Ringo Starr, MBE (born Richard Starkey on 7 July 1940) is an English musician, singer, songwriter and actor, best known as the drummer for The Beatles. He was the last to join the "Fab Four" line up and is also the oldest member in the band.
Starr mainly served as a drummer and backing vocalist of The Beatles, but also has achieved success as a songwriter with the group for the songs Don't Pass Me By and Octopus's Garden, served lead vocals on songs such as What Goes On, Yellow Submarine, With a Little Help from My Friends and Good Night, and achieved success in his solo career, with songs such as Photograph and You're Sixteen.
Like the other Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, Richard (or Richie as he was known in those days) also eventually became caught up in Liverpool's Skiffle craze. In the year 1957, Starr started his own group with Eddie Miles, which was originally named the "Eddie Miles Band," but evolved into "Eddie Clayton and the Clayton Squares;" "Clayton Square" was a local landmark and "Clayton" Eddie Miles' stage surname. Starr joined the Raving Texans in 1959, a quartet that backed singer Rory Storm. During this time, he got the nickname Ringo, because of the rings he wore, because it sounded 'cowboyish', and because the name Starr allowed his drum solos to be billed as 'Starr Time'.
Starr originally met the Beatles in Hamburg, in October 1960, while he was performing with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. He also sat in for Pete Best on several occasions. When the Beatles removed Pete Best as their drummer on 16 August 1962, Starr was their choice to replace him.
Although Storm had mixed feelings about losing Starr, Best's fans were upset, holding vigils outside Best's house and fighting at the Cavern Club, shouting 'Pete forever! Ringo never!' Similarly, other fans yelled the contrary: "Ringo forever! Pete never!"
Starr generally sang at least one song on each studio album as part of establishing the vocal personality of all four members, a quality that is rarely seen in other bands. In some cases, Lennon or McCartney would write the lyrics and melody especially for him, as they did for "Yellow Submarine" from Revolver (1966) and "With A Little Help From My Friends" on Sgt. Pepper. Often these melodies would be tailored to Starr's baritone vocal range. Starr's backing vocals can be heard on songs such as "All Together Now", "Carry That Weight", and "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill". On the Beatles cover of "Shout", Ringo sang the part that went "a little bit louder now".
Lennon used Ringo's common original expressions, such as "A Hard Day's Night" and "Tomorrow Never Knows", and turned them into Beatles songs. Ringo occasionally contributed 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 another popular song, and Starr recognised the similarities when they were pointed out.
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. This hiatus yielded the latter song, as he spent the fortnight with actor Peter Sellers on his yacht Amelfis in Piraeus where he wrote "Octopus's Garden." He did not return for two weeks, and 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" disc 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."
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 ... Ringo's a damn good drummer.
Drummer Steve Smith said:
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.
Many drummers list Starr as an influence, including Dave Grohl of Nirvana/Foo Fighters, Orri Páll Dýrason of Sigur Ros, Max Weinberg of the E Street Band, Danny Carey of Tool, Liberty DeVitto of Billy Joel's band, Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden, Phil Collins, Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater and others. According to Collins, "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 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 also considered to have advanced 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, along with his general contributions to The Beatles as a whole. Specific drum parts executed by Starr in notably signature fashion include the fill that brings the drums and bass guitar into "Hey Jude", the steady rock beats in "Please Please Me" and other early Beatles recordings, the drum kit pattern through the bridge of "Hello, Goodbye", the drums and hi-hat rolls on "Come Together", and the driving bass drum notes found in "Lady Madonna", underlying the more intricate, double-tracked snare drum. His use of a 'sizzle' cymbal (a cymbal incorporated with rivets that vibrate) would bring a much fuller sound than standard 'ride' cymbals. Starr comments that his best drumming is on the 1966 single B-side "Rain".
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.
Claims have been made that Starr, in fact, did not drum on many tracks for the group. Such claims have been refuted incontrovertibly, although there are five individual occasions where the drummer on a Beatles track is someone other than Starr. 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 date. Initial pressings of the single used the 4 September recording with Starr on drums; subsequent pressings and the Please Please Me LP used the White sessions. 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. McCartney also played the drums on "The Ballad of John and Yoko," recorded on 14 April 1969, since only Lennon and McCartney 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.
His son, Zak Starkey, is also a highly respected and prolific drummer, who until August 2008 was a semi-official member and drummer in Oasis — one of the many bands influenced by the Beatles. Starr arranged for Zak to receive drumming instruction from Zak's idol, The Who's late drummer Keith Moon, who was a close friend of Starr's. Zak also performs with The Who live and sometimes in studio. In 1985, Starr was the first of The Beatles to become a grandfather upon the birth of Zak's daughter, Tatia Jayne Starkey. Zak also has performed with his father in his All-Starr live versions. Starr became a grandfather again when Jason and his girlfriend, Flora Evans, had Louie Starkey, who was born in 1999, and Sonny Starkey, who was born in 2002. Starr resides in Los Angeles and owns homes in England, Monte Carlo and Switzerland.
