Ringo Starr may be 78, but the legendary musician isn’t about to stop rocking out anytime soon.
“Someone at the press line today said, ‘What, you’re still doing this?’” the former Beatles drummer said. “They say that all the time to me. I’m still doing the tour…That’s what I do, you know. I’m not an electrician.”
Starr was honored Thursday night during the Paley Honors: A Gala Tribute to Music on Television.
During his speech, Starr acknowledged the power of television, and especially the “Ed Sullivan Show,” in launching Beatlemania in America, with “over 70 million people” watching the band’s 1964 performance on the program. “They said there was no crime while we were playing. How far out is that?” Starr remarked.
“From the first beat of ‘Billie Jean’ and the toss of his hat, people were mesmerized. But when he did the iconic moonwalk, it was pure magic. That was the night that he and his career went into orbit and never came down,” Gordy said.
Jackson’s “Thriller” video was also one of the most influential music videos of all time, and helped change “TV’s racial barriers,” Gordy continued. While MTV used to only showcase rock videos by white artists back then, the success of “Thriller” “paved the way for African American artists to achieve major success on the network.”
Many of the presenters said they grew up listening to Jackson, with “Pose” star Mj Rodriguez telling Variety that she has regularly played video cassette tapes of his performances since she was four years old.
“He was a superstar, and his transition from kid star to adult star influenced me and inspired me,” she said. “And it was very, very seamless. That’s what true stardom is, when you make it seamless.”
Other presenters included “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” and “Pose” actor Billy Porter, KISS frontman Gene Simmons, Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, Derek Hough (“World of Dance”), and Adam Lambert.
They paid tribute to music in different television formats, such as theme songs, variety and talk shows, music videos, television series, award shows, and more. The Paley Archive also showed videos looking back at top music moments in television history, on programs ranging from black-and-white classics like “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Twilight Zone,” to modern performances like Kendrick Lamar performing at the Grammy Awards in 2016 or NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” live concert in April.
“Television has the unique ability to bring masses of humanity together in real time to share a moment, either in celebration or mourning,” Lambert said. “It could be a sporting event, like the Super Bowl, a humanitarian appeal, or response to great tragedy — music on television has been the medium with the power and reach to unite a vast audience in common feeling and sense of purpose.”