Richard Starkey, MBE (born 7 July 1940), better known by his stage name Ringo Starr, is an English musician, singer-songwriter, and actor who gained worldwide fame as the drummer for The Beatles. When the band formed in 1960, Starr belonged to another Liverpool band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. He became The Beatles' drummer in August 1962, taking over from Pete Best. In addition to his contribution as drummer, Starr featured as lead vocals on a number of successful Beatles songs (in particular, "With a Little Help from My Friends", "Yellow Submarine", and The Beatles version of "Act Naturally"), as co-writer with the song "What Goes On" and primary writer with "Don't Pass Me By" and "Octopus's Garden".
As drummer for The Beatles, Starr was musically creative, and his contribution to the band's music has received high praise from notable drummers in more recent times. Starr described himself as "your basic offbeat drummer with funny fills", technically limited by being a left-handed person playing a right-handed kit. Drummer Steve Smith said that Starr's popularity "brought forth a new paradigm" where "we started to see the drummer as an equal participant in the compositional aspect" and that Starr "composed unique, stylistic drum parts for The Beatles songs".
Starr is the most documented and critically acclaimed actor-Beatle, playing a central role in several Beatles films, and appearing in numerous other movies, both during and after his career with The Beatles. After The Beatles' break-up in 1970, Starr achieved solo musical success with several singles and albums, and recorded with each of his fellow ex-Beatles as they too developed their post-Beatle musical careers. He has also been featured in a number of TV documentaries, hosted TV shows, and narrated the first two series of the children's television series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. He currently tours with the All-Starr Band, making stops in such cities as New York and Boston.
The Beatles: 1962–1970
Main article: The BeatlesRingo Starr (bottom right) with John Lennon (top left), Paul McCartney (top right) and George Harrison (bottom left), arriving in New York City in 1964===Vocals=== Starr generally sang at least one song on each studio album as part of an attempt to establish the vocal personality of all four members. In some cases, Lennon or McCartney wrote the lyrics and melody especially for him, as they did for "Yellow Submarine" from Revolver and "With a Little Help from My Friends" on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. These melodies were tailored to Starr's baritone vocal range. Starr's backing vocals are heard on songs such as "Carry That Weight", and "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill".
The Beatles used Starr's unusual turns of phrase, or "Ringoisms" as they became known, such as "a hard day's night" and "tomorrow never knows", and turned them into songs. Recalling this, McCartney said, "Ringo would do these little malapropisms, he would say things slightly wrong, like people do, but his were always wonderful, very lyrical... they were sort of magic". As well as inspiring his bandmates' creativity in this way, Starr occasionally contributed his own lyrics to unfinished Lennon and McCartney songs, such as the line "darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there" in "Eleanor Rigby". Frustrated at times of being the odd man out in the group in regard to songwriting, Starr commented in The Beatles Anthology that when he presented a song to The Beatles, it would often sound to the other three Beatles like a popular song of the day. Starr did eventually begin composing, and is credited with "Don't Pass Me By" (on The White Album) and "Octopus's Garden" (on Abbey Road) as sole songwriter.
His disgust with the band's tensions and boredom at waiting around to contribute during the sessions for the White Album caused him to quit the group temporarily. He spent two weeks with actor Peter Sellers on the latter's yacht, Amelfis, in Piraeus, where he wrote "Octopus's Garden". He did not return for two weeks, even though the other Beatles urged him to come back: Lennon sent telegrams, and Harrison set up flowers all over the studio for Starr's return saying "Welcome home". Starr's name also appears as a co-writer for the Rubber Soul track "What Goes On" along with Lennon and McCartney, while the songs "Flying" (on the Magical Mystery Tour album) and "Dig It" (on Let It Be) are listed as being written by the entire group. On issued material after the break-up, Starr wrote "Taking a Trip to Carolina" from the second "bonus" CD of Let It Be... Naked, and received joint songwriting credits with the other three Beatles for "12-Bar Original", "Los Paranoias", "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)", "Suzy Parker" (heard in the Let It Be film), "Jessie's Dream" (heard in the Magical Mystery Tour film) and The Beatles' version of "Free as a Bird".
McCartney, Harrison, Lennon and Jimmie Nicol in the Netherlands on June 5, 1964In June 1964, The Beatles were scheduled to tour Denmark, the Netherlands, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. On 3 June, the day before the tour, Starr collapsed during an early morning photo session for the Saturday Evening Post at a portrait studio in Barnes, London. Stricken with a 102-degree fever and tonsillitis, he was rushed to the hospital. This bout with tonsillitis necessitated a stay in hospital and a few days of recuperation at home. During this time, Starr was temporarily replaced for the Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Hong Kong and Adelaide concert dates by 24-year-old session drummer Jimmie Nicol. Beatles producer George Martin suggested Nicol because he had recently recorded at EMI with Tommy Quickly and recently became familiar with Beatles numbers while drumming on a recording session for an album called Beatlemania. At first, Harrison did not want Starr to be replaced and refused to go on the tour without Starr, but Brian Epstein and George Martin convinced Harrison to begin the tour. Starr was discharged from the hospital on 11 June, and he rejoined the group in Melbourne on 15 June 1964. Ultimately, Starr had his tonsils removed during The Beatles' Christmas vacation period later in the year. Starr would later admit that he feared that he would be permanently replaced during his illness.
