A long goodbye: a review of Avengers Infinity War Part 1

In a rare change, I saw a movie on the weekend of its release. I kept Friday free because I had a bit of a cold and an eye abrasion that I wanted some quiet time to heal (no court, in other words).

I slept in and by mid-morning felt so much better that I wanted something to do. Since the Avengers movie debuted the night before, I thought I would see if an afternoon show would be too crowded.

The theater was half-full even at 1:30 on a Friday afternoon with school in session. It was not too crowded and sat back with my popcorn to enjoy the show.

Wikipedia has a nice plot summary, so I am using this with my own comments added. If you are concerned about SPOILERS skip the regular font – my comments are in italics on the right side of the page.

I hate continued movies (Matrix, Pirates of the Caribbean), paying full price for half a film … but I must admit I liked this movie very much and cannot wait for the conclusion.

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SPOILERS AHEAD!

From Wikipedia:

Having acquired the Power Stone from the planet Xandar, Thanos and his followers—Cull Obsidian, Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive—intercept the ship carrying the survivors of Asgard’s destruction. Thor, Loki and Hulk are powerless to protect the Asgardians. Heimdall uses the Bifröst to send Hulk to Earth before being killed. Loki gives Thanos the Tesseract to spare Thor’s life, but is killed after attempting to kill Thanos, who departs with his followers and obliterates the ship.

The movie starts about twenty minutes after Uncle Thor’s Goofy House of Wacky Fun (e.g. Thor: Ragnarok) – hereinafter called GHWF – leaves off. The so-called humor of GHWF still infects this scene like a late-stage venereal disease. But it does not last long. Perhaps the producers finally realized that the genocide of an entire culture is not the place for fart jokes.

Hulk crash-lands at the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York City, reverting to Bruce Banner. He warns Stephen Strange and Wong about Thanos’ plan to kill half of all life in the universe. In response, Strange recruits Tony Stark. Maw and Obsidian arrive to retrieve the Time Stone from Strange. After a battle including Peter Parker, Maw captures Strange; Stark and Parker pursue Maw’s spaceship, while Banner contacts Steve Rogers.

Thus tying in the excellent Doctor Strange movie and bringing into conflict the two most egotistical characters in the Marvel CU: Stephen Strange and Tony Stark. Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr excel here.  It is a joy watching these two superb actors relishing their roles.   It almost makes you forget their equally wonderful casting choice for Spider-Man.  Here the humor is in character and appropriately placed – it would have to be with Strange and Iron Man trying to out-pompous each other!

Oddly, Mark Ruffalo is given little to do – intimating the Hulk does NOT want to metamorphose back. Is he scared? Will this tiny but interesting bit of characterization be explored in the second movie? I hope so.

In Scotland, Midnight and Glaive ambush Wanda Maximoff and Vision. Rogers, Natasha Romanoff and Sam Wilson rescue them, and they take shelter with James Rhodes at the new Avengers Facility. Vision offers to sacrifice himself by having Maximoff destroy the Mind Stone in his forehead to keep Thanos from retrieving it. Rogers suggests they travel to Wakanda, which he believes has the resources to remove the stone without destroying Vision.

Seeing Captain America is the thrill of this scene. Chris Evans captures the essence of Cap as much as Downey does Iron Man’s. Viewing CA: Civil War is VITAL to understanding the interactions between most of the characters in this and later scenes.

The Guardians of the Galaxy respond to a distress call from the Asgardian ship and rescue Thor. He surmises Thanos seeks the Reality Stone, which is in the possession of the Collector at Knowhere. Rocket and Groot accompany Thor to Nidavellir to retrieve a weapon to kill Thanos. There, they and Eitri create Stormbreaker, an enchanted axe. Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis find Thanos at Knowhere with the Reality Stone already in his possession. Thanos kidnaps Gamora, his adoptive daughter, who reveals the location of the Soul Stone to save her captive adoptive sister Nebula from torture. Thanos and Gamora travel to Vormir, a planet where Red Skull, keeper of the Soul Stone, informs him the stone can only be retrieved by sacrificing someone he loves. Thanos reluctantly throws Gamora to her death, granting him the Soul Stone.

The Guardians provide most of the humor of the movie and it works wonderfully. Most of Thor’s quips are pulled back to his pre-GHWF days: calling Rocket a rabbit, etc. (Gee, a funny comment in keeping with his chraracter? To quote Thor in his previous movie: “What the hell?!”) The humor of Drax, Starlord and Mantis, are so appropriate ad in-character it finally reveals how forced Thor’s “comic” quips (I will never call these exchanges “dialogue”) are. Fortunately, it appears the adult writers threw out the childish ones when the scene shifted to Nidavellir and Thor became the more serious character he was meant to be.

