Born Richard Starkey, Jr., July 7, 1940, in Liverpool, England; mother Elsie Gleave, bakery worker; father, Richard Starkey, Sr., bakery worker; married Maureen Cox, February 11, 1965; children: Zak, Jason, and daughter Lee, one granddaughter; married Barbara Bach, 1981. Addresses: Record company--Mercury Records, West Coast Office, 11150 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025.

Drummer Ringo Starr earned a place in musical history in 1962 at the age of 22 years, when he accepted a position with a then unknown band called the Beatles, which was destined to become one of the most popular groups in the history of rock and roll. During the Beatles' concert performances Starr was the most easily recognizable of the group, as he sat toward the back of the stage, pounding a steady rhythm behind singers John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. A collection of gaudy rings adorned Starr's fingers, which earned him the nickname Ringo. When the Beatles dissolved during the early 1970, Starr re-emerged in an acting career, and he continued his musical career as a solo artist.

Starr was born Richard Starkey, Jr. in a dingy Liverpool slum, on July 7, 1940 to Richard Starkey, Sr. and Elsie Gleave. His childhood was filled with an endless series of setbacks and tragedies. His parents were poor bakery workers, and Starr's father deserted the family during World War II. His mother later remarried, to Harry Greaves, a house painter. Starr's childhood was plagued by a series of personal illnesses. At age six he was hospitalized for one year when he lapsed into a ten-week coma from peritonitis brought on by a ruptured appendix. At age 13 he suffered pleurisy so severe that he was confined to a sanitarium for two years. Starr's miseries were compounded when he developed an alcohol addiction early in life, which caused him to suffer blackouts from the age of nine.

By 1955, Starr was hopelessly behind in his schoolwork, so he quit school altogether and took a job as a messenger for British Railways. He lost the job, not surprisingly, when his employer received the results of Starr's physical examination. After a stint as an apprentice carpenter, Starr, who played drums as a child, acquired a new drum kit and found work as a professional drummer. He joined Ed Clayton's skiffle group for a time and then joined a band called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.

It was in Hamburg, Germany, when Starr was performing with the Hurricanes that he became acquainted with the Beatles' John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and their drummer Pete Best. The Beatles, who were relatively unknown at the time, called on Starr a short time afterward to join their group to replace Best. As Peter Brown and Steven Gaines said in The Love You Make, "[Starr] was an unlikely candidate to sign on as a character player in the greatest bit part ever written. He was ... unassuming, with sad blue eyes ... [but he] was fun-loving and uncomplicated and got along well with everyone in the group." When Beatlemania exploded throughout the world in 1963, Starr, along with his Beatle bandmates, achieved instant fame; and for Starr, the sickly boy from the dockside Dingle tenement, the recognition brought particular gratification.

As drummer for the Beatles, Starr rarely took over the microphone, and he almost never sang in the background. His very deep singing voice was restricted by poor tone and by an extremely thick Liverpudlian accent. Starr's voice was heard nonetheless on a selected few of the early Beatles recordings, including "Boys," "Honey Don't," "Matchbox," and "Act Naturally." In time, Beatles songwriters Lennon and McCartney composed and arranged certain pieces specifically as solos for Starr. He sang the title song in the Beatles' cartoon film, Yellow Submarine, and Starr good-naturedly furnished a rendition of the homely Beatles ballad, "With A Little Help From My Friends" on the 1967 album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band . Starr did not receive critical acclaim as a drummer, but his steady, driving beat earned him respect among fellow musicians. Starr also dabbled in composition, he contributing his song, "Don't Pass Me By" to the 1968 album, The Beatles --more commonly referred to as The White Album.

In 1970 the Beatles disbanded, yet Starr rebounded quickly. He was already involved in a budding film career, and he took the opportunity to embark on a solo singing career as well. Starr's acting skills impressed the critics on a par with his vocal skills, but as with everything Starr attempted, he offered a certain soulful, child-like allure that could never be denied. His first solo film role (without the other Beatles) was in 1967's Candy , and in 1969 he appeared in The Magic Christian. Starr's other film credits include That'll Be the Day in 1970 and Stardust in 1975. In 1981 he starred in Caveman , with actress Barbara Bach, whom he later married. He also dabbled in film direction with Born to Boogie , the story of T. Rex singer, Marc Bolan.

Starr's first solo album, Sentimental Journey , was released in 1970, and as the name implies, it was a Tin Pan Alley collection. His next release was a country music album, Beaucoup of Blues . Starr also on John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band and with George Harrison on his solo album All Things Must Pass . Starr's other solo ventures included a number of hit singles. He earned his first gold record for "It Don't Come Easy," which rose to number four on the charts. His singles "Photograph" and "You're Sixteen" each reached the number one spot, and "Back Off Boogaloo" peaked at number nine. From time to time the other members of the Beatles joined Starr on his LP recordings. Starr established his own recording label, Ring O' Records, in 1975.

In the late 1980s Starr formed his All-Starr band, a dynamic and versatile group. The All-Starr band--whose lineup rarely remained constant--has included Billy Preston and Dr. John, Peter Frampton, and assorted other musical celebrities. By 1998 the All-Starr band was in its fourth incarnation. Ringo's All-Starrs have toured extensively and joined in the Jam Against Hunger organized by former Beach Boy Brian Wilson in 1995. Starr's 1998 album, Vertical Man, featured, among others, Starr's own son Zak, young chanteuse Alanis Morissette, and former Beatles George Harrison and Paul McCartney. Overall Starr's record sales have exceeded 10 million worldwide from his first nine solo album releases.

by Gloria Cooksey

Ringo Starr's Career

Drummer with Ed Clayton Skiffle Group, 1959; Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, 1960; Beatles, 1961-70; began solo career, 1970; formed All-Starr Band, 1990.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

November 11, 2003: Starr's album, Ringorama, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/rock.jsp, November 12, 2003.

January 26, 2005: Starr announced his partnership in an entertainment franchise with Stan Lee, based on a character created by Lee and modeled after Starr. Source: USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/people/2005-01-27-ringo-superhero-venture_x.htm, January 27, 2005.

Further Reading

Sources

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Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 2 years ago

Did he REALLY become an alcoholic at 9 years old? I don't believe it.

almost 5 years ago

Ringo was not born in a slum dummy, a slum is what you see in India with runnng water in the gutters where people drink it from their hands and mountains of garbage with people and animals living and eating it too, Ringo's 1950's home was clean with toilet and bathrooms. Clean sheets and good food on his table from hard working middle class family he had ..Shame on Ringo for not correcting those stupid yank stories. I was there..