On July 7th, 1940, Richard Starkey was born in Liverpool, but from 1959 on, he would mostly be known to the world as Ringo Starr. He gained that stage name while he was a drummer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes because of the many rings he liked to wear, and the country and western sound to it. In 1962, the Beatles were looking for a new drummer to replace Pete Best. When they asked Starr, who had previously worked with them, what he thought about drum solos, he reportedly said, “I hate ‘em!”, which was the right answer for them.
Things didn’t go smoothly at first; some fans began chanting “Pete forever! Ringo Never!” at their shows and Ringo was convinced that producer George Martin was against him. In fact, on the version of “Love Me Do” released in America, session drummer Andy White was used instead.
However, when the Beatles made it big in the US, Ringo arguably became their most popular member. On every one of their albums at this point, he sang lead on one song, which was either a cover or a Lennon-McCartney original. “I Wanna Be Your Man”, which the Rolling Stones later covered, became his signature concert number.
In 1964, the Beatles’ first movie, A Hard Day’s Night was released. The film got its name from something Ringo said after a long day of filming, and critics praised the quality of acting he showed in his role. This popularity led to his almost-starring role in the Beatles’ next movie, Help!
The Beatles got their own Saturday morning cartoon series in 1965. Despite the fact that the band members were not involved in it whatsoever, the group’s music was routinely used. Ringo’s character was the central figure of most episodes, and he was portrayed as unlucky and naïve, but the most likable of the four.
George Dunning, who worked on that series, was the director for Yellow Submarine, the 1968 animated film starring a fictionalized, animated Beatles. It was loosely based on the song of the same name, which featured lead vocals by Starr.
The first composition that Ringo wrote that appeared on a Beatles album was “Don’t Pass Me By”.
Ironically, “Octopus’s Garden” is the only other song by the Beatles that he solely composed.
He could be considered as the first member to leave the group, as he walked out of recording the Beatles’ 1968 self-titled album for several days. However, Starr’s last hurrah with the Beatles was his impressive drum solo on “The End”, which he had to be talked into doing.
In 1970, the year of the Beatles’ break-up, Starr released two albums. One, Sentimental Journey, had him singing the hits of his parents’ generation, and the other, Beaucoups of Blues was country & western flavored.
The ‘70s saw Ringo releasing seven singles that hit the US Top 10. One of these, “Photograph”, was co-written by and featured vocals and guitar playing from former bandmate George Harrison. His albums released from the late ‘70s onward didn’t do as well commercially.
In the ‘80s he mostly took on an acting career, appearing in roles ranging from a caveman in Caveman, the Mock Turtle in a BBC version of Alice In Wonderland, and himself in the film Give My Regards to Broadstreet.
He also became involved in several children’s projects, serving as the narrator on the Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends animated series, and the live-action role of Mr. Conductor on the children’s show, Shining Time Station.
In 1989, he organized the first “Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band” tour, a concept in which an ever-changing group of celebrity musicians perform in concert together as a band. Previous band members have included Billy Preston, Joe Walsh, Peter Frampton, Todd Rundgren, Eric Carmen, Shelia E., Edgar Winter, Billy Squier, and many, many more.
In the ‘90s, he returned to recording, releasing albums like 1992’s Time Takes Time and 1998’s Vertical Man, which featured guest appearances from many notable musicians.
Despite the fact that Starr has released three albums of original material during the past ten years, he was mostly in the news for controversy. A floral sculpture in his likeness was vandalized in Liverpool after he remarked that he didn’t miss his hometown. He also vowed that he wouldn’t sign any more autographs after October 20th, 2008, because he was too busy.
However, Ringo Starr recently released Y Not, which is his highest-charting US album since a 1976 release. Its lead single, “Walk With You” is a duet with former bandmate Paul McCartney.
Starr recently filmed an episode of PBS’ Live at the Artists Den, which will be aired tonight in certain areas. He is currently on tour with the latest incarnation of the “All-Starr Band”.