Ringo is Ringo, that's all there is to it. And he's every bloody bit as warm, unassuming, funny and kind as he seems. He was quite simply the heart of The Beatles.
- John Lennon.
Richard Starkey was born on 7 July, 1940, in Liverpool, England. His parents divorced when he was only three, although his mother later remarried and his new stepfather was an encouraging influence. Richard spent a good deal of his childhood in hospital, and he practised drums there. Several illnesses put paid to an academic career as he fell far behind his peers at school. So, when he finally left hospital, his first job was as a delivery boy for British Rail. Next he was a barman on a ferry to New Brighton, but he was constantly seasick. His next disastrous employment experience was as a trainee joiner at Henry Hunt and Sons, but he was too clumsy and accident-prone to successfully make furniture. The only thing he was any good at was making music, so he decided to become a full-time musician.
Playing without Ringo is like driving a car on three wheels.
- George Harrison.
Richard befriended The Beatles while playing drums in the group Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. At the time, many artists were adopting nicknames that made them sound more exciting, or at least more transatlantic. When he joined Rory Storm's band (Rory Storm itself was a nickname), Richard Starkey soon became Ringo Starr due to his ring-adorned fingers. When asked why he wore rings on his fingers, he said it was because he couldn't fit them in his nose. He sat in for The Beatles when their regular drummer was unavailable, and finally replaced Pete Best in September, 1962 at the request of George Martin. As well as the drums, Ringo is adept at playing the piano, guitar, organ and harmonica1.
At The Beatles' first press conference in the USA in July, 1964, they were standing in line when someone shouted out: 'What do you think of the comment that you're nothing but a bunch of British Elvis Presleys?' Ringo gyrated like the King and gushed: 'It's not true! It's not true!' causing a good deal of laughter.
Ringo is also a songwriter: he wrote 'Don't Pass Me By' and 'Octopus's Garden' while with The Beatles2. Up against the songwriting talents of Lennon and McCartney, Ringo, along with George Harrison, struggled for solo recognition. Although The Beatles albums contained a track or two with Ringo as lead vocalist, these efforts became known as 'the obligatory Ringo track'. This wasn't meant as an insult - it was a way of making him feel involved in the process as he was very insecure; as a latecomer to the band he was even at risk of being removed during the recording of their first album - and he knew it. Ringo performed the lead vocal on 'Yellow Submarine', which was a million-selling single in 1966 and made the number one spot in 13 different countries.
The cartoon Yellow Submarine is (allegedly) Queen Elizabeth II's favourite film, but this could be an urban myth - possibly started by Ringo. The Beatles themselves were involved in the making of the film, the scene with the yellow submarine chasing Ringo down the road was, apparently, John's idea.
There was so much good music in Rishikesh. A lot of the guys wrote some good songs there - if nothing else, that was well worth it. In many ways it was also our first experience of being left alone, although the press caught up with us and photographed us leaving. But we did have plenty of time on our own. The bathroom was full of scorpions - these are just flash memories - you had to make a lot of noise before you went in. And that was that. I'm still glad I went and feel so blessed I met the Maharishi - he gave me a mantra that no one can take away and I still use it.
- quote from Ringo Starr in Postcards From The Boys.
Fireworks and Herbs Don't Mix
One Bonfire Night at Ringo's home, he and John Lennon decided to show their kids (they would have been around the ages of two or three) some fireworks. They bought fizzy ones because they'd smoked a lot of herbal stuff so didn't want anything really loud. They set the whole thing up, sat around, 'relaxed' a little, then went outside to watch the big show and everything they bought exploded! Ringo recalls: What the kids must have thought, I don't know because the grown-ups were going 'Ow! Ow! Aaaagh!' We were so shocked we had to go back inside. And that's what makes our children what they are today.
After The Beatles split up in 1970, the most immediately prolific ex-Beatle was Ringo. He was less tied up in legal red tape than John and Paul, who had a writing partnership to dissolve. Ringo's first two albums, Sentimental Journey (which included Cole Porter's 'Night and Day' for his mother), and Beaucoups of Blues (an album full of country covers, recorded in Nashville), were less trumpeted than George and Paul's, which received a mauling. John was off promoting world peace and appearing naked on television and in newspapers with Yoko, so Ringo escaped the (bad) publicity. Although Ringo never had anywhere near the success of the other three in terms of sales, he just kept making the kind of music he liked. George performed on Ringo's first and second singles: 'It Don't Come Easy' released in April, 1971, and 'Back Off Boogaloo' in March, 1972.
