“Ultimately what’s most impressive about Ringo Starr isn’t what he’s been, but rather who he is,” wrote Rolling Stone rock critic David Wild. “The man’s great heart and soul, his wit and wisdom.” Indeed, his music has always emanated from his warmth, humor, and exceptional skill, manifesting in the songs we know and love: “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “Don’t Pass Me By,” “Octopus’ Garden,” “Photograph,” “It Don’t Come Easy,” “Back Off Boogaloo,” “You’re Sixteen (You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine),” “Don’t Go Where the Road Don’t Go,” “The No No Song,” and “Never Without You,” to name a few. Since beginning his career with The Beatles in the 1960s, Ringo has been one of the world’s brightest musical luminaries. He has enjoyed a successful, dynamic solo career as a singer, songwriter, drummer, collaborator, and actor. Drawing inspiration from classic blues, soul, country, honky-tonk and rock ‘n’ roll, he continues to play an important recording, touring, and unofficial mentoring role in modern music.
“When I was 13, I only wanted to be a drummer,” remembers Ringo. Four years later, he joined the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Band, and in 1959 hooked up with the Raving Texans, who later became Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Just three years after that, Ringo was asked to join The Beatles. Worried that he might cost the Hurricanes a summer-long residency if he left, he delayed his departure until they could find a replacement. On August 18, 1962, Ringo Starr officially joined Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison in what would become one of the most important popular music acts of all time.
In 1970, EMI released Ringo’s first solo album, Sentimental Journey. It was exactly that: a record of the music he’d grown up with and which remained close to his heart. (He later said, “I did it for my Mum.”) Ringo followed up a year later with Beaucoups Of Blues, a country and western album recorded in Nashville with Pete Drake in just two days. That same year, The Beatles disbanded.
But Ringo’s passion for creating music continued to propel him and those around him forward. In 1971, he began his unprecedented run as the first solo Beatle to score seven consecutive Top 10 singles, starting with “It Don’t Come Easy.” His second hit single, “Back Off Boogaloo” followed in 1972, and was written with and inspired by T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan. Ringo released his eponymous smash hit album in 1973. It yielded three Top 10 singles, including the #1 hits “Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen (You’re Beautiful And You’re Mine). The album Ringoalso marked the first time since The Beatles’ break-up that all 4 band members participated in the same project (though not at the same time).
Between 1974 and 1978, Ringo released such hits as the Top 10 singles “Only You (And You Alone)” and “The No No Song,” and the albums Goodnight Vienna (1974), Blast From Your Past (1975), Rotogravure (1976), Ringo The 4th (1977), and Bad Boy (1978), which was complemented by a television special with Art Carney and Carrie Fisher. In 1981, he recorded Stop and Smell the Roses, his most critically acclaimed record since Ringo, followed two years later by Old Wave, for which he teamed up with producer Joe Walsh of The Eagles. A hits collection, Starr Struck: The Best Of Ringo Starr, Vol. 2, was released in 1989.
The 1990s saw some of the best records of Ringo’s career, and he found consistent success as a live act with his revolving All Starr Band “I got a message from a producer asking if I’d be interested in putting a band together,” Ringo would later recount. “I had been thinking the same thing, and so I went through my phone book, rang up a few friends and asked them if they’d like to have fun in the summer.” Those friends included Joe Walsh, E-Streeters Clarence Clemmons and Nils Lofgren, former Band members Rick Danko and Levon Helm, Dr. John, Billy Preston, and Jim Keltner. The tour met with great success, yielding his first live album, Ringo and His All Starr Band, in 1990. “I’ve said this over and over again,” Ringo remarked, “but I love being in a band.”
In 1992, he released Time Takes Time, which The New York Times hailed as “Starr’s best: more consistently pleasing than Ringo, it shows him as an assured performer and songwriter.” Later that year, Ringo put together his second All Starr Band, featuring Zak Starkey (his son), Burton Cummings, Dave Edmunds, Nils Lofgren, Todd Rundgren, Timothy B Schmidt, and Joe Walsh. It marked the first time Ringo had toured Europe since his Beatles days. The band’s second incarnation also yielded a new concert album, Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band – Live From Montreaux. The third All Starr Band toured the U.S. and Japan in 1995, again featuring Zak Starkey, as well as John Entwistle, Felix Cavaliere, Mark Farner, Billy Preston, Mark Rivera and Randy Bachman; Ringo Starr and His Third All Starr Band, Vol. 1 was release in 1997. The fourth band – with Gary Brooker, Jack Bruce, Peter Frampton, Simon Kirke and Mark Rivera – toured the U.S. and Europe, and with them Ringo became the first former Beatle to play in Russia.
