Ringo Starr
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Undimmed Starr: A portrait of the artist

BY MICHAEL HAMERSLY for the Miami Herald

Ringo Starr’s accomplishments sometimes get lost in the glory of John, Paul and George. But the Beatles drummer with the puppy-dog appeal was just as essential to the Fab Four’s sound, his steady beat and innovative rhythms anchoring the group’s melodic genius. Starr’s pleasant voice also added a different dimension to the Beatles’ sound on songs such as Act Naturally, Don’t Pass Me By, With a Little Help From My Friends, Octopus’s Garden and Yellow Submarine.

After the Beatles split, Starr found solo success with hits including Photograph, You’re Sixteen, Oh My My and It Don’t Come Easy. He’s still recording but has also branched out into the visual arts.

Starr hits the Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on Thursday with the latest incarnation of his All-Starr Band — previous members have included musical greats Joe Walsh and Clarence Clemons — right in the middle of his whimsical art exhibit, Abstract Faces,which runs through July 6.

Starr talked to The Miami Herald about the tour and his art, plus his opinion of the Beatles-based Cirque du Soleil show LOVE and the Fab Four-inspired movie Across the Universe.

Q: What can we expect from your concert?

A: You can expect a really good time. It’s a great band, and it’s a really great mixed bag, and everyone is very supportive of the other artists, and that’s what it’s all about. We’re up there to be a band, not a big showcase. And I support them as well as they support me, so I have a little help from my friends.

Q: Is the set list all Ringo and Beatles stuff?

A: Yes, it’s Beatles stuff, my solo career, plus I had a record out in January called Liverpool 8,and I do the title track. I also do a track from Choose Love,the CD before. It’s a complete mixed bag. I’m still doing Act Naturally,of course. I like to do it, and it’s my show, so I’ll do what I want to.

Q: Are there any musicians you’d love to work with that you haven’t?

A: Well, I don’t know. If I’ve never worked with them I don’t know. But no, that’s like the fantasy camp, you know, Ray Charles, Elvis. It could be anybody, but I’m happy with the people I’m working with.

Q: What are you most proud of from your solo career?

A: I’m still doing it. This is a long career, you know. At 13, I had this dream to be a drummer — I didn’t have it to be a guitarist or anything else, just a drummer — and then to get a kit of drums, which took several years, and then to play with musicians, and then really good musicians — that part of my life hasn’t stopped. It just keeps unfolding, so I am really a blessed man.

Q. How did you become interested in creating visual arts?

A: Well, I’ve actually been painting for many years on canvas, and this work is all being done while I’m on tour, during the down time in hotels all over America. It was really an interesting process for me — you know, it’s computer art. And what is so great about computer art is that it’s very fast, so if you don’t like it, you press a button and it disappears. . . . It just kept me interested in the hotel rooms, really.

Q: When did you realize you were gifted in this area?

A: I have several friends who are painters, and I had lessons, not deep lessons, in the South of France — you know I live there a lot of the time — and I had one oil-painting lesson by a friend. We did a painting of the same subject, and I have them in my home, and I say to people, ”Well, which one did I do?” And it’s a 50/50 guess if they get me or him, you know what I’m saying? And I go, ”Oh, OK — they can’t tell.” So that’s a good sign.

So it’s just something I’ve always been interested in. I’ve never put out any of the actual brush-to-canvas art yet, but one never knows.

Q. Does being a Beatle help or hurt in getting people to take the art seriously?

A: Well, one thing about being a Beatle is, at least it gets it shown. And that’s as far as I can go. If they take it seriously or not, I’m not in charge of that. But at least I get a showing, so that’s the good news.

Q: You played a big role in promoting Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE. What do you think of it?

A: It all started with when George Harrison went to a party and Guy Lalibert√©? was there, the guy who does Cirque du Soleil, and they had a chat and thought, ”Wow, what a great idea to put Beatles music to a Cirque.” And I was a big fan of it anyway, had seen lots of the shows and loved it. So we had discussions and negotiations, and the end result is what’s now going on in Vegas, which is great.

And the music, the remix by [Beatles producer] George [Martin] and [his son] Giles — I love it because they brought the drums up, so what could be wrong with that? It’s just a great situation. The combination really works. Most of the show is the psychedelic era, so visually, it’s beautiful. And they do an incredible show on Octopus’s Garden.

Q: Will we hear that song at your concert?

A: No, but you’ll hear Yellow Submarine. I think one underwater song is enough [laughs].

Q: What do you think of the movie and soundtrack to Across the Universe?

A: I thought [music producer] T-Bone [Burnett] did the best he could, and I thought when it got to the psychedelic part it was fun, but I didn’t really believe the story. But hey, we’re all trying.

Q: I’ve read conflicting reports: Was that you shouting ”I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” at the end of Helter Skelter?

A: It was. Because I did — the track was actually very long, and we were just pounding. It was a jam, really, it turned into that. And at the end, the only way off the kit was, ”Look, my fingers are bleeding, and I just have to get up.” And I decided to shout it.