And Nidavellir was exactly as I imagined it to be since the first Thor movie said the nine realms were really nine planets – steampunk on a cosmic scale! Peter Dinklage’s cameo as a dwarf was a highlight – as was making this “dwarf” tower over everyone else!

It was during the Nidavellir scene I realized what was happening. Three groups (the two Avenger splinters and the Guardians) split up and tackle different parts of the problem – holy moley! It’s a Gardner Fox JLA-JSA team-up!

Nebula escapes captivity and requests the remaining Guardians meet her on Titan, Thanos’ destroyed homeworld. Stark and Parker eject Maw from his ship and rescue Strange. Landing at Titan, they meet Quill, Drax, and Mantis. Strange uses the Time Stone to view millions of possible futures and states there is only one in which Thanos loses. The group forms a plan to confront Thanos and remove the Infinity Gauntlet. Thanos arrives, justifying his plans to Strange as necessary to ensure the survival of a universe threatened by overpopulation. The group subdues him until Nebula deduces Thanos has killed Gamora. Enraged, Quill retaliates, which breaks the group’s hold on Thanos, and he overpowers them. After Strange surrenders the Time Stone in exchange for Thanos sparing Stark, Thanos departs for Earth.

Another superb battle scene!

Upon arriving in Wakanda, Rogers reunites with Bucky Barnes. The Avengers task Shuri with extracting the Mind Stone. Thanos’ army invades and the Avengers mount a defense alongside King T’Challa and the Wakandan forces. Banner, unable to transform into the Hulk, fights in Stark’s upgraded Hulkbuster armor. Thor, Rocket, and Groot arrive on Earth and rally the defenders. Midnight, Obsidian and Glaive are killed and their army is routed. Thanos arrives and retrieves the Mind Stone from Vision, destroying him. Despite being severely wounded by Thor, Thanos activates the complete Infinity Gauntlet and teleports away.

There were prior battle scenes? The fight for Wakanda is so massive and incredible it makes us forget all that came before it. It compares with the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in Return of the King. Yes, I am comparing this movie to Return of the King.

Awesome. I am using the word in its original sense.

Watch Captain America and Black Panther run ahead of the other warriors. Pure athleticism and a wonderful small bit that will stick with me every time I think of this movie.

Thor’s appearance almost made me stand and cheer. Here is the son of Odin as he should be.

Thanos’ plan comes to fruition as half of all life across the universe disintegrates, including Barnes, Drax, Groot, Mantis, Maximoff, Parker, Quill, Strange, T’Challa, and Wilson. Nebula and Stark remain on Titan, while Banner, M’Baku, Okoye, Rhodes, Rocket, Rogers, Romanoff, and Thor are left on the Wakandan battlefield. Thanos, healed, retreats to a small nipa hut as he watches the sunset in satisfaction.

Omnipotent villains in comics always bugged me. Why doesn’t Thanos just wipe out ALL of the Avengers/Guardians and/or wipe them from existence since he has the power? It will be interesting to see what the remaining heroes do.

In the post-credits scene, Nick Fury transmits a distress signal as he and Maria Hill, amongst others, disintegrate. The device displays a red-and-blue star insignia.

This is what the post-credit scene should be – a tease of thing to come. “James Bond will return”. It introduces (kind of) Captain Marvel.

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So there it is.

I liked the movie very much but will hold off until the movie is “done” with the second part before I decide on a scale. It is always a thrill to see Chris Evans as Captain America and Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man –  and since Evans has already said he is “resigning” as Cap we must enjoy them while we can. Both actors have yet to disappoint even if their movies do.

I saw it in 3D. Don’t bother … except for the Wakanda battle the movie is darkly filmed – so much that I had to remove the glasses in some scenes just to see what was going on. Perhaps the lack of lighting helped keep them under budget?

Thanos was an excellent villain – he was not a raving lunatic but determined, pensive and … thoughtful. We have no doubt he thinks he is doing the right thing. Well, perhaps not the RIGHT thing, but the ONLY thing that resolves the problems of the universe as he sees it. Someone has to make the hard decisions, no one else can do it but him. It makes him even scarier…

The plot of infinity War is well-thought-out, the heroes each have their time to shine (which granted is not long). Given the scope of the movie, the action and characterization is VERY well-balanced.

And damn that entire Wakandan battle scene was cool!

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

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Ringo Starr coming to St. Louis!

