With a little help from his friends

Ringo Starr makes his Israel debut at age 77 with his All-Starr Band

 (photo credit: SCOTT ROBERT RICHIE)
(photo credit: SCOTT ROBERT RICHIE)
Fifty two years after a proposed concert by The Beatles was shot down by government ministers for not having cultural worth, Ringo Starr, the onetime lovable mop-top drummer for the Fab Four is finally going to make his debut in the Jewish state, on June 23 and 24 at the Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv.
He will become the second – and final – former Beatle to perform in Israel, after Paul McCartney took the honors with a monumental show at Yarkon Park in 2008. Ex-bandmates John Lennon and George Harrison died, in 1980 and 2001, respectively, without having made it to the Promised Land.
Starr’s 13th iteration of his AllStarr Band, which debuted in 1989, will feature Men at Work’s guitarist/singer Colin Hay, keyboardist Graham Gouldman of 10cc, Toto’s guitarist Steve Lukather and Journey’s bassist Gregg Rolie, along with percussionists Warren Ham and Gregg Bissonette.
The show continues the established pattern of Starr and a band of musicians who had been successful in their own right (including past luminaries such as Todd Rundgren, Joe Walsh, the late Levon Helm and Nils Lofgren) switching off between Starr-sung Beatles songs (from “I Wanna Be Your Man” to “Don’t Pass Me By”) and later solo material (“Photograph,” “It Don’t Come Easy”), with performances of each of the other artists’ well-known material.
Starr gets behind his legendary drum kit for a number of songs throughout the 24-song set, including Hay’s “Land Down Under” and Lukather’s “Rosanna” and “Africa,” which has recently experienced a resurgence due to a cover version by Weezer.
But it’s the Beatles songs that get the fans to their feet and bring on a muted version of Beatlemania.
“There’s nothing like hearing Beatles songs sung by a Beatle. The instrumentation is pretty much identical to the record, so it’s kind of like seeing The Beatles,” said Howie Kahn, an American-born Israeli educator, therapist and musician who owns arguably the largest collection of Beatles and solo Beatles memorabilia in Jerusalem.
“For Ringo, that means ‘Yellow Submarine,’ ‘With a Little Help From My Friends,’ and I even liked ‘Act Naturally,’ added Kahn, who saw Starr and the All-Stars three years ago.
Starr, whose persona in the Beatles was always the uncomplicated, likable guy bashing away in the back behind the more complex musical genius of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, possessed a unique drumming style that has been highly praised by latter-day drummers, as well as criticized by music snobs for its no-frills timekeeping.
Following the band’s breakup in 1970, Starr kept pace with his former mates for a time, with a strong single, “It Don’t Come Easy” (featuring Harrison on guitar) and a successful 1973 album, Ringo, featuring “Photograph” and a remake of the early 1960s hit “You’re Sixteen.”
However, in a case of diminished returns, his output deteriorated, and between 1983 and 1992, he was all but silent amid an alcohol addiction and lack of direction. The inauguration of the All-Starr Band following his rehab gave Starr a second wind that has propelled him ever since.
Today, Starr is mostly known for carrying the message of unity The Beatles helped forge for a few short years and for flashing the peace sign on demand. His shows have attracted multigenerational fans who beam with every song.
“It’s singing along with Ringo time. It may not be a great concert, but it’s a really happy concert,” said Kahn.
“He’s 77, he doesn’t have to do this, but he enjoys the adoration of the crowd, and it goes back and forth. The show makes people happy.
How can you not smile when you hear him sing “Yellow Submarine”?