Ringo Starr, drummer of The Beatles, turns 80 on 7th July 2020, and though we can’t give him our personalized birthday book to commemorate his eight decades on the planet, Historic Newspapers is looking back on the life of one of the most famous musicians of the 20th century.

Ringo Starr 1967

Ringo Starr in 1967
Image: Flickr

Early Life

Starr’s birth name was Richard Starkey, named after his father. Born in Liverpool, he was raised by his mum and step-dad. When he was six, he suffered from appendicitis, and suffered a rare side-effect from the subsequent appendectomy, causing him to remain hospitalized for almost a year. Though he recovered he struggled academically due to missing so much school. He began catching up with his peers, only to contract tuberculosis and be admitted to a sanatorium for two years. It was there he was encouraged to like music, often joining in with the other patients by drumming on the cabinet next to his bed. 

Starr’s stepfather encouraged his interest in pursuing music and gave Starr his first drum kit for Christmas in 1957 and by 1959 he joined local Liverpudlian band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. It was with this band he adopted the name Ringo Starr, as a reference to the rings he wore.

For the band to accept a three-month residency at Butlins holiday camp in Wales, Starr gave up his five-year machinist apprenticeship (of which he’d already worked four years). The gamble paid off as the band were recruited to play further gigs, including tours of France and shows in Hamburg where they were billed above up-and-coming band The Beatles.

The Beatles

on August 14th 1962 Starr was invited to join The Beatles by John Lennon. Two days later Beatles manager Brian Epstein fired their current drummer, Pete Best, and the Beatles as we know them today performed in Liverpool’s Cavern Club for the first time on August 18th.

In early September of ’62, Starr joined the Beatles at a recording studio for the first time and by November fans were calling out to hear him sing alongside the other band members. Starr received as much fan mail as the other Beatles, confirming his acceptance. By the end of ‘63, Beatlemania had spread throughout the UK, and by early 1964 the Beatles had become an international success performing in America.

In 1965 Starr married Maureen Cox, a hairdresser he met after on of the Beatles’ gigs at the Cavern Club. Together they had three children, Zak (born in 1965), Jason (born in 1967) and Lee (born in 1970).

ringo starr

Ringo Starr in 2013
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Post-Beatles and Battles with Sobriety

When the Beatles disbanded in 1970, Starr embarked on a solo career. He had already toyed with his independent ideas for songs and drummed for both George Harrison and John Lennon’s solo albums, releasing his first solo album, Sentimental Journey. Starr followed up with Beaucoups of Blues in 1971, a country-inspired album that was a commercial flop.

Starr also pursued an acting career while continuing to record music of his own. In 1973 he cracked the US with his best-selling solo album, Ringo gaining him two No. 1 hits. In 1976 Starr’s marriage broke down; which Starr attributed to too much drink and drugs at the time. In 1980, on the set of the film Caveman, Starr met actress Barbara Bach and they were married a year later.

Following John Lennon’s murder in December 1980, Starr and Bach flew to New York to support Lennon’s girlfriend Yoko Ono. Starr released album Stop and Smell the Roses in October 1981; a record which should have included two songs written by Lennon, but they were never recorded as Starr felt uncomfortable recording them after Lennon’s death.

The 1980s and Onwards

In the mid-80s Starr gave his voice to narrate children’s TV series, Thomas & Friends based on the books by the Reverend W. Awdry. Starr continued drumming for numerous hit singers, participating in charity concerts and in January 1988 he attended the New York ceremony inducting the Beatles’ place in the Hall of Fame.

In the late 80s Starr began a life of sobriety, attending rehab for alcoholism with his wife Barbara, and in 1989 he began touring with an assortment of successful musicians who he gathered as an ensemble creating Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. Though the ensemble changed, the All Starr band continued touring and releasing live albums well into the ‘90s.

Starr continued to create music and appear on behalf of the Beatles at numerous events throughout the 90s and 00s, even making cameo appearances on shows like The Simpsons. Starr published his book, Photograph in 2013 which served as a visual biography, containing 240 photos from his early life and time with the Beatles. In 2018 he became Sir Richard Starkey, being included in the Queen’s New Year Honors list for services to music.

There is not currently a list of top 10 drummers that exists without Ringo Starr’s name somewhere on it and he is currently the richest drummer in the world, with an estimated fortune worth $350 million. Not bad for a lad from Liverpool.