The 2018 All Starr Band includes Colin Hay (of Man at Work – “Who Can It be Now”, “Land Down Under”), Steve Lukather (Toto – “Africa”, “Hold The Line”, “Roseanna”), Gregg Rolie (of Santanna and Journey – “Black Magic Woman”, “Evil Ways”) and new member Graham Gouldman (of 10cc – “I’m Not In Love”, “Things We Do For Love”).  On percussion and sax is Warren Ham (toured with Kansas and Toto) and on drums Gregg Bissonette (who played with Santanna and David Lee Roth).

Sir Ringo is scheduled for the Fabulous Fox Theater on September 7, 2018 at 8:00 PM.

I saw Ringo and his All-Stars twice. Once in the original run in Chicago (with Billy Preston, Dr. John, Joe Walsh, Clarence Clemons and Rick Danko and Levon Helm (of the Band) and in St. Louis at the VP Faire (with Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals, Randy Bachmann, Mark Farner (of Grand Funk Railroad), John Entwistle of the Who, etc.

Ringo always puts in a fun show – peppered with his hits and a few newer tunes. He plays drums while the other All-Stars go through their hits. I can almost guarantee the songs listed above will be performed. The All-Stars usually do two or three of “their” hits. A splendid time is … (STOP!) okay okay…

Two highlights I remember – Dr. John taking a verse during “The Weight” and watching a little boy sitting on his father’s shoulders singing “Yellow Submarine” while under the St. Louis Arch.

I would like to see Ringo again, but as of now (April) with family and work commitments I may not have the time.

Perhaps someone else going can convince me. It won’t take much …

See you there?

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About the blogger:

Michael Curry is the author of “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles; a story of alternate history” as well as other fiction and non-fiction books.

What if the Beatles played at the White House before John and Jackie Kennedy in 1965? How would it have happened? And why? Written for an historical (fictitious) magazine in 2016, “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles” examines the political and diplomatic reasons for the concert and postulates why both sides agreed to this historic meeting of two icons from the 1960s. John F Kennedy never met the Beatles, but this story asks … what if they did? This short story tells us what might have been.

You can view the book for purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HQQ7F8K

 

 

One last try at the Adventure anthology…

Behold, the Bronze Age!

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Adventure Comics #427. May 1973.

Joe Orlando: editor.  Luis Dominguez: cover artist.

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The Adventurer’s Club: “Voodoo Lizards”

Writer: John Albano; Penciler/Inker/Letterer: Jim Aparo

Co-edited by Joe Orlando and E. Nelson Bridwell

Carter desires to be the world’s greatest action photographer and convinces his native guides to herd antelopes into a crocodile nest and pays one native to try to high dive into a river. Unsuccessfully.

But to join the Adventurer’s Club, he tells Nathan Strong about his most nightmarish episode:

After taunting lions into severely injuring his boss and native guide, Carter bribes another native into taking him to a secret ceremony … a woman staked to the ground to be fed to a lizard raised by the witch doctors. If the lizard does NOT attack the girl – she will be married to the native prince!

Carter and his guide were discovered! The guide was killed, but Carter ran and ran … thinking he got away; but, exhausted, he discovered he was right back at the ceremony and attacked by the lizards!

But wait, if he was attacked by the lizards, how could he survive to tell the story to Nathan strong. The last panel reveals the lizard bites caused a strange metamorphosis…

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Vigilante: “The Slaying Town!”

Writer: Cary Bates;  Penciler: Mike Sekowsky, Inker: Dick Giordano, Letterer: Ben Oda

Co-edited by Joe Orlando and E. Nelson Bridwell

The Vigilante tracks smugglers to a set of a western movie. Vig watches from the distance as a scene turns into disaster – a stunt man is shot with real bullets instead of blanks and is killed by the star of the movie Wade Preston. Vig overhears the director admitting to wanting the stunt man dead because he wanted a “bigger cut” and framed Preston. The Vigilante breaks the star out of the jailhouse. The fugitives run through a gauntlet of grips and gaffers until finally escaping with the diamonds the director was smuggling in his gas tank.

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Captain Fear: “His Daughter’s Keeper”

Writer: Steve Skeates; Penciler/Inker: Alex Nino; Letterer: Marcus Pelayo

Co-edited by Joe Orlando and E. Nelson Bridwell

Captain Fear quickly turns the tables on the plantation owner’s daughter and takes her below just as her father attacks Fear’s ship! The father overpowers Fear and his crew and shackles the Captain. Later, the daughter, Denise, rescues Fear.

Before Fear escapes. He confronts the father and kills him. Fear is captured again by the crew and Denise reveals herself not only as the new captain but that she was NOT the man’s daughter, but a purchased slave. She asks Fear to serve as her second-in-command. He kisses her and leaps off the ship – rejecting her offer. Denise vows vengeance!