While Starr himself has been the first to acknowledge the technical limitations of his drumming for The Beatles, the overall effect of his contribution has received high praise from notable drummers. Starr said, "Whenever I hear another drummer I know I'm no good. I'm no good on the technical things [...] I'm your basic offbeat drummer with funny fills. The fills were funny because I'm really left-handed playing a right-handed kit. I can't roll around the drums because of that." Martin's version was, "Ringo hit good and hard and used the tom-tom well, even though he couldn't do a roll to save his life", although Martin later added, "He's got tremendous feel. He always helped us to hit the right tempo for a song, and gave it that support — that rock-solid back-beat — that made the recording of all The Beatles' songs that much easier." Lennon, asked if Starr was the best drummer in the world, jokingly replied, "He's not even the best drummer in The Beatles!", but also said, "Ringo's a damn good drummer. He always was a good drummer. He's not technically good, but I think Ringo's drumming is underrated the same way as Paul's bass playing is underrated." McCartney sent Starr a postcard on 31 January 1969 (the day after the band's performance on the roof of Apple Studios) stating: 'You are the greatest drummer in the world. Really.' This postcard is included in Starr's book Postcards from the Boys.
Drummer Steve Smith extolled Starr's qualities beyond the technical, in terms of his musical contribution as drummer:
|“||Before Ringo, drum stars were measured by their soloing ability and virtuosity. Ringo's popularity brought forth a new paradigm in how the public saw drummers. We started to see the drummer as an equal participant in the compositional aspect. One of Ringo's great qualities was that he composed unique, stylistic drum parts for The Beatles' songs. His parts are so signature to the songs that you can listen to a Ringo drum part without the rest of the music and still identify the song.||”|
|“||Starr is vastly underrated. The drum fills on the song "A Day in the Life" are very complex things. You could take a great drummer today and say, 'I want it like that.' He wouldn't know what to do.||”|
In September 1980, John Lennon had this to say about Starr:
|“||Ringo was a star in his own right in Liverpool before we even met. He was a professional drummer who sang and performed and had Ringo Starr-time and he was in one of the top groups in Britain but especially in Liverpool before we even had a drummer. So Ringo's talent would have come out one way or the other as something or other. I don't know what he would have ended up as, but whatever that spark is in Ringo that we all know but can't put our finger on — whether it is acting, drumming or singing I don't know — there is something in him that is projectable and he would have surfaced with or without The Beatles. Ringo is a damn good drummer.||”|
Many drummers acknowledge Starr as an influence, including Steve Gorman of The Black Crowes, Dave Grohl of Nirvana, Jen Ledger of Skillet, Max Weinberg of the E Street Band, Danny Carey of Tool, Liberty DeVitto of Billy Joel's band, Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden, Eric Carr of Kiss, Phil Rudd of AC/DC, Orri Páll Dýrason of Sigur Rós, the former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, Pedro Andreu of Heroes del Silencio and others.
In his extensive survey of The Beatles' recording sessions, Mark Lewisohn confirmed that Starr was both proficient and remarkably reliable and consistent. According to Lewisohn, there were fewer than a dozen occasions in The Beatles' eight-year recording career where session 'breakdowns' were caused by Starr making a mistake, while the vast majority of takes were stopped owing to mistakes by the other three members. Starr is considered to have influenced various modern drumming techniques, such as the matched grip, placing the drums on high risers for visibility as part of the band, tuning the drums lower, and using muffling devices on tonal rings.
Starr drummed on all but five of the band's released tracks that feature drumming. For the band's second recording session with Starr as a member on 11 September 1962, producer George Martin replaced the studio-inexperienced Starr with session drummer Andy White to record takes for what would be the two sides of The Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do" backed with "P.S. I Love You". Starr played tambourine on "Love Me Do" and maracas on "P.S. I Love You" for this session. McCartney took over the drums on "Back in the U.S.S.R." and "Dear Prudence" from the White Album (1968) after Starr had walked out, and also played the drums on "The Ballad of John and Yoko", recorded on 14 April 1969, since only he and Lennon were immediately available to record the song. Starr commented that he was lucky in being "surrounded by three frustrated drummers" who could only drum in one style.
After the Beatles
After the announcement of the break-up of The Beatles on 10 April 1970, Starr released two albums before the end of that year. Sentimental Journey featured Starr's renditions of many pre-rock standards and included the arranger talents of Quincy Jones, Maurice Gibb, George Martin and McCartney, among others. His next album, Beaucoups of Blues, put Starr in a country context, and included renowned Nashville session musician Pete Drake. He scored hit singles with "It Don't Come Easy" (1971) (US #4) and "Back Off Boogaloo" (1972) (US #9), the latter of which was his biggest UK hit, peaking at #2. He achieved two #1 hits in the US, with "Photograph" (co-written with Harrison) and "You're Sixteen" (written by the Sherman Brothers of Mary Poppins fame).