is available for sale online from Genesis in hard copy and is very dear – worth every penny. An abbreviated digital version, which can be downloaded for less than $15 in an enhanced e book form, is also available. The events, his book and his prints that were for sale were an opportunity to raise money for and to focus on Ringo and his wife Barbara’s foundation, The Lotus Foundation, which supports and promotes charitable projects aimed at advancing social welfare in diverse areas, included but not limited to substance abuse, cerebral palsy, brain tumors, cancer, battered women and their children, homelessness, and animals in need.
A variety of activities took place over the day, but the morning session at the Arclight Theatre was pretty thrilling. Drummers Dave Grohl and Steve Gorman talked about Ringo’s influence on drumming in general and on their individual styles specifically. They each admitted how despite trying desperately to do what Ringo does naturally, it’s impossible to recreate his sound or style on a drum kit, no matter what they’ve each tried. It was quite a homage by artists, who others hold in such high esteem but that’s always been the case, and as each of these guys attempted to explain what sets Ringo apart from all others, they were just flummoxed trying to explain it, it was funny really. Let’s face it, the Fab Four are still the Fab Four for good reason and their work is still the gold standard. It was very moving to hear from these guys about Ringo’s influence.
My pal and more importantly, renowned rock photographer Henry Diltz has taken a lot of photos of Ringo with his various All-Star bands over the years and of Ringo solo. Henry shared what it was like to work with Ringo and capture his image, but then talked about Ringo’s photograph images throughout the book. As ever, Henry was lovely and generous and talked to the audience about how he sees his images and then his experience on how and what Ringo saw in the images in the book that he captured. There are so many early era Beatles photos and travel photos from their early tours — very moving, old trains and cars, and hairstyles and what kids looked like in the early 60s.
Finally, Ringo casually sat down and talked about the pictures , the book and his first trip to America and what a huge deal it was. For a kid from Liverpool coming to New York was the be all and end all. He was calm, charming, lovely, funny and generous with everyone there and shared all these stories from the heart. Very, very moving and I was so happy to hear it all. Bob Santelli from the Grammy Museum also showed some of the film clips from their current exhibit Ringo: Peace & Love and again, not that I haven’t seen it all a million times before, it’s my generation’s set of experiences too, so I got choked up and laughed at myself.
Later in the day, there was a packed press conference and brief set of songs which introduced this year’s All Star Band, who Ringo will lead out on tour. These guys just want to play and do it together. It was great to see and hear Todd Rundgren, Steve Lukather, Greg Rolie, Mark Rivera, Gregg Bissonette, and Richard Page among others. A great rock and roll day!
The day after all of that, I landed in Cleveland for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s celebration and Rolling Stones Exhibition celebrating 50 years. During the day I presented for an hour about my enhanced e book, Sugar Blue talked about playing with the Stones and Merry Clayton had everyone in her audience stunned into silence describing the session she recorded the vocals on Gimme Shelter. A concert, organized by my friend, extraordinary drummer, band leader and human being Steve Jordan burned the house down. Nils Lofgren, Earl Slick, Waddy Wachtel, Bernard Fowler, Merry Clayton, Bobby Keys, Cyril Jordan, Chris Wilson, Lee Fields, Chuck D, Sugar Blue, Steve Madaio, Willie Weeks, Patterson Hood (of the Drive-By Truckers,) Ian McLagan, Trevor Lawrence, and then some rocked out on some of the Stones greatest hits. Yes, of course we missed Mick, Keith, Charlie, Ron and the guys, but their songs demonstrated once again, why they’ve had lasting power. It was a memorable incredible show because normally, no one, not a musician, would go near a Stones song — but as a tribute, they could.
I then landed back in Los Angeles to hear that Lou Reed had passed. What a man, a performer, and of course, an artist. Lou pushed all the boundaries out and created great, memorable, original, astonishing rock and roll. He was more than anything else, a New Yorker. Some musicians are from everywhere, but Lou was New York personified, in outlook and sensibility. People who’d never been to New York learned about it from who Lou was. He in many ways, created the “attitude” that is rock and roll. He moved the edge of rock as we knew it, further out. But, he was also thoughtful and kind despite the perception that he could be direct and tough, which was also part of the package. I’m including a thank you note he wrote me, after an interview – postmarked March 28, 1989. I treasured it before, even more so now, really. Thank you Lou, for your contributions to all of us.
PS… Of course Lou was married to the amazing artist Laurie Anderson when he passed. This note was written to me when Lou was still married to his second wife Sylvia who he told me he’d met in an S & M bar.