60s Music

Ringo Starr

Meet the Starr from the Beatles!

Ringo Starr
A colour photograph of Starr wearing sunglasses and a black T-shirt. (Source: Wikipedia)

Sir Ringo Starr is an English drummer, singer and actor who achieved international fame as one of the Beatles during the 1960s. .

During his time with the Beatles, Starr also sang lead vocals in few of the songs such as “Boys”, “What Goes On”, “Yellow Submarine”, “With A Little Help From My Friends” as well as the songs he solely wrote, “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Octopus’ Garden”.

After the Beatles, Starr also led a considerably successful solo career, scoring some high-charting singles such as “It Don’t Come Easy”, “Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen”. In addition to being a musician, Starr also possessed acting chops; he was always considered as the actor among all the other Beatles especially in their films “A Hard Days’ Night” and “Help”. After the Beatles he acted in other films such as That’ll Be The Day, Son of Dracula andCaveman, where he met his future second wife Barbara Bach.

Starr led his own supergroup, Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band, formed in 1989 – its changing lineup has seen many members such as keyboardist Billy Preston (who played in the film Let It Be), Levon Helm (of The Band), and Todd Rundgren, to name a few; it once also included his son Zak Starkey, who is an accomplished drummer himself.

But above all else, Starr’s drumming has been widely praised and admired the most by peers and fans, though he himself has admitted about his lack of technical sophistication in drumming. It must be so because he was born left-handed (although he has been ambidextrous for quite a long time) playing in a right-handed drum kit, thus causing the limitations; he isn’t also a flashy drummer either but he is noted for his solid beats. He has influenced other drummers after him including Phil Collins and Nirvana’s Dave Grohl; Starr was voted as the fifth greatest drummer according to the music magazine Rolling Stone.

 

Ringo Starr was born Richard Starkey in Liverpool, England on July 7, 1970. His father left the family when Starkey was three. He was a sickly child, and he had missed a lot of classes because of his illnesses. A few of those illnesses were even life-threatening. Starkey spent a lot of his childhood in the hospital and during his teens he finally dropped out of school.

Starkey acquired an interest in drums and percussions when he was a teenager. His stepfather was also a music fan, and supported Starkey’s interest in music by buying him his first drum kit. He was acquiring more and more facility on the instrument until he felt ready to play in a band.

Starkey began playing in a skiffle band, The Texans, led by Al Caldwell. The Texans later transformed themselves into a proper rock and roll band, and Caldwell started to bill himself as Rory Storm. The band finally had renamed themselves Rory Storm and the Hurricanes before recruiting Starkey. At the time Starkey joined Rory Storm and the Hurricanes he adopted the stage name of Ringo Starr because of many rings he wore on his hand, plus the name suggested the influence on him of American country and western. His drum solos gained a reputation and were even billed, “Starr-time.”

Starr first met the Beatles in 1960 while they were playing in Hamburg, Germany. Two years later Starr was asked by Lennon to join the Beatles, and Starr accepted. The band and their new manager Brian Epstein had fired another drummer, Pete Best.

Under the wings of Epstein and record producer George Martin, The Beatles became a nationwide sensation in England. Soon the group transformed themselves into global superstars, creating a cultural phenomenon called Beatlemania. From 1962 to 1970, the Beatles rose to become one of the most successful and critically-acclaimed bands in the history of rock.

During his time with the Beatles, Starr was obviously overshadowed, especially by Lennon and Paul McCartney and to some extent George Harrison, in terms of songwriting contributions. But he was known for his solid drumming, and made great contributions to the group’s most important creative endeavors. Other drummers would “languish” in the background (not only literally, but figuratively). But Starr never experienced that fate and was seen as an equal part of the Beatles. Starr was (pardon the pun) a star in his own right.

The Beatles made two feature films at the height of Beatlemania, A Hard Day’s Night and Help. In these movies, Starr was discovered to have a better natural acting talent compared to the other three Beatles. But he would play his first non-Beatle role in the 1968 adult comedy Candy, making his mark as a professional actor.

Starr also sang lead vocals for a few Beatles songs, including “Boys,” “Matchbox,” “Honey Don’t,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “Act Naturally,” “Yellow Submarine,” “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “Good Night,” and his own compositions “What Goes On,” “Don’t Pass Me By,” and “Octopus’s Garden.”

