Ringo Starr walked out during the recording of the White Album, after becoming tired of The Beatles’ in-fighting. Away for two weeks, Paul McCartney played the drums on ‘Back In The USSR’ and ‘Dear Prudence’.
Starr spent two weeks with Peter Sellers on his yacht, where he wrote ‘Octopus’s Garden’. The others urged him to come back with telegrams and phone messages, and upon his return George Harrison decorated the studio with flowers saying “Welcome home”.
Ringo sang on at least one song on The Beatles’ studio albums, with the exception of A Hard Day’s Night and Let It Be, and his vocal spots became particular live favourites for the group’s fans. In the early days he was given a mixture of cover versions or Lennon-McCartney originals – often ones they did not want to sing themselves.
He composed two original songs during his time with The Beatles: ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ and ‘Octopus’s Garden’. He also established a co-credit on ‘What Goes On’ from Rubber Soul, which was listed as being written by Lennon-McCartney-Starkey.
The Magical Mystery Tour instrumental ‘Flying’, and Let It Be’s ‘Dig It’, were group compositions credited to Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starkey, as were ‘Free As A Bird’, ‘12-Bar Original’, ‘Los Paranoias’, ‘Christmas Time (Is Here Again)’, Suzy Parker, and Jessie’s Dream.
The solo years
Starr released two albums in 1970, the year of The Beatles’ breakup. Sentimental Journey was his nostalgic take on a number of post-war standards, and Beaucoups Of Blues indulged his interest in country music.
The singles ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ (1971) and ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ (1972) were hits, and ‘Photograph’, co-written with George Harrison, was a US number one, as was ‘You’re Sixteen’. His 1973 album Ringo remains his biggest commercial success, although Starr is the only former Beatle not to top the UK single or album charts as a solo performer.
Ringo Starr played drums on Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Living In The Material World, and appeared at the Concert for Bangladesh. He also played on John Lennon’s solo album Plastic Ono Band. Lennon returned the favour, writing the title track of the Goodnight Vienna album, and ‘I’m The Greatest’ on Ringo.
In the mid 1970s Ringo’s musical career declined, with a series of albums provided diminishing returns. Harrison gave him a song for the album Stop And Smell The Roses, but Starr felt uncomfortable performing it. Harrison rewrote it and recorded it himself as ‘All Those Years Ago’, following the death of John Lennon; Starr played on it, along with Paul and Linda McCartney.
Lennon had also given Starr two songs for Stop And Smell The Roses – ‘Life Begins At 40’ and ‘Nobody Told Me’. However, Starr was uncomfortable recording the songs in the wake of his friend’s murder, and Lennon’s version of ‘Nobody Told Me’ was released posthumously on the album Milk And Honey.
Ringo guested on McCartney’s 1982 album Tug Of War, and in 1987 performed on George Harrison’s hit single ‘When We Was Fab’. Two years later he formed Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band, in which a number of musicians from various other acts featured. Their live shows were a success and led to a new record deal for Starr.
In 1997 he appeared on Paul McCartney’s album Flaming Pie. He played initially on the song ‘Beautiful Night’, and went on to jam. From this came a new song, ‘Really Love You’, which was credit to McCartney-Starkey – a first.
In 2002 he was inducted into the Percussive Hall of Fame, and in 2006 toured once again with the All Starr Band. His album Liverpool 8 was released in January 2008, coinciding with Liverpool’s status as European Capital of Culture. In April 2015 Starr was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
To this day, Ringo still performs and appears in public, and works on a range of musical, film and other media projects.
Ringo married Maureen Cox on 11 February 1965. They had three children – Zak, Jason and Lee – before divorcing in 1975. Cox died in 1994.
Starr met Barbara Bach on the set of the film Caveman in 1980. They married the following year on 27 April.
His son Zak Starkey is also a drummer. Ringo arranged for him to have lessons with The Who’s Keith Moon, a close friend of the family. Zak went on to perform with The Who, Oasis, and the All-Starr Band.