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What I Know Now: Ringo Starr

Beatles drummer shares pie-cake with his grandkids and imagines a world that's all love and peace

Ringo Starr, Drummer, The Beatles, What I Know Now, 2015 Interview

Michael Lewis

At 75, Ringo Starr is at peace with his life and world.

Drummer boy

When I was 13, I had tuberculosis. I was in hospital for 10 months. They liked to keep you busy in bed and had a woman who came around with maracas and triangles and drums. The first day, I got the little drum and, after that, I wouldn't be in the bedridden band unless I got the drum.

Ringo for Prez

I just learned that once I scored highest in a Beatles popularity poll. I always thought Paul was the most popular Beatle. I thought I was in the shadow of the others. But the story I like is when the fans started a write-in campaign, Ringo for President. And I got a million votes!

Brotherly loss

John [Lennon]'s death in 1980 was very hard. Barbara's kids called us in the Bahamas and told us he'd been shot. He was my brother, so we rented a plane and flew to New York. In 2001, I went to see George [Harrison] in Switzerland in his last weeks. He was very ill and weak from lung and brain cancer. My daughter, Lee, was also ill with a brain tumor. I said, "George, I love you, but Lee's going into hospital in Boston, and I've got to go there." He said, "Do you want me to come with you?" He couldn't move, but, in his being, he was willing. He was that good a friend.

Grandpa's glee

I could have been a better father, but there was a lot going on in my life besides music, like substance abuse, though I've been clean for a number of years. I'm a great grandfather now. When I became a grandfather, it was an out-of-body experience. Jumping in the pool with them and listening to the same joke over and over again. I have a great time with my daughter Lee's children. They're the young ones, triplets at 6 now. When they were 2 1/2, I said, "Who wants pie? Who wants cake?" Now every afternoon, if I'm at their house or they're at ours, we have pie-cake.

Cooties caution

I have stopped shaking hands with people when I'm touring. In this day and age, you've got some very dangerous bugs out there, and I try to protect myself the best I can. I bump elbows instead.

His John Hancock

I don't sign autographs anymore. It came to the fore about seven years ago when I signed guitar scratch plates and then discovered that somebody had screwed those plates onto lousy guitars and put them on eBay for three grand each. Now I only sign for charity.

Give peace a chance

I want to make the world a better place. This is why I do all this. I just put out what I put out, which is to be more understanding and more giving every day, and it rubs off great. My fantasy is that one minute, one day, one month, one year, the whole world will go peace and love. And you never know. It could come true.

Ringo Starr's new coffee table book, "Photograph," takes a nostalgic look at his life as both a Beatle and a shutterbug.