Released in November, 1973, Ringo's gold (million-selling) album Ringo3 charted for 37 weeks. It featured songs and individual vocal contributions from George, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Although no one recorded at the same time, the recording sessions sparked rumours of The Beatles reforming. Other musician friends credited on the album include Marc Bolan, Billy Preston and Harry Nilsson. Ringo's single 'Photograph' from the album was a huge success, it was in keeping with his 'melancholy' character from The Beatles. His cover of Johnny Burnette's 1961 hit 'You're Sixteen' made the top ten in the UK and topped the US chart in 1974.
Alcohol and other lifestyle problems got in the way of superstardom for Ringo and he had to spend time in rehab to recover from his addictions and overindulgence. Now recovered, Ringo regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
More Solo Albums
- Goodnight Vienna (1974)
- Ringo's Rotogravure (1976)
- Ringo the 4th (1977)
- Bad Boy (1978)
- Stop and Smell the Roses (1981)
- Old Wave (1983)
- Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band (1990) (live4)
- Time Takes Time (1992)
- Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band, Vol 2: Live From Montreux (1993) This live album featured Ringo's son Zak Starkey as guest drummer.
- Ringo Starr and His Third All-Starr Band (1995) (live)
- Vertical Man (1998)
- VH1 Storytellers (1998) This live recording features Ringo introducing each song, and the story behind it. It wasn't successful commercially, but was well-lauded by reviewers.
- I Wanna Be Santa Claus (Ringo's only Christmas album, released in 1999 and re-released in 2003, he co-wrote seven of the 12 tracks)
- King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Ringo & His New All-Starr Band (2002) A live album, the first on the King Biscuit label, it also failed to chart.
- Ringo Rama (2003) was Ringo's first studio album in six years. It features lead guitar by Eric Clapton. This album also includes a beautiful duet with Willie Nelson called 'Write One For Me'.
- Tour 2003 (live)
- Extended Versions (2003)
- Choose Love (2005)
- Ringo Starr and Friends A live album of his successful 2005/6 tour, starring guest artists David Bowie and Prince.
- Blast From Your Past (1975)
- Starr Struck: Best of Ringo Starr, Vol 2 (1989)
- The Anthology...So Far (2001)
In 2001, after three albums in a row failed to reach expected sales, Mercury Records dropped Ringo from their books. Ringo now has his own production company, Rocca Bella.
Ringo caught the acting bug while with The Beatles5. With his diminutive stature, neanderthal looks, deep Merseyside accent and lack of fashion sense, he was never considered leading-man material. Luckily his sense of humour shone through, he missed his calling in the Carry On genre.
His roles included starring with David Essex in the acclaimed musical drama That'll Be The Day, The Magic Christian with Peter Sellers, and in Lisztomania, Ken Russell's 1975 'erotic, exotic, electrifying, rock fantasy', Ringo played The Pope. Caveman, starring Ringo and his wife Barbara Bach (with Dennis Quaid and Shelley Long), was an 1981 slapstick comedy applying some modern-day human foibles and weaknesses to cavemen characters.
Ringo made a guest voice appearance on The Simpsons in 1991.
Thomas the Tank Engine
From 1984 to 1992 Ringo voiced the characters of the popular Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends children's TV series.
I'm so excited to become a 'reluctant' superhero. How great to hang out with Stan and laugh, laugh, laugh, as we're in the first stages of creating this soon-to-be masterpiece. Adding music to this adventure is something I am also looking forward to.
- Ringo Starr.
Spider-Man creator Stan Lee has created an animated6 superhero character who will be 'evil-battling' and 'earth-saving' with 'a great sense of rhythm'. It is being voiced by Ringo and he will also compose the music.
Ringo is one of the most colourful, creative guys I know. He is beloved worldwide for his commitment to people and his singular wit. Our Ringo superhero character will combine these qualities, along with Ringo's secret powers. The adventures of the 'rollicking, ringed and bearded Ringo' will entertain comic fans 'for years to come'.
- Stan Lee.
Ringo married Maureen7 on 11 February, 1965, with Brian Epstein acting as Best Man. They had three children, sons Zak and Jason Starkey, and daughter Lee. When George and Patti Harrison were invited to dinner one evening, George suddenly declared that he was madly in love with Maureen. In the aftermath of this announcement, a rumour spread that George and Maureen had a brief affair, but she never wanted her marriage to end and was devastated when they eventually separated. Ringo's heavy drinking and accompanying other women to nightclubs, all heavily reported in the newspapers, brought the situation to breaking point. The American actress Nancy Andrews was named third party in the divorce papers when their marriage was dissolved in July, 1975. Ringo gave Maureen a settlement of £500,000, bought her a £250,000 house in Little Venice and financially supported their children. Maureen married Hard Rock Café co-founder Isaac Tigrett and they had a daughter Augusta, born on 4 January, 1987.
