Ringo Starr Biography
Readers of a Ringo Starr biography know that the British musician was the drummer for The Beatles, the most popular band of all time. But Starr’s professional career also includes acting, directing and writing.
Ringo Starr was born Richard Starkey in 1940, in the working class city of Liverpool, England. He was named after his father, a baker and former dockworker. Starr’s mother, Elsie, also worked in a bakery. They divorced when he was a toddler, and he lived with his mother, who later remarried.
Starr suffered many afflictions during childhood: abdominal pains, ruptured appendix, inflamed peritoneum, and surgeries. Chronic pleurisy and lung complications followed, and Starr spent much of his youth at home or in children’s hospitals. When he returned to school, he was far behind in his studies. At 15, he could not read or write well, but he had an aptitude for practical things like mechanics and woodworking. So he dropped out of school to look for a job. He found work as a delivery boy, a barman on a ferry, and a trainee joiner. But Starr’s dream came true when his stepfather, Harry Graves, bought him a new drum set.
In the late 1950s, Starr and a friend started a band, the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group. Known as Ritchie, Starr was caught up in Liverpool’s Skiffle craze, music with jazz, blues, folk, and country influences. The self-taught drummer was a good time keeper who developed an original beat with signature accents. Starr traveled from band to band before landing a spot with the Raving Texans, later called Rory Storm and The Hurricanes. To enhance his career, he legally changed his name. His group shared popularity with The Beatles and Gerry and The Pacemakers, but he wanted to leave The Hurricanes to join The Seniors.
Meanwhile, The Beatles had tried several drummers, even inviting strangers to audition. Pete Best got the job, but the band did not like his drumming. They wanted to recruit Starr as his replacement. At the suggestion of record producer George Martin, and urged by The Beatles band members, manager Brian Epstein fired Best and completed the band with Starr.
Starr contributed to The Beatles’ first hit in 1962, “Love Me Do.” His unique drumming and positive attitude helped shape the band’s image and style. And he connected well with the other three band members: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison.
Starr enjoyed making music, but he also dreamed of acting. He got his chance with the 1964 film, “A Hard Day’s Night.” He got good reviews for the first Beatles movie, and for their 1965 film “Help!” Although he only wrote two original songs during his eight year career with The Beatles, Starr often sang songs that Lennon and McCartney wrote for their albums. His voice contributed to the tight harmonies and unique sound of The Beatles.
After the band’s breakup, Starr's 1970s solo career was hectic. But he eventually emerged as a steady performer, with several hit songs and albums. He performed live concerts and appeared on various television shows. Starr narrated the popular 1980s children’s series, “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.”
After a battle with alcohol in the 1980s, Starr attended a rehabilitation clinic and returned a sober man. His All Starr band toured America and Japan in the 1990s. And he worked on special projects with the surviving members of The Beatles.
In his personal life, Starr was married to Maureen Cox for ten years. They had three children together. A few years after their divorce in 1975, he married American actress Barbara Bach. They have been married for thirty years.
Ringo Starr’s influence elevated the role of drummer to that of an equal with lead musicians. His innovative drumming style was essential to the unique sound of The Beatles. And his onstage presence, warmth and humor contributed to the band's enormous success.