Ten years ago when Ringo Starr turned 68, the Beatles drummer recalled someone asking what he wanted for his birthday.
“I couldn’t think of anything, and I don’t know why I said it, but it just came out: I said I would like for eeveryone in the world to say, ‘Peace and love,’ at noon,” the Beatles drummer said Saturday at the 10th anniversary of a tradition born that day at a Hard Rock Café in Chicago.
This year, formal “Peace and Love” celebrations are being held on Starr’s 78th birthday in 60 countries, precisely at noon in each time zone, an expansion of that original spontaneous remark he considers the most gratifying aspect of his long-held desire to spread goodwill through music and philanthropy.
Starr has emceed other birthday events over the past decade in New York City, Hamburg, Germany and, most often, in Hollywood at Capitol Records, the Beatles’ U.S. record label.
But the 10th edition here in Nice held special resonance, falling within a week of the two-year anniversary of the 2016 Bastille Day terrorist attack that left 86 dead and more than 450 people injured on the Promenade de Anglais, not far from the beachfront Hard Rock Café where Starr held court Saturday.
“I’m very happy we could have this event here, after what happened two years ago,” Rudy Salles, Nice’s deputy mayor, told The Times following the traditional noon countdown that Starr led with help from fellow musician, and brother-in-law, Joe Walsh as well as members of his All-Starr Band: Santana keyboardist-singer Gregg Rolie, Toto lead guitarist Steve Lukather, Men at Work singer-songwriter Colin Hay, 10cc singer-bassist Graham Gouldman, saxophonist-percussionist Warren Ham and drummer Gregg Bissonette.
Guests from Starr’s extended musical family also turned out, among them former Guns N‘ Roses/Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum.
Starr noted that the choice of Nice was not made with the terrorist attack in mind, but for its proximity to his tour stop the previous night in Monte Carlo, Monaco, where he had a home from 1976 until he sold it three years ago. The presence of a Hard Rock Café in Nice allowed him to make a connection with the first “Peace and Love” event 10 years ago.
“The world has always needed peace and love, so that’s what I do,” he said during a short news conference before the noon countdown. “I say, ‘Peace and love.’ ”
His band, packed into a tight corner of the entryway in the restaurant, served up ragtag renditions of a couple of Starr’s Beatles hits: “Act Naturally” and “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and Walsh tossed in a snippet of one of his own songs to a crowd of more than 100 fans who crowded close to the guardrail around the entrance.
(Upward of 3,000 fans had originally been expected for the event that was assembled as a public gathering. But a spokeswoman for Starr said that security concerns among city officials prompted a late shift that turned it into a private event.)
With security still a concern, more than half a dozen soldiers brandishing rifles patrolled up and down the Promenade des Anglais to ensure that the message of peace and love was not disrupted.
The restaurant presented Starr with a five-layer cake adorned with the words “Happy Birthday” and a peace symbol at the top.
As usual, Starr was joined for his birthday celebration by his wife, actress Barbara Bach; her sister, Marjorie, who is married to Walsh; George Harrison’s widow, Olivia Harrison; as well as several of Starr’s grandchildren, who flew in for the event.
His grandchildren watched and cheered as their celebrated grandfather played past midnight at the tony Sporting Monte Carlo indoor/outdoor theater the previous night, having energetically sprinted onstage and then concluded the 95-minute set with jumping jacks at the end of “With a Little Help From My Friends.”