Ringo Starr marks his birthday with ‘peace and love’

Posted at 10:35 AM, Jul 08, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-08 10:35:50-04

By Vivian Kuo, CNN

NASHVILLE (CNN) – There is a quiet hum in the air. Moments later, it’s clear why.

Ringo Starr sweeps in, and it feels like a cool breeze has washed over the room despite the sweltering 100-degree Southern summer heat outside.

His apparel is basic but he exudes “rock star” — strolling in wearing a pinstriped blazer, a T-shirt, dark jeans and sneakers.

Two silver pendants adorn his neck: The longer of the two is a signature peace sign; the other, fashioned from a 45 LP adapter that was immediately given to him when he remarked to its former owner how much he liked it.

Such is Starr’s charm.

Despite being accompanied by no fewer than 15 people, he is disarmingly self-deprecating and modest.

Starr, one of two living members of the Beatles and winner of nine Grammy Awards, turned 72 on Saturday. He spent his birthday with fans and fellow musicians at the Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville.

As he always does on his birthday, he celebrates a moment of peace and love at the stroke of noon, and encouraged everyone else to do the same.

“Wherever you are — on a bus, in the office, in the studio, hanging out … whatever you’re doing, at noon, just go, ‘Peace and love.’ That’s all I ask for my birthday. Peace and love.”

A vegetarian, he attributes his trim physique to Pilates and a sensible diet.

“I work out quite a lot, and you know, broccoli is my main course, stuff like that. So, you know, that’s how I do it. Just keep yourself fit,” he says. “So as long as you do something physical, you know, keep moving.”

Keep moving he does — weaving through the crowd of well-wishers, family and friends with an easy affability.

Not surprisingly, security is tight. He nonetheless radiates warmth, shaking hands cordially with strangers and exchanging affectionate hugs with friends.

And it’s quite a group of friends he has. Fellow members of his ever-rotating All-Starr band are there in full force: Toto’s Steve Lukather with his signature goatee; music producer extraordinaire Todd Rundgren and his instantly recognizable white-and-black mane; a young-looking Richard Page from Mr. Mister; Santana’s Gregg Rolie sporting aviators.

Country star Vince Gill, Ed Roland from Atlanta-based Collective Soul, Jeff Russo of Tonic, and Roy Orbison Jr. are also on hand to pay tribute to the British icon.

The Eagles’ legendary Joe Walsh pops his head in during the interview, and jokingly says he’ll interrupt and take a seat on Starr’s lap.

Starr pretends to be aggrieved. “I have to let him in. He’s the brother-in-law. It’s a family thing!”

He’s referring to his wife of 31 years, Barbara Bach, whose sister Walsh wed three years ago.

Outside the Hard Rock, hundreds are thronging for the chance to get up close and personal with their idol.

Jamie Donaldson traveled from California with her husband and two kids for this moment. “I just can’t believe I’m here,” she said. “This has just been my dream for so long to see a living Beatle in person, and Ringo is just the best!”

She admits it’s almost unbearably hot outside, but, “It’s worth it!”

One woman holds a sign that reads, “Ringo, sign my son!” Another holds a sign that says, “You hugged me in 1964, please do it again”.

The crowd breaks into an excited chatter when Starr’s inner circle lines up on the stage. When the man himself emerges from the restaurant, the screams and shouts crescendo.

Starr is about to begin the countdown to shout “peace and love” at noon when out of nowhere a loud, monotonous tone begins to blare.

Undeterred, Starr continues on, and as if listening to the intended message, the tone silences just in time as the count reaches “one.”

“Peace and love!” everyone shouts in unison.

To the delight of the crowd, Starr’s friends and family, partly led by saxophonist Mark Rivera, begin to sing a John Lennon anthem.

“All we are saying, is give peace a chance.” Starr sings the last line loudly into the microphone, waving both hands in the signature “peace” sign high in the air.

The crowd watching is hugging, laughing and crying.

Happy 72nd birthday, Ringo Starr.