Ringo on his new solo LP, playing with Paul and hating cellphones
by Neil Strauss in Rolling Stone
ingo Starr's been slipping his life story into his songs. In Y Not, his 15th album, he sings about his father leaving the family when Ringo was three years old, his mother taking a bartending job and the friends he made working as an apprentice for a building contractor at age 17, with whom he formed his first band. "The plan is that, if I make another CD, there will be another glimpse of Liverpool," he says, then pauses and turns to Bruce Grakal, his lawyer and friend. "That's a great title: Another Glimpse of Liverpool. Where the sun always shines!"
Y Not is the first album Starr has basically produced himself, and, like much of his solo career in the past 20 years, he caters to nostalgia. With its self-referential lyrics sung in Starr's likable yet imperfect voice, it is catchy and wistful, but it is more an album for Ringo fans than for music fans in general.
Not every song deals with the Beatles. On "Fill in the Blanks," an uncharacteristically angry tune, with guitar from Joe Walsh (who happens to be married to the sister of Starr's wife), Starr complains about modern technology. "Everyone's got those dumb mobiles now," he says. They say goodbye, then by the time they get to their car, they're calling again."
For the time being, Starr is in a new phase of productivity. He has released three solo albums in five years, a far cry from the late Eighties and early Nineties, when he went nine years without releasing a solo album, in part due to alcohol abuse. "In the early Seventies, I made my biggest solo albums," Starr says. "But by the Eighties...I was taking more interest in other things than what I do best."
As Starr begins to discuss his drumming style, Y Not producer and contributing bassist Don Was enters the upstairs studio he owns and interjects: "If you go back and listen to a song like 'Something,' he puts the fills in the same place a guitarist would," Was says. "He's not sitting there counting. He's playing to the vocal."
"I've always felt, if you're singing, I'll hold you back," Starr replies. "But if you stop, I'm in! It goes back to when I was 13. I joined bands because I wanted to play with good players. That's all I've ever wanted to do. Of course the band I ended up in were really great, but it went a bit crazy."
Singer's career spanned Philly soul, Eighties hits, triumph over accident
by Ashley Kahn in Rolling Stone
eddy Pendergrass, the R&B singer whose voice -- raw with emotion, heavily gospel-influenced, rich in testosterone -- helped define the sound of soul in the Seventies and early Eighties, died on January 13th in his native Philadelphia after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 59.
The singer notched 37 R&B hits over his 41-year-career with songs of social uplift ("Wake Up Everybody," with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes); tunes brimming with heartache ("Love T.K.O."); and love-making ballads that defined the genre ("Close the Door," "Turn Off the Lights").
"I was struck by Teddy's immediately identifiable, gravelly voice," says former Columbia Records chief Clive Davis, who first heard Pendergrass with the Blue Notes in 1972. "When I first saw Teddy, he was riveting, inspiring the ladies to just give it up." A string of R&B hits, produced and written by the team of Leon Huff and Kenny Gamble for their Philadelphia International label, soon followed: "If You Don't Know Me by Now," "The Love I Lost," "Bad Luck."
Pendergrass went solo in 1976. "Teddy was the first black artist to have an all-female concert," says Huff -- fans would throw underwear and teddy bears at his feet. "It was pandemonium!" (Pendergrass had a special term for the love songs Huff and Gamble would write for him: "panty-wetters.")
A car crash in 1982 left Pendergrass paralyzed from the waist down. He returned to the studio two years later, and in an emotional moment in 1985, he was welcomed back to the stage at the Live Aid concert. In the end, Pendergrass spent more years on the charts singing from a wheelchair than before the accident: 13 Top 40 R&B songs, including two Number Ones and the duet "Hold Me" that launched Whitney Houston's career.
"He was also the most powerful singer I ever worked with," says Huff. "No one can forget those songs he sang. Teddy's voice is going to be like the wind -- it's always gonna blow."
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