Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ringo Starr

Born Richard Starkey on July 7, 1940, in Liverpool, England, Ringo Starr, known for his easy-going personality, rose to fame in the early 1960s as a member of the legendary rock group the Beatles. Known for his role as drummer, Starr also sang and wrote songs for the group, singing "With a Little Help from My Friends" and writing "Octopus's Garden."

Early Life
Musician, singer, songwriter, actor. Born Richard Starkey on July 7, 1940, in Liverpool, England. Known for his easy-going personality, Ringo Starr first rose to fame in the early 1960s as the drummer for the legendary rock group the Beatles. He grew up poor in Liverpool, and his father left the family when Starr was only three. A sickly child, he missed a lot of school on account of his illnesses. Starr eventually dropped out as a teenager.

Starr started his musical career playing percussion in a skiffle band, or a band that used common objects instead of regular instruments. His stepfather supported his interest in music and reportedly bought him a drum kit. Learning the drums, Starr went on to join a popular local band Rory Storm and the Hurricanes in the late 1950s. He took his nickname—Ringo—was given to him because of the rings he wore—as part of his stage name around this time. And his drum solos for the group were called “Starr-time.”

The Beatles
Starr met the members of another Liverpool group, the Beatles, while both groups were playing in Hamburg, Germany, in 1960. Two years later, he was asked to join the Beatles to replace their current drummer Pete Best. Starr was soon on the fast track to success with his new bandmates Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison.

Guided in the studio by producer George Martin, the Beatles recorded their first single, “Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You,” in 1962. While that song did okay, their next single “Please Please Me” made the group a pop sensation in England. Their first album together, Please Please Me (1963), added fuel to already growing frenzy that would soon become known as Beatlemania. Starr made a rare appearance on lead vocals for the song “Boys” on the album.

With their floppy hair and matching suits, the Beatles crossed the Atlantic Ocean to launch their own pop invasion of America in 1964. Beatlemania was in full force during their first U.S. television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Their single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” had already climbed to the top of the charts before the taping and was followed by a succession of hits. And throngs of screaming fans—many of which were love-struck teenagers—filled the audiences of their live shows.

That same year, the Beatles took their music to the big screen with the humorous documentary film A Hard Day’s Night (1964). For their next film venture, Help! (1965), Starr provided the vocals for “Act Naturally.” Both projects gave Starr’s comedic and acting talents to shine through.

The Band Breaks Up
While Lennon and McCartney were widely praised for their songwriting talents, Starr’s contributions were not as readily acknowledged. He was known for his strong drumming talents, but he also assisted in the group’s creative process and provided some of its emotional stability and good humor. Unlike past drummers who remained firmly in the background, Starr was seen an equal part of the Fab Four. His influence would later be seen on future generations of drummers.

In 1966, the Beatles stopped touring, giving their last concert in August at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. They continued to record together, taking their music in new directions. They created one of rock’s first concept albums with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), which was meant to be listened to in its entirety. Other commercial and critical successes, included The Beatles (often referred to as The White Album) (1968), to which Starr contributed the track “Don’t Pass Me By.”

By this time, personal and creative tensions began to erode the group. Starr spent some time on other projects, starring in the film The Magic Christian (1969) with Peter Sellars. They played their last gig together on top of the Apple Corps, Ltd building in London, in January 1969, which was filmed for the film Let It Be (1970). In April 1970, the Beatles ended with Paul McCartney’s announcement that he was leaving the group. One of the most successful groups in popular music finished their run with more than 45 top forty hits in the United States alone—and leaving an incalculable impression on millions of fans worldwide.

Solo Career
After the Beatles broke up in 1970, Starr pursued a solo career. His first album, Sentimental Journey (1970), was a collection of Tin Pan Alley tunes. For his next effort, Starr went for country with Beaucoup of Blues (1971). Starr found his greatest solo success with Ringo (1973), which featured such hits as “It Don’t Come Easy,” “Photograph,” and “You’re Sixteen.”

In addition to recording, Starr was flourishing in other creative directions at this time. He directed and produced the documentary, Born to Boogie (1972), on influential glam rockers T-Rex. Continuing to act, Starr appeared in such films as 200 Motels (1971), That’ll Be the Day (1973), and Son of Dracula (1974). He also starred in the comedy Caveman (1981) with Barbara Bach, and the two soon fell in love and married.

Starr reteamed with Paul McCartney for the musical drama Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984). On television, he starred in two children’s series as the narrator for Thomas the Tank Engine and later Shining Time Station.

On the musical front, Starr emerged as a bandleader in the late 1980s, touring with the first incarnation of his All Starr Band, which included Joe Walsh from the Eagles, Nils Lofgren and Clarence Clemmons from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Rick Danko and Levon Helm from the Band, and Billy Preston and Dr. John among others. Over the years, Starr has done numerous tours with various artists under the All Starr Band banner and produced several live albums of this continuously changing and evolving collaborative project.

While he continued to produce numerous solo albums, Starr received some his strongest reviews in years for 1992’s Time Takes Time. He also was involved with an interesting reunion with Paul McCartney and George Harrison in the mid-1990s. The trio worked with a demo version of the song “Free as a Bird” recorded by John Lennon in 1977 to produce a new Beatles single—the first in 25 years. Sadly, Lennon had been murdered in 1980 by a crazed assassin. The song was released in 1995 and became a top ten hit. Another Lennon song, “Real Love,” was also reworked and did well on the charts in 1996. Two years later, Starr appeared on the VH1 Storytellers television series, sharing his music and experiences as a recording artist, which resulted in an accompanying album.

Most recently, Starr released his latest solo effort, Liverpool 8 (2008). As a testimony to his abilities as a songwriter, he co-wrote all of the material on the album. The recording has been heralded by some critics as an impressive comeback.

Personal Life
Starr has been married twice. Wed to Maureen Cox from 1965 to 1975, the couple had three children together, Zak, Jason, and Lee. Zak has followed in his father’s footsteps and become an accomplished drummer in his right, playing with such bands as The Who and Oasis. Starr and his friend Keith Moon, the original drummer for The Who, had encouraged his interest from an early age. Starr and his second wife Barbara Bach have been married since 1981.

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