When the Beatles broke up in 1970, it’s likely that most people didn’t see Ringo Starr as someone whose work would endure the test of time. But Starr’s career has now lasted more than 50 years.
And it isn’t over yet. The multi-Grammy winner is back on the concert circuit this summer with his 11th All-Starr Band, an assemblage of talented rockers which shifts with every tour. For the 2010 edition, the All-Starr Band includes Edgar Winter (“Frankenstein”), Rick Derringer (“Rock ‘n’ Roll Hoochie Coo”), Gary Wright (“Dream Weaver”), Richard Page of Mr. Mister, Wally Palmar of The Romantics, and Gregg Bissonette, who has performed with David Lee Roth, Toto and Santana, among others.
Starr will turn 70 on July 7, 2010, and is described as “fit, trim and energetic as ever” in a recent interview with the Toronto Star. The drummer-singer-songwriter is set to perform more than 30 concerts with the All-Starr Band this year.
Starr’s life didn’t start out quite so smoothly. Born Richard Starkey in Liverpool, England, he was a sickly child who missed out on much of his childhood and normal schooling. As a teenager, he began playing drums in several different bands, acquired the nickname Ringo, and soon after changed his last name to Starr.
Starr met the Beatles in Hamburg, Germany, in 1960 and joined them two years later, replacing drummer Pete Best.
Although some might say that Starr didn’t come close to the genius of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, or George Harrison, there are others that argue that Starr’s contributions to the Beatles were many, some of them rather subtle.
Drummers today point to a number of innovations that Starr introduced while with the Beatles. A left-hander, Starr drummed right-handedly, and also used a then-unusual “matched grip,” holding the drumsticks like flyswatters. He tuned his drums lower and worked with engineers on microphoning each drum in his kit, adding to the Beatles’ unique sound on their albums. He also was able to play a variety of styles and time signatures easily and was known for his ability to “feel” a song.
Starr’s droll sense of humor comes across in the Beatles’ songs on which he sang lead, including “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Act Naturally,” and “Octopus’s Garden” (which he also co-wrote). A quip by Starr led to the title of the Beatles’ first movie to be changed to “A Hard Day’s Night” from the original “Beatlemania.”
During the 1970s, it could be argued that Starr was the most visible of the former Fab Four. Not only did he have chart-topping songs, but also took on a number of movie roles.
His Top Ten hits include “It Don’t Come Easy” in 1971 and “Back Off Boogaloo” in 1972. He had two No. 1 hits in 1973, “You’re Sixteen” and “Photograph” from the album “RIngo,” and a 1974 followup album, “Goodnight Vienna,” included the hits “Only You” and “The No No Song.”
Starr appeared in the 1970s films “The Magic Christian” with Peter Sellers and Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels,” and also played the pope in “Litszomania” and a European movie director in Mae West’s final film, “Sextette.” He also directed the concert film “Born to Boogie.”
However, Starr’s music career took a sharp downturn in the 1980s. He also reportedly suffered from alcohol dependency, for which he was successfully treated during this time.
Starr’s personal life has been fairly stable for many years. Divorced from his first wife, Maureen, in 1975, Ringo met Bond girl Barbara Bach while the two were filming the comedy “Caveman.” They married in 1981, just weeks after the film’s release, and are still together today. Starr has three children from his first marriage, Zak, Jason and Lee.
Starr is well known to the younger generation, but not necessarily for his music. He narrated the children’s series “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends,” in which he also portrayed Mr. Conductor from 1984-1991. He continued the role on the American version, “Shining Time Station” and was nominated for an Emmy.
Other Starr achievements: He is the only Beatle to host “Saturday Night Live,” in 1991. He and the other Beatles share an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score for “Let It Be.” Starr is also an artist – he paints and creates computer-generated art. He is still appearing in films, too – most recently “The Cooler” in 2003.
Starr is still recording and of course, touring. A new CD-DVD, “Live At The Greek Theatre 2008,” will be released on July 27.
Starr is also asking his fans for a special birthday present this year on July 7.
“At noon,” Starr told the Boston Herald recently, “I’d love everybody, wherever you are – in your office, on the bus, or whatever you’re doing – to stop for one moment. Put your fingers up in the peace-and-love way and say, ‘peace and love.’ “