Ringo Starr Biography

Richard Henry Parkin Starkey, 7 July 1940, Dingle, Liverpool, Lancashire, England. Starkey established his reputation on the nascent Merseybeat circuit as drummer with Rory Storm And The Hurricanes. He later became acquainted with the Beatles, and having established a lively rapport with three of the group, became the natural successor to the taciturn Pete Best upon his firing in 1962. Ringo - a name derived from his many finger adornments - offered a simple, uncluttered playing style which formed the ideal bedrock for his partners’ sense of melody. Although overshadowed musically, a deadpan sense of humour helped establish his individuality and each album also contained an obligatory Starr vocal. The most notable of these was ‘Yellow Submarine’, a million-selling single in 1966. Ringo’s success in the band’s attendant films, A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, inspired an acting career and comedy roles in Candy and The Magic Christian ensued.

Starr’s solo recording career started in 1970 with Sentimental Journey, a collection of standards, and Beaucoups Of Blues, a country selection recorded in Nashville. Both albums predated the Beatles’ demise. Fears that his career would then falter proved unfounded. Starr’s debut single, ‘It Don’t Come Easy’, co-written with George Harrison, topped the US charts in 1971 and sold in excess of 1 million copies while the same songwriting pair also created ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ (1972) and the wonderful ‘Photograph’ (1973). Starr’s third solo album Ringo featured songs and contributions from each of his former colleagues, although none were recorded together. Buoyed by strong original material and judicious rock ‘n’ roll favourites, the album later achieved platinum status and was rightly lauded as one of the strongest ex-Beatles’ collections. ‘You’re Sixteen’ topped the US chart in 1974, but despite further success with ‘Oh My My’, ‘Snookeroo’ (penned by Elton John and Bernie Taupin) and ‘Only You (And You Alone)’, Starr’s momentum then waned. His film career enjoyed a brief renaissance, with production work on Born To Boogie followed by a highly-praised role in 1973’s That’ll Be The Day. The albums Ringo The 4th (1977) and Bad Boy (1978) showed an artist bereft of direction, however, and the 1983 album Old Wave was denied a release in both the US and UK.

This period was marred by alcoholism and chronic ill health, but during this nadir Starr reached a completely new audience as narrator of the award winning children’s television series, Thomas The Tank Engine. He signalled his return to active performing with a guest appearance on Carl Perkins’ tribute show. However, an album recorded with US producer Chips Moman in 1987 was abandoned when sessions were blighted by excessive imbibing. Starr then underwent highly-publicized treatment at an alcohol rehabilitation clinic with his wife, actress Barbara Bach, before reasserting his musical career with the All-Starr Band. Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Nils Lofgren, Billy Preston, Joe Walsh and Dr. John were among those joining the drummer for a successful 1989 US tour, later the subject of an album and video. The stellar cast Starr was able to assemble confirmed the respect he is still afforded, and he has continued working with various line-ups of the All-Starr Band into the new millennium

Starr received a high-profile in 1992 with a new album (Time Takes Time) and tour. The record coincided with the 25th anniversary of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band which was a timely reminder that his playing on that album was quite superb, and, in addition to his equally fine performance on Abbey Road, begs for a re-appraisal of his standing as a drummer which appears grossly underrated.

Starr undertook many interviews in 1998 when Vertical Man was released. It seemed for once that he had something to say about the past, although his apparent anger stems from the fact that he is still regarded as the ‘merely’ the drummer for the Beatles. That is unlikely to ever change, even though 2005’s Choose Love was probably his best solo effort for three decades, despite many of the songs being workmanlike. Whilst he may tire of constantly having to recycle the past, to the detriment of his still active solo career, ex-Beatle Ringo Starr is far too important to millions of people. His poignant performance of ‘Photograph’ at the Concert For George in November 2002, in remembrance of the late George Harrison, highlighted Starr’s great ability to love, and in turn, be loved.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.