When Paul McCartney announced the Beatles were releasing one final song later this year, with vocals extracted from a John Lennon demo via a machine-learning tool, the press jumped on a narrative of an “AI Beatles song.” Confused fans feared they were about to hear an AI-generated Lennon. But the Beatles would “never” fake Lennon’s vocals, Ringo Starr says in a new interview for an upcoming episode of our Rolling Stone Music Now podcast.
Starr also confirms that George Harrison recorded parts for the song before his death in 2001. “This was beautiful,” says Starr, “and it’s the final track you’ll ever hear with the four lads. And that’s a fact.” Starr wouldn’t confirm the name of the song, but the fact of Harrison’s participation almost certainly means the track is “Now and Then,” a Lennon demo that McCartney, Harrison, and Starr did some work on during the same sessions that produced “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love,” which also used vocals harvested from Lennon demos. Those tracks were included on the Beatles Anthology albums and documentary in the mid-Nineties — so it would be logical that the new song might come out in conjunction with a long-overdue re-release of the doc, though the Beatles camp hasn’t announced anything of the sort yet.
Meanwhile, Starr will celebrate his 83rd birthday on July 7, and is continuing his tradition of asking fans to “say, post, or think ‘peace and love,’” at precisely noon in their time zones. Starr will be on hand for a celebration in Beverly Hills on that day, alongside musicians including Joe Walsh and Mike Campbell. “In 2008, I was being interviewed,” Starr recalls, “and the interviewer said, ‘Well, Ringo, what would you like your fans to give you for your birthday? And I don’t know where it came from but I thought, it would be great, if at noon they could go ‘peace and love’ and that’s how it started. We started with 80 people… and now it’s 28 countries.”
Starr, who just finished a spring tour with the latest incarnation of his All-Starr band, says he’s feeling great. “You never know when you’re gonna drop, that’s the thing,” he says. “And I’m not dropping yet.”
Starr’s full interview — with new thoughts on Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary and more — will appear on next weekend’s episode of Rolling Stone Music Now. Video from the interview will also be shown at a special live taping of the rest of the episode at the Rock and Roll of Fame in Cleveland at 2 p.m. on July 7; the episode will also include a new interview with producer Glyn Johns, who worked on the Let It Be sessions. The museum will also celebrate Starr’s birthday that day with a “peace and love” gathering at noon, and an all-Beatles performance by the Hall’s house band.