Ringo Starr is also famous for having blurted out lyrical-sounding “malapropisms” which were the basis for some of the Beatle song titles such as “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” He appended a few unfinished Lennon-McCartney compositions such as “Eleanor Rigby,” and also received songwriting credits for the instrumental “Flying” from Magical Mystery Tour.

After the break-up of the world’s most beloved band in 1970, Starr immediately launched a solo career, like the rest of the Beatles. His first solo album was Sentimental Journey, which was released in 1970. Although the album had no singles, Starr’s fame as a former member of the Beatles afforded it a high place on the US and UK charts at #22 and #7, respectively. He had a minor hit with his first charting single “Beacoups of Blues” from his second album of the same name.

 

Starr released his third LP Ringo (1973) which featured his first #1 hit “Photograph,” a single written by himself and Harrison. The song remains one of Starr’s best-loved tunes. He scored another #1 hit with a cover of Johnny Burnette’s “You’re Sixteen,” and another US Top 10 hit “Oh My My” (at #5), both of which were also part of Ringo’s tracklist.

 

Ringo Starr achieved his first Top 10 hit on the Billboard charts with 1971’s “It Don’t Come Easy” which he also wrote. “It Don’t Come Easy” went to #4 on both the US and UK charts that year. The track was produced by Harrison, who also midwifed Starr’s next hit “Back Off Boogaloo” (#9 US, #2 UK) in 1972.

In late 1974 Starr released his fourth LP Goodnight Vienna, which was to become his last album on the Apple label. The album yielded two major hits with “Only You (And You Alone)” (at #6, US) and “No, No Song” (at #3, US). The “No, No Song,” written by Hoyt Axton and David Jackson, depicts a recovered former addict’s firm refusal to any kind of drugs offered to him. It was also to be Starr’s last Top 10 single.

Aside from music, Starr also invested his time and creativity in the world of films. He directed his first film Born To Boogie (1972), a documentary about the glam rockers T-Rex. He acted in several films, such as The Magic Christian, 200 Motels, That’ll Be The Day, Son Of Dracula, Sextette, and Caveman, the last film was where he met his would-be second wife Barbara Bach. He also acted (together with McCartney) in 1984’s Give My Regards To Broadstreet as himself, and appeared in several documentaries such as The Concert For Bangladesh, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, The Day The Music Died, The Beatles and Beyond, Queen: The Magic Years, and George Harrison: Living In The Material World.

Starr also has had success with his own supergroup Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. Its lineup has been constantly shifting, with many of the world’s most famous and respectable musicians having played there either as members or guest performers. These include Billy Preston; The Band’s Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Garth Hudson; Todd Rundgren; Joe Walsh (of Eagles and James Gang); Harry Nilsson; John Entwistle (The Who); Peter Frampton; Eric Carmen; Ray Davies; Richard Marx; Rod Argent (The Zombies); Ginger Baker, and many others. McCartney also guest-performed in the All-Star Band, and Starr’s own son Zak Starkey has played drums there.

During the 1990s, Starr, together with the other surviving former Beatles McCartney and Harrison, reunited for the phenomenally successful Anthology albums. Harrison later died in 2001. McCartney, Starr, and other music legends performed at the Concert For George event, on the first anniversary of Harrison’s death.

Although his commercial success has dwindled, Starr nevertheless has remained active recording and touring. He released his most recent album to date, Ringo 2012.

Ringo Starr has never been a flashy drummer, but his innovative drumming techniques have earned him accolades from music journalists and influenced several future drummers, including Phil Collins. His signature rock-solid pounding, with all the right tempos and his unique drumming parts, became an integral part of almost every Beatles song. Starr was voted as the fifth all-time best drummer by the music magazine Rolling Stone. Although he has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame as a solo artist, he has been given that honor as a member of the Beatles, in 1988. He has been a Member of Order Of The British Empire (MBE) since 1965, along with the other Beatles.

In 2018 New Year Honours, Starr was awarded with the title “Knight Bachelor” from Queen Elizabeth II for his services in music. It made him the second and the only other Beatle to be knighted than, of course, Sir Paul McCartney (Lennon and Harrison were never knighted, although they received MBE honors). Many music insiders opined that the honors for Sir Ringo Starr (or you may call him the more proper “Sir Richard Starkey”) have been long overdue. But still, it’s better late than never for the legendary Beatles drummer.

 

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