Like fellow band mate Paul McCartney, Starr is a vegetarian, because of stomach problems he had in the past.
He also participated in The Concert For Bangladesh organized by Harrison in 1971, as well as drumming on Harrison's All Things Must Pass and Living in the Material World, Lennon's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, and Yoko Ono's early solo work. Indeed, his song "Early 1970" (the B-side of "It Don't Come Easy") voiced a hope that he could remain friendly and play music with all three of his former Beatles band mates. Starr then made his debut as a film director with the T. Rex documentary Born to Boogie. Starr became firm friends with T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan and during the period of filming the documentary, Starr released the single "Back Off Boogaloo".
Starr remains the only Beatle to have failed to top the UK singles charts as a solo artist, although he did chart two number one singles in the US. He is also the only Beatle to have failed to top the UK album listings, his highest position being #7, achieved in the UK with both Sentimental Journey and Ringo; the latter reached #2 in the US charts, giving Starr his highest album position there.
In 1971, he started a furniture company with designer Robin Cruikshank. Starr's own avant-garde designs included a flower-shaped table with adjustable petal seats and a donut-shaped fireplace.
The 1973 album Ringo remains his biggest-selling record. Produced by Richard Perry with participation by the other three former Beatles on different tracks, Starr became the most commercially successful ex-Beatle at that time. The album Goodnight Vienna followed the next year and was also successful. Hits and notable tracks from these two albums included "Photograph" and "You're Sixteen" both reaching number one on the US charts, and "I'm The Greatest" (written by Lennon) from Ringo, and "Only You (And You Alone)" and "No No Song" from Goodnight Vienna. In late 1975 these singles and others were collected for Starr's first greatest hits compilation, Blast from Your Past, which was also the last album to be released on Apple Records. During this period, he became romantically involved with Lynsey De Paul and inspired her prophetic song "If I Don't Get You, the Next One Will". He also played tambourine on a song that De Paul wrote and produced for Vera Lynn, called "Don't You Remember When".
Starr's recording career subsequently diminished in commercial impact, although he continued to record and remained a familiar celebrity presence. Starr signed with Atlantic Records in the mid 1970s, and in 1976 the album Ringo's Rotogravure was released. While it did feature a minor hit single, the album sold only fairly well. In fact, Rotogravure turned out to be Starr's last top 40 album in the US to date peaking at #28 on Billboard and the Single turned out to be the last top 40 single in the US in the 70"s "A Dose of Rock And Roll". This caused the label to revamp Starr's formula; the results were a curious blend of disco and '70s pop. The album Ringo the 4th (1977) was a commercial disaster, and Starr soon signed with Portrait Records. His stint with Portrait began on a promising note: 1978 saw the release of Bad Boy, as well as a network TV special. Neither were very popular, and Starr did not release another album with Portrait.
In 1975, Starr founded his own record label called Ring O'Records, and four albums were released on the label between 1975 and 1978 (Startling Music by David Hentschel, Graham Bonnet by Graham Bonnet, Restless by Rab Noakes and a re-release of an Apple Records album, The Whale by John Tavener) as well as 16 singles by artists such as: Bobby Keys, Carl Grossman, Colonel Doug Bogie, David Hentschel, Graham Bonnet, Suzanne, Johnny Warman, Stormer, Rab Noakes and Dirk & Stig (the last being names of characters from The Beatles pastiche band "the Rutles", created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes).
In 1980, Harrison wrote "All Those Years Ago" for Starr to sing on his album Can't Fight Lightning which was later released as Stop and Smell the Roses. Starr did the track but told Harrison that he was uncomfortable with it because of the lyric content and the vocal range. Harrison sang a re-written version himself, including it on his 1981 album Somewhere in England following Lennon's murder. Starr, along with Paul and Linda McCartney, played on Harrison's version. Starr was interviewed by Rolling Stone and Musician around this time. Stop and Smell the Roses was a well regarded album, but again did not sell particularly well. Coincidentally perhaps, Lennon had also written a song for Starr to use on Roses: "Life Begins At 40". However, following the murder, Starr did not feel comfortable recording the song; it was released posthumously under Lennon's name on the album Milk and Honey.
Although Starr had regularly guested on Lennon's and Harrison's solo efforts, and had had all three of his ex-colleagues guest on various records of his own, it was not until 1982 that he first was asked by McCartney to participate in recording sessions (for the Tug of War album). As was also evident with Harrison's "All Those Years Ago", Lennon's death had in fact led to a public showing of reconciliation between the remaining Beatles.