1998 brought the release of Vertical Man, recorded with Mark Hudson, and the first collaboration between Ringo and “the Roundheads.” It was one of his strongest records, due largely to his deep involvement as drummer, singer, co-writer, and co-producer. He followed with an appearance at NYC’s Bottom Line and on VH1’s “Storytellers.” 1999 began with the creation of the 5th All Starr Band, consisting of Gary Brooker, Jack Bruce, Timmy Cappello, Simon Kirke and Todd Rundgren. In October that year, Starr released the irrepressibly festive holiday album I Wanna Be Santa Claus, mixing classics like “The Little Drummer Boy” with originals like the title track. The 6th All Starr Band was launched in 2000 and featured Jack Bruce, Eric Carmen, Dave Edmunds, Simon Kirke and Mark Rivera touring the U.S. together. The following spring, Ringo put together the 7th band, including the first female All Starr, Sheila E, as well as Greg Lake, Roger Hodgson, Ian Hunter, Howard Jones and Mark Rivera. He celebrated more than a decade of All Starr tours with the release of Ringo and His All Starr Band: The Anthology, So Far.
In 2003, The Roundheads launched the release of Ringo Rama with another impromptu Bottom Line performance. 2003’s 8th group of All Starrs – Paul Carrack, Sheila E., Colin Hay, Mark Rivera and John Waite – hit the road, their tour resulting in another live album, Ringo Starr and His All Star Band: Tour 2003 and DVD. “If you look at all the bands I’ve put together, it’s an incredible array of musicians, all these different people,” Ringo said of the All Starr experience. “Everyone has hit records, hit songs. The show consists of me up front and then I go back behind the kit and support the others. It’s just good music and I’m having a lot of fun and that’s what it’s all about – great music and fun.”
Genesis Books printed a limited edition 2004 run of Ringo’s book, Postcards From The Boys, the proceeds of which went to the Lotus Foundation charity. He described it as “a presentation of postcards John, Paul and George have sent me over the years. What’s incredible about them is that some are actual art pieces.” His Choose Love album, full of inspired songs of innocence and experience, was released in 2005. Two years later, Capitol/EMI Music Catalog Marketing released the first-ever career and label-spanning collection of Ringo’s best solo recordings, PHOTOGRAPH: The Very Best Of Ringo Starr, featuring 20 standout tracks released between 1970 and 2005.
Ringo released Liverpool 8, his first new album with Capitol/EMI since 1974’s Goodnight Vienna, in 2008. He co-wrote its 12 original tracks, recording them in the UK and California, and the title track became the first in a series of autobiographical songs. That summer, he toured with his 10th All Starr Band – Gregg Bissonette, Colin Hay, Billy Squier, Hamish Stuart, Edgar Winter, and Gary Wright, across the U.S. and Canada, winding up at The Greek Theater in Los Angeles with a show recorded and later released as a live DVD by UMe.
Y NOT, the first album Ringo himself produced, came out in 2010, showcasing collaborations with old and new friends, Paul McCartney among them. Their duet and the album’s stunning first single, “Walk With You,” served as a moving tribute to the power of friendship. Ben Harper also sang on the album, his band supporting Ringo on a promotional tour for the release. Ringo received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame and launched a tour with his 11th All Starr Band: Gregg Bissonette, Rick Derringer, Wally Palmer, Richard Page, Edgar Winter, and Gary Wright. Over the following year, the band would tour the US, Canada, Europe and Latin America.
Ringo 2012, again produced by its namesake, featured 9 tracks, including new versions of “Wings,” and “Step Lightly.” In June that year, Ringo assembled His 12th All Starr Band – Gregg Bissonette, Richard Page, Steve Lukather, Mark Rivera, Gregg Rolie and Todd Rundgren – who would, by 2013, tour through the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Mexico, and South America. The live DVD Ringo at the Ryman was recorded with this band as well, on Ringo’s birthday, July 7, 2012.
In June 2013, The GRAMMY Museum opened “Ringo: Peace & Love,” a record-breaking undertaking that hosted more than 90,000 visitors and is the first major exhibit to focus on a drummer. It will remain open through March 2014. Ringo was awarded the prestigious French Medal of Honor, being appointed Commander of Arts & Letters in recognition of his musical and artistic contributions, in September. Photograph, a limited edition collection of never-before-seen material, including Ringo’s photos and exclusive images from his own personal archives, was published that December. It features over 300 photos and 15,000 words of text.
On January 20, 2014, Ringo’s musical and personal legacy will be celebrated as he is awarded a “Lifetime of Peace & Love Award” by the David Lynch Foundation at this tribute performance event. One week later, CBS will tape a Beatles tribute celebrating the 50th Anniversary of their first U.S. visit and appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. In between, Ringo will perform on the GRAMMY Awards, as a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to The Beatles. In February 2014, Simon & Shuster will publish Octopus’s Garden, a children’s book based on his lyrics.
Ringo’s candor, wit and soul are the lifeblood of his music. As he sang on the autobiographical Liverpool 8, “I always followed my heart and I never missed a beat.” Peace and love are his life’s rhythm and melody, and he propels this universal message in everything he does: his evocative artwork, his enthused live performances, his legendary songs, all imbued with the joy, reflection, and wisdom of the music icon the world knows and loves simply as ‘Ringo.’