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The letter column now has missives about the change in format (#425) and is typically mixed – some love the change, some did not, some loved one feature and disliked the others, another gave an opposing view. Joe gives a brief overview of the characters requested to appear. The Legion of Super-Heroes seems to be frequently requested and Orlando hypes their appearance and full-length stories in Superboy.

***

The Adventure anthology-style lasted only three issues, this being the last. Sales were likely very low for these issues and the anthology was not given much time to take hold, as it had in DC’s horror titles. Too bad. The comic made a nice repository for stories that did not quite fit into their horror vein. Even their dip into superheroics (the Vigilante) seemed appropriate – a western strip set in modern times.

And over the last three issues we were given a who’s who of comic book writers and artists. This would be the last time DC tried for a non-horror or science fiction anthology comic book.

It was a noble, if failed, experiment. The Captain Fear strip would continue for some issues, but hereafter the comic would resume in the superhero mold (even, arguably, the Spectre series), but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t take chances on something different … Black Orchid debuts with the next issue!

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Shazam #27. January, 1977

 

“Fear in Philadelphia”

Cover Artist: Ernie Chua (Chan)

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciler: Kurt Schaffenberger, Inker: Vince Colletta

Managing Editor: Joe Orlando

Sivana uses his Reincarnation Machine to bring Blackbeard, Benedict Arnold and a bevvy of other baddies from 18th-century America back to life! They rob, steal and plunder to distract the Big Red Cheese from Sivana’s real purpose.

Billy Batson asks the Elder Mercury for help and the Messenger of the Gods send Kid Eternity to help.

Kid Eternity goes after the historical bad guys while Captain Marvel tracks down Sivana.

Billy is caught by Sivana after discovering his plot: Sivana has turned the Liberty Bell into an atomic bomb – when Captain Marvel rings it at a special ceremony tomorrow, it will destroy him and the city!

Kid Eternity captures most of the historical bad guys with the help of his conjured heroes – including Ethan Allen, Ben Franklin, Daniel Boone, and others. Kid Eternity chases Benedict Arnold to Sivana where he is also captured! Sivana will detonate the bomb by remote control and destroy them both!

Benedict Arnold, seeking redemption, frees Billy who turns into Captain Marvel and stops Sivana.  Unfortunately, the World’s Wickedest Scientist gets away!

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The letter column praised the new DC/TV format, with only one letter saying he preferred Golden Age reprints.

The final panel teaser and the letter column tells us the next issue will feature Black Adam as the villain!

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If Sivana wanted to stir up trouble with cutthroats and murderers why did he go to the trouble of using the Reincarnation Machine? He could have just used the line-up of the 1976 Flyers…

This was Kid Eternity’s (and Mr. Keeper’s) first appearance in new material since the Golden Age and his first DC appearance.

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

Happy 80th Birthday, Superman!

Action Comics #1 was published 80 years ago today.

Action Comics #1000 is now on the stands.

Wow.

Happy Birthday, Man of Steel. I’ve loved and hated the changes you’ve been put through. You were always my favorite, especially when helping the downtrodden and oppressed – THAT is the real truth, justice and the American way!!

MC

 

Shout Sister Shout: Rosetta Tharpe and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Sometimes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gets it right! Congratulations to them for inducting Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Who!?

Oh, I have loved her work for many years. She did not win on the fan ballot – in fact she came in nearly dead last.  But she was inducted anyway under the “influences” category.

And rightly so.

From Wikipedia:

Sister Rosetta Tharpe; Birth name: Rosetta Nubin, or Rosether Atkins

Born: March 20, 1915, Cotton Plant, Arkansas, US

Died: October 9, 1973 (aged 58), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (March 20, 1915 – October 9, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and recording artist. As a pioneer of mid-20th-century music, she attained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings, characterized by a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and rhythmic accompaniment that was a precursor of rock and roll. She was the first great recording star of gospel music and among the first gospel musicians to appeal to rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll audiences, later being referred to as “the original soul sister” and “the Godmother of rock and roll”. She influenced early rock-and-roll musicians, including Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Tharpe was a pioneer in her guitar technique; she was among the first popular recording artists to use heavy distortion on her electric guitar, presaging the rise of electric blues. Her guitar playing technique had a profound influence on the development of British blues in the 1960s; in particular a European tour with Muddy Waters in 1963 with a stop in Manchester is cited by prominent British guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Keith Richards.