In 1990, Starr recorded a version of the song "I Call Your Name" for a television special marking the 10th anniversary of John Lennon's death and the 50th anniversary of his birth. The track, produced by Jeff Lynne, features a supergroup comprised of Lynne, Tom Petty, Joe Walsh & Jim Keltner.
In 1987, Starr drummed on the George Harrison song "When We Was Fab" from his album Cloud Nine. Harrison had written the song with Jeff Lynne with the intent of making a modern song referencing the psychedelic Beatles era, ca. 1967. The song charted in the Top 30 in both the UK and the USA.
He served a short stint in a detox clinic for alcoholism Later that year, Starr became a visible presence on the summer touring scene, organising a series of concert tours under the name 'Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band', teaming with well-known musicians from various rock eras. The format of the concerts had Starr singing selections of his Beatles and solo songs, then each of the other musicians taking a turn to sing one of their songs with Starr behind the drums, then Starr singing a couple more, then another go around, and so on. In this way, Starr is relieved from having to carry the full burden of the show, and the audience gets to hear a variety of music. The ninth such All-Starr Band tour took place in 2006.
The success of the initial All-Starr tour led to Starr releasing his first album in nine years, 1992's Time Takes Time. It received substantial exposure and the track "Weight Of The World" got considerable airplay. Critics considered Time Takes Time Ringo's best recording since 1973's Ringo. The album was produced by four of the top producers in music: Phil Ramone, Don Was, Jeff Lynne and Peter Asher, and also featured guest appearances by various stars including Brian Wilson and Harry Nilsson.
In 1997, Starr guested on drums on two songs on the Paul McCartney album Flaming Pie. McCartney had written a song about Starr's ex-wife Maureen Starkey ("Little Willow") and asked Starr if he'd play on another ("Beautiful Night"). On the day subsequent to the "Beautiful Night" session, the two recorded a jam session which developed into another song, "Really Love You", notable for being the first song ever credited to McCartney/Starkey and officially released on an album. (An earlier co-write called "Angel in Disguise" was cut from the album Time Takes Time, and a song on the Let It Be film soundtrack was also credited to the two.)
In 1998, he released two albums on the Mercury label. The studio album Vertical Man was well-received by critics and marked the beginning of a nine-year "partnership" with Mark Hudson, who produced the album and, with his band The Roundheads, formed the core of the backing group for the album. In addition, many "famous guests" joined on various tracks, including George Martin, Paul McCartney, and ― in his final appearance on a Ringo Starr album before his death ― George Harrison. Most of the songs were written by Starr and the band. The Roundheads and Joe Walsh also joined Starr for his appearance on VH1 Storytellers, which was released as an album under the same name. On the show, he performed greatest hits and new songs, and told anecdotes relating to them.
In 2001 following Harrison's death of throat cancer on 29 November, he told MTV, Good Morning America, The Early Show, and The Today Show, among many others, that "We will miss George for his sense of humor."
On 29 November 2002, Starr performed "Photograph" and a cover of Carl Perkins' "Honey Don't" at the Concert For George held in the Royal Albert Hall, London, on the first anniversary of Harrison's death. According to the official website, "Ringo Starr caught everyone with a tear in their eye with a rendition of 'Photograph', a composition he wrote with George, which seemed to sum up how everyone felt." The song includes the lines, "Every time I see your face / it reminds me of the places we used to go / But all I've got is a photograph / and I realize you're not coming back anymore".
In June 2007 the newest studio album by Ringo Starr was expected, produced by Dave Stewart, Mark Hudson and Starr himself, and titled Liverpool 8. However, the release was pushed back to the beginning of 2008; the album was officially released in Europe in the second week of January, 2008. Mark Hudson was the initial producer of the record but was replaced by Stewart after a falling out with Starr. (The album's production credits read, "Produced by Ringo Starr and Mark Hudson; Re-Produced by Ringo Starr and David Stewart." All of the songs but one were written with members of the Roundheads, although Stewart also has several co-writing credits.) Starr's attorney Bruce Grakal told journalist Peter Palmiere that the partnership between Hudson and Starr was over and they would never work together again. This happened after Hudson dropped out of the 2006 tour as musical director to do the TV show "The One: Making A Music Star". According to Palmiere, Hudson now claims that the split was over Starr's insistence on using synthesized sounds, for which Stewart is known, whereas Hudson wanted real guitars, pianos, strings etc. However, about the parting with Hudson, Starr said (in response to Palmiere's report), "The separation between Mark Hudson and myself was a question of trust and friendship and had nothing to do with synthesizers."
On 11 January 2008, Ringo Starr played to a crowd of over 25,000 people on top of St George's Hall, Liverpool to start off Liverpool's European Capital of Culture year at 8 minutes past 8 (20:08). He performed a bit of drumming to start with, with some of the guitarists, and then later performed a new song from his album Liverpool 8 with Dave Stewart. The following day, Starr performed at the new Echo Arena at King's Dock, Liverpool, in the show Liverpool - The Musical.
