Ringo Starr stays positive on 17th solo album 'Ringo 2012'

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Ringo Starr
It's a fitting sentiment from the celebrated drummer who flashes a peace sign at the click of a camera shutter and wears the hippie-era mantra like a second skin. Sometimes literally. Today, lounging on the patio of his Beverly Hills Hotel suite, he's sporting a “peace and love" T-shirt as part of a natty ensemble that's casual chic from the shades and earrings to the black-and-white high tops.

“It is a commitment," says Starr, looking a generation younger than his 71 years. “We finish every show with Give Peace a Chance. I've been put down so bad for saying 'Peace and love.' This is what I do. I'd love the world to be peace and love. That's my dream."

He makes no apologies for the signature cheer and optimism that infuse the nine-track Ringo 2012, out Tuesday.

“If there's a choice, I choose the positive," he says. “Me being negative is not going to make the world better."

The follow-up to 2010's Y Not was recorded in early 2011 in the guesthouse of his Los Angeles home and compiles five originals, remakes of his own Wings and Step Lightly and covers of Lead Belly classic Rock Island Line and Buddy Holly's Think It Over. Starr produced 2012 with a little help from such friends as Dave Stewart, Van Dyke Parks, Charlie Haden, Benmont Tench, Don Was and Joe Walsh, as well as new recruit Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

He submits his third in a series of hometown flashbacks that started with the title track from 2008's Liverpool 8. In Liverpool reflects on The Beatles' early days of skipping school and playing the Iron Door Club.

“That's my life, and no one else can write that," he says. A fourth may be in the offing, if the mood strikes. Writing songs “is not a struggle. I don't think any song took more than two hours. On Y Not and this, it started with me holding down a key on the synthesizer, a note and some sort of rhythm pattern. Then I play drums to that and maracas or piano and a bit of guitar. There's no song yet. It's like working in reverse, writing the song after the arrangement."

Beatles loom large

Undaunted by The Beatles' towering shadow, Starr released two solo albums in 1970, the year the band broke up.

“It's a shadow or a bright light, whichever way you want to look at it," he says. “The downside is you want to be famous, but when you are, you want it to stop. It never stops with The Beatles."

Constant scrutiny often cast Starr as deficient. Asked whether he believed Starr was the world's best drummer, John Lennon famously quipped, “He's not even the best drummer in The Beatles!" Starr is the only solo Beatle not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Say that louder!" Starr says with a laugh. “There's no animosity. It will happen when it happens. There are people in there who weren't rock 'n' roll, so it's lost its path, anyway."

Any lingering doubts about Starr's talents seemed to vanish with 2009's Beatles remasters. Last year, Rolling Stone ranked him fifth among history's best drummers.

“I love the remasters because now people can hear me," he says. “It used to be John, Paul, George and Ringo. And why not? Look at those writers. Now people say, 'Oh, maybe he could play.' It never stopped me because I knew from hanging out with musicians that my part on those records was always appreciated."

In an era of showy rock drummers like Ginger Baker and Keith Moon, Starr always saw his role as supportive.

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