Willing to cross the line between sacred and secular by performing her music of “light” in the “darkness” of nightclubs and concert halls with big bands behind her, Tharpe pushed spiritual music into the mainstream and helped pioneer the rise of pop-gospel, beginning in 1938 with the recording “Rock Me” and with her 1939 hit “This Train”.  Her unique music left a lasting mark on more conventional gospel artists such as Ira Tucker, Sr., of the Dixie Hummingbirds. While she offended some conservative churchgoers with her forays into the pop world, she never left gospel music.

Tharpe’s 1944 release “Down by the Riverside” was selected for the National Recording Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress in 2004, which noted that it “captures her spirited guitar playing and unique vocal style, demonstrating clearly her influence on early rhythm-and-blues performers” and cited her influence on “many gospel, jazz, and rock artists”. (“Down by the Riverside” was recorded by Tharpe on December 2, 1948, in New York City, and issued as Decca single 48106. Her 1945 hit “Strange Things Happening Every Day”, recorded in late 1944, featured Tharpe’s vocals and electric guitar, with Sammy Price (piano), bass and drums. It was the first gospel record to cross over, hitting no. 2 on the Billboard “race records” chart, the term then used for what later became the R&B chart, in April 1945. The recording has been cited as precursor of rock and roll. …

Musically, Tharpe’s unique guitar style blended melody-driven urban blues with traditional folk arrangements and incorporated a pulsating swing sound that is one of the first clear precursors of rock and roll.

Little Richard referred to the stomping, shouting, gospel music performer as his favorite singer when he was a child. In 1947, she heard Richard sing before her concert at the Macon City Auditorium and later invited him on stage to sing with her; it was Richard’s first public performance outside of the church. Following the show, she paid him for his performance, which inspired him to become a performer. When Johnny Cash gave his induction speech at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, he referred to Tharpe as his favorite singer when he was a child. His daughter Rosanne Cash stated in an interview with Larry King that Tharpe was her father’s favorite singer. Tharpe began recording with electric guitar in the 1940s, with “That’s All”, which has been cited as an influence on Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. Other musicians, including Aretha Franklin, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Isaac Hayes, have identified her singing, guitar playing, and showmanship as an important influence on them. She was held in particularly high esteem by UK jazz/blues singer George Melly. Tina Turner credits Tharpe, along with Mahalia Jackson, as an early musical influence. Such diverse performers as Meat Loaf, Neil Sedaka and Karen Carpenter have attested to the influence of Tharpe in the rhythmic energy she emanated in her performances (Carpenter’s drum fills are especially reminiscent of Tharpe’s “Chorlton Chug”). Later artists, such as Sean Michel, have credited her influence with the performance of gospel songs in more secular venues.

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Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnAQATKRBN0

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She should have been inducted thirty years ago…

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About the blogger:

Michael Curry is the author of “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles; a story of alternate history” as well as other fiction and non-fiction books.

What if the Beatles played at the White House before John and Jackie Kennedy in 1965? How would it have happened? And why? Written for an historical (fictitious) magazine in 2016, “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles” examines the political and diplomatic reasons for the concert and postulates why both sides agreed to this historic meeting of two icons from the 1960s. John F Kennedy never met the Beatles, but this story asks … what if they did? This short story tells us what might have been.

You can view the book for purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HQQ7F8K

Sir Ringo: Early 2018, I’m (still) the Greatest!

Ringo Starr is now officially Sir Richard Starkey.

March 20, 2018:

Less than three months after the honor was announced, the Beatles drummer received his knighthood from Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, at a ceremony earlier today at Buckingham Palace.

“I’ll be wearing it at breakfast,” Starr told the BBC about the medal he was given. And even with all the money and fame he’s achieved in his career, he said that formal acknowledgment from the royal family “means a lot, actually. It means recognition for the things we’ve done, musically and in life. So I was really pleased to accept this award.” He added that it was “way up there” with all the other awards he’s received over the decades.

Starr said that he and Paul McCartney had dinner in Los Angeles together, where McCartney, who was knighted in 1997, gave his former bandmate a bit of advice on getting through the ceremony: “He said, ‘Keep smiling.'”

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… and smile he did!

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Originally published at http://ultimateclassicrock.com/ringo-starr-knighted/ Thank you for allowing me to republish it on this blog.

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About the blogger:

Michael Curry is the author of “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles; a story of alternate history” as well as other fiction and non-fiction books.

What if the Beatles played at the White House before John and Jackie Kennedy in 1965? How would it have happened? And why? Written for an historical (fictitious) magazine in 2016, “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles” examines the political and diplomatic reasons for the concert and postulates why both sides agreed to this historic meeting of two icons from the 1960s. John F Kennedy never met the Beatles, but this story asks … what if they did? This short story tells us what might have been.

You can view the book for purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HQQ7F8K