On 25 January 2008, Starr appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. He was the only guest on the show and performed four songs — "Photograph", "Liverpool 8", "Boys", and "With a Little Help From My Friends".
On 27 August 2006, Starr's wife Barbara Bach was kicked by a horse and broke her leg while they were celebrating her 59th birthday. Starr rushed her to Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford. She had surgery to repair her fractured right femur.
On 26 June 2007, Starr appeared on CNN's Larry King Live along with McCartney, Yoko Ono Lennon, Olivia Harrison, and Guy Laliberté (Founder of Cirque du Soleil). They promoted the "Revolution" Lounge at "The Mirage" in Las Vegas, Nevada. They also commemorated the one year anniversary of Cirque du Soleil's "Love". The special was live from The Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. At one point, Larry King called Starr George, to which McCartney replied "This is Ringo, not George."
In the 24 December 2007 issue of Time (European edition), Starr was profiled in a three-page article focusing on his happiness in life and his music. The article mentioned the Liverpool 8 album, but only briefly. It also stated that Starr and Dave Stewart are collaborating on writing a musical, to be called The Hole in the Fence, and discussed Starr's then-upcoming performance in Liverpool on 11 January 2008.
In 1985, Starr played the Mock Turtle in the film version of Alice in Wonderland.
Also in 1984, Ringo appeared on Saturday Night Live as a Jefferson-watching, plastic-bubble-wrapping Beatles artifact. When asked what he wanted from the kitchen his line was, "Peach Melba, please."
In 1984, Starr narrated the children's television series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. He was unsure about taking the role at first, having never previously read the books by Reverend Awdry, and at the time he felt that children would be more interested in "dinosaurs with lasers." Nevertheless, he had a change of heart and took the role, narrating the first two series. Starr also portrayed the character Mr. Conductor in the program's American spin-off Shining Time Station, which debuted in 1989.
In 1989, he appeared with his daughter Lee in a US television commercial for Oldsmobile, in which he narrated the first line of automaker's new jingle (to his daughter), "This is not your father's Oldsmobile!".
In 1991, Starr appeared as himself in an episode of the animated comedy programme The Simpsons, titled "Brush with Greatness". He was the first Beatle to appear on the show. (Harrison and McCartney lent their voices to the series in later episodes.) In the same year Starr recorded the song "You'll Never Know", which was played over the end credits in the James Belushi motion picture Curly Sue.
In 1993, Ringo filmed a documentary for the Disney Channel entitled "Ringo Starr: Coming Home". The 90 minute special featured Starr revisiting his hometown of Liverpool and reminiscing about the early days of The Beatles, while also featuring current concert footage of Ringo's All Starr Band. The TV special came on the heels of Ringo's first album release in 10 years, Time Takes Time, and therefore included clips of nearly all of the album's songs.
In 1995, Starr painted the design for the first card for Discover Card's Private Issue series of credit cards, and appeared in the commercials for the card until the second design came out.
In 1996, Starr appeared in a Japanese advertisement for apple juice; 'ringo' is Japanese for 'apple'. In the mid-1990s, Starr appeared in an advertisement for Pizza Hut, pronouncing that the time is ripe for 'the lads' to get back together. At the commercial's pay-off, he is joined by three members of the Monkees (Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Davy Jones) and quips to the camera, "Wrong lads.
In 2000, he appeared in the first of the "Smart Investor" TV commercials for Charles Schwab Brokerage. In the commercial, Starr is trying to help a group of young songwriters come up with a rhyme for "elation". Starr suggests such financial investment terms as "dividend reinvestment participation", "market capitalization", "European market fluctuation" and "asset allocation", as an instrumental version of the song Money, recorded by The Beatles, plays in the background. At the commercial's pay-off, he looks at the confused songwriters and says, "What? Too many syllables?
In 2001, Starr voiced the Duck brothers in the cartoon show Courage the Cowardly Dog.
In January 2008, Starr appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross where he appeared to make disparaging comments about his hometown of Liverpool. When asked by Ross if he missed anything about the city, he laughed, eventually replying in the negative. This was greeted with disappointment by many residents, and deemed hypocritical in light of his appearance in the European Capital of Culture celebrations.
The Beatles won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score for 1970 for the film Let It Be. Each Beatle received an Oscar.
All four of The Beatles were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when the group was inducted in 1988. Since then, Lennon (1994), McCartney (1999), and Harrison (2004) have been inducted for their solo careers as well. Starr remains the only Beatle not to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his solo career.
However, it was announced on 5 September 2007 that Ringo Starr will be on the ballot for membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame as a solo artist.
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