Prince William knighted Ringo Starr, who used the name his mother preferred—Richard Starkey—for Tuesday’s London ceremony.
People who do not listen to The Beatles often dismiss Ringo as, at best, an ancillary ingredient of the group’s sound. Listen to “Ticket to Ride,” “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Rain,” and “She Said, She Said” to realize Ringo’s importance, nay, his greatness.
Though he only wrote two Beatles tunes—“Octopus’s Garden,” a sort of poor man’s “Yellow Submarine,” and “Don’t Pass Me By,” a very good song—his vocals on “Good Night” provide a beautiful coda to the white album and “With a Little Help from My Friends” plays as one of the better tracks on perhaps the group’s most beloved album. Most of the other seven Beatles songs he sings lead on rate as “throwaway” tracks, but, let’s face it, Beatles scraps beat most bands’ choice cuts. Unlike so many drummers, he never felt compelled to mark his sonic territory in the gauche way a lion marks his grounds. The lone drum solo of his time in The Beatles occurs on the best part of the best Beatles album, the Abbey Road medley that says “goodbye” in a way only The Beatles could. He does not overdo it. It’s just right, perfect even.
As a solo act, Ringo hit #1 as many times as John Lennon did. Though he appeared drunk for the duration of the 1970s, Ringo looked like a friendly and not a violent drunk—what with his “peace” and “love” and laughing and hanging with Keith Moon and brother-in-law Joe Walsh and other fun and Falstaffian figures. Sure, he acted, or acted like he acted, in Caveman. But he provided his distinctive voice to Thomas the Tank Engine as penance (but not, strangely, to Yellow Submarine—that’s a faux-Ringo who pushes the button).
His easy-going persona strikes as one of the reasons people got into The Beatles. The sickly kid who took his chance and ran with it appeared as one who believed he played with the house’s money. That attitude provides a favorable contrast with so many ingrate “artists” who deserve something more than their millions.
Ringo didn’t luck out when he joined The Beatles. We did.
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