Ringo married actress Barbara Bach, a fellow vegetarian, on 27 April, 1981. The family have residences in England, Switzerland and Los Angeles, California. Ringo and Barbara officially opened the 4head Garden of Dreams at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2006. Featuring over 7,000 plants, healing herbs and trees, the 4head Garden of Dreams was one of the largest exhibits at that year's show.
Zak was born on 13 September, 1965, in London. His godfather was The Who drummer Keith Moon (1946 - 78). On 19 January, 1985, Zak married Sarah Menedikes, and on 7 September, 1985, their daughter Tatia Jayne arrived, making Ringo the first Beatle grandfather. Zak became the drummer with his godfather's band The Who in 1987. In 1994, Zak's mother Maureen Tigrett was suffering from leukaemia. He donated white blood cells and bone marrow for transplantation but this proved unsuccessful, and she died on 30 December, 1994. Since 2004, Zak has been the drummer for Manchester band Oasis.
With A Little Help From His Friends
Some of Ringo's close friends include Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Maurice Gibb, Sir George Martin, Quincy Jones, and, of course, the other surviving Beatle Sir Paul McCartney.
Ringo was devastated when his best friend George died from cancer in 2001. Ringo said at the time: I loved him very much and I will miss him greatly. Both Barbara and I send our love and light to Olivia and Dhani. We will miss George for his sense of love, his sense of music and his sense of laughter. 'Never Without You' was written by Ringo in memory of George and featured on his 2003 album Ringo Rama.
Ringo claimed on Michael Aspel's chatshow that he once saw John Lennon's ghost in a hotel lobby, and, while posing for photographs after Paul, George and Ringo had mixed 'Free As A Bird', a white peacock wandered into camera view. They all thought it was John's spirit getting in on the act.
On 26 October, 1965, Ringo Starr and the rest of The Beatles were invested as Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by HM the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Let It Be (1970) was a music documentary about The Beatles. In 1971 it won an Oscar in the Best Music, Original Song Score category, and also won a Grammy Award.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Beatles on 20 January, 1988.
In 1997 the Grammy for Best Music Video - Long Form went to the 1995 'The Beatles Anthology'.
Ringo was inducted into the Percussive Hall of Fame in 2002.
In 2006 a campaign was started by Daniel Finkelstein for a knighthood to be conferred upon Ringo. The e-petition gained 1,886 signatures and the deadline to sign has now passed.
Ringo's charity work does not command front page news similar to Bob Geldof's headlines. However, he does his bit behind the scenes with his own charity the Lotus Foundation, and also supports other causes close to his heart. These include Whatever It Takes, an artwork project which produces goods decorated with designs created by celebrities, then sold to raise funds for their chosen charity; and the Mines Advisory Group, one of the world's leading humanitarian organisations, which aims to clear the remnants of conflict from some of the world's poorest nations.
When Ringo was presented with a Kids for Kids award for his charity work, he said it was better than receiving a Grammy. In 2003 Ringo decorated a fridge as part of the Ice Cool Art project, the proceeds of which went to Teenage Cancer Trust.
Ringo wrote a limited edition book Postcards From The Boys and directly donated all royalties from the sale of it to The Lotus Foundation. The publishers also made a donation for each copy sold to the same charity. This book, which is now sold out, only issued 2,500 copies and each was personally signed by Ringo. It features 53 copies of postcards Ringo received from John and Yoko, Paul and Jane Asher, and George, Olivia and Dhani Harrison. The personal insight it gives into the private relationship of four of the most famous young men on the planet at the time makes it gold dust for any Beatles fan.
A lot of other people know more about my life than I do.
- quote from Ringo Starr in Postcards From The Boys.
The asteroid 4150 Starr, discovered on 31 August, 1984 by Beatles fan BA Skiff of the Lowell Observatory, was named in Ringo's honour.
Ringo is the Japanese word for apple, and Ringo once advertised a brand of apple juice on Japanese television.
Like Paul, Ringo is left-handed.
Ringo is considered the nicest of all the Beatles.
The deaths of his former wife Maureen in 1994, followed by Paul's wife Linda McCartney and George Harrison, have made Ringo appreciate life:
I just don't let things get on top of me as much. I try not to rule the world. I think just getting up in the morning is a great achievement.