Photo: Rolling Stone
A century after the tradition began, Ringo Starr was knighted to honor his musical and philanthropic contributions throughout his career. One might first think that this is more of an honor to the Beatles than to Ringo himself, but Ringo’s accomplishments are not limited to his career as a Beatle. Often remembered as the drummer who replaced Pete Best, Ringo defined the character of the Beatles. He kept peace in the often tense relationship between Paul McCartney and John Lennon and was able to add his unique dynamic to the group’s presence. However, even after the Beatles, Starr has flourished as a solo musician, philanthropist, and political activist.
Ringo Starr’s life is a story of resilience. Ringo struggled with alcoholism in the decades after the Beatles broke up but completed rehab with his wife, Barbara Bach, in the late 1980s. He spent several years of his childhood recovering from complications associated with an appendectomy and tuberculosis. It was in the sanatorium where he received treatment for the tuberculosis that he was first exposed to percussion instruments. Once recovered, too behind to catch up in school, he entered the workforce as a teenager and soon discovered that his one true passion was music. Eventually, he joined Rory and the Hurricanes (mentioned in his later song, “Liverpool 8”). Rory and the Hurricanes was successful in Liverpool, and when Ringo later accepted the offer to join the Beatles, he was leaving an established band. A common misconception is that Ringo would not have encountered success had he never become a Beatle; rather, joining the Beatles was simply one of his many options. Still, the Beatles was clearly the best opportunity Ringo ever had, and he became a great historical figure because of his time in the band.
The Beatles’ popularity hinged upon how different they were from everyone else. Something about the combination of these four silly young men inspired listeners and sparked Beatlemania. Where other groups played it safe, the Beatles experimented. Once establishing fame, it made sense to continue producing similar music to please the established audience. However, the Beatles challenged the face of popular music and rock n’ roll with pioneering works such as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
By the same token, Ringo’s voice is like no other. It’s simplicity and approachability make the listener feel that everyone is around a fire enjoying Ringo’s charming ballads. In “Act Naturally” when Ringo sings, “They’ll make a film about a man who’s sad and lonely, and all I have to do is act naturally,” I cannot help but emphasize the irreplaceable sincerity.
Ringo offered the Beatles a hint of humor that is indispensable in such an inspirational group. With his engaging head movements and undying spirit, Ringo added a light-heartedness to the entertaining escape the Beatles provided. In a serious and downtrodden world, Ringo’s antics energized the group through thick and thin. While other Beatles argued over songwriting and who was to receive the spotlight, Ringo enjoyed himself and making music.
Ringo uses what he loves to support others. From selling his artwork for charity to starting the Lotus foundation with Barbara Bach to dedicating his musical talents to charity concerts, he has not forgotten to give back to the communities that have supported him. On the political scene, every year, Ringo’s “Peace and Love” event encourages the world to stop mistreating others and to simply support one another. Ringo has also been cast in several films, such as “Candy,” “The Magic Christian,” and “Caveman” and is an active photographer.
For all his wonderful qualities, Ringo does not get caught up in titles. Several years ago, when asked about his feelings about knighthood, he said, “No, I don’t want to be a Sir. I want to be a duke or a prince. If they come through with that, I’ll consider it.” Even though he was only knighted this year, Ringo’s solo ventures are nothing to scoff at. Many different songwriters contributed to his albums, and he continued to work with each of his Beatles colleagues after the group disbanded. His diverse solo albums range from the nostalgia of Sentimental Journey to the sassiness of Bad Boy and the excitement of Goodnight Vienna. Sir Richard Starkey certainly deserves a second glance and a listen.