I don't know that I can feel sorry for anyone who was a member of The Beatles, but I think it's fair to say that Ringo Starr's contribution to the band was underrated. Every drummer I've ever met said the guy was a genius and if you've ever seen a Beatles tribute band live, you appreciate just how subtle yet vital his playing was to the success of the band.
If there had been an Internet back in the early 1970s, I'm sure it would have been filled with snarky tweets about his future and Buzzfeed would have cranked out some "Ten Reasons Ringo Starr Should Be Drinking Tonight" listsicle.
But as it turned out, Ringo Starr did just fine as a solo artist. He put together a nice string of hits and the strongest ones - "Photograph," "It Don't Come Easy" - were as good a pop song as you'll hear in the mid 1970s. But by the late Seventies Starr was floundering musically, releasing everything from a quasi-disco album to a tribute to his slain ex-bandmate John Lennon ("All Those Years Ago"). He sent most of the Eighties battling an alcohol addiction and narrating the kids TV show "Thomas and Friends." But the 1990s found Starr helming a "Ringo Starr and Friends" concert tour, which included Starr and a revolving group of fellow Seventies rockers singing their hits.
That tour lasted throughout most of the decade, but the years since have found Starr releasing the occasional mostly-ignored album, while making random public appearances for events such as the release of The Beatles Rock Band video game. But even at his lamest event, you can't forget his influence in the industry and what he's accomplished both as a solo artist and as a member of The Beatles.
All of this history begs for a really fabulous retrospective special and I wish I could say that "Ringo Starr: A Lifetime Of Peace And Love" is worthy of the man it is spotlighting. But sadly, the one hour special is part advertisement for transcendental meditation and part highlight reel for a bunch of musicians that you probably don't recognize.
The bulk of the show is filled with painful red carpet interviews and a series of performances of some of Starr's hits by a few "lesser known" musicians. Ben Fold is probably the best known of the bunch and he delivers a predictably odd and off-kilter rendition of "Oh My My." Betty LaVette performs a slowed down jazz-tinged version of “It Don’t Come Easy” and Brendon Benson delivers the best performance of the night with his take on “Don’t Go Where The Road Don’t Go.” Joe Walsh screams and twitches his way through "Back Off Boogaloo" and there are also performances by Head and the Heart ("Octopus Garden") and Giles McWilliams from Ark Life with “Can’t Do it Wrong.”
The night ends with a pair of tunes from Starr ("Photograph" and "Boys") before he invites his guests up to help him sing the predictable show closer "With A Little Help From My Friends."
"Ringo Starr: A Lifetime Of Peace And Love" is supposed to be a celebration of a great artist. But instead it's just sad and I'd rather see nothing at all than this sad sack of a musical grab bag.
"Ringo Starr: A Lifetime Of Peace And Love" premieres on AXS TV on Sunday, July 13th, 2014 at 8:00 p.m. ET.