Ringo Starr


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Drummer Ringo Starr was born Richard Starkey on July 7, 1940 in Liverpool, Englandto a troubled working-class family. Ringo's father deserted his mother when he wasonly three years old (she later remarried), and as a child Ringo was often ill, suffering fromnear-fatal peritonitis as a child and pleurisy as a teenager. As a result of his frequentinfirmities Ringo missed years of school, limiting his education. After leaving schoolat 15, Ringo took a variety of short-lived jobs. By mid-1957 he had become caught up in the famous skiffle craze which was sweeping Britain at the time, becoming the drummer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes; around this time Starkey adopted his now-famous stage name, thinking that it had a cowboy-type sound to it. The Hurricanes became a popular local band, even spending some time in the traditional European hangout for British bands, Hamburg, where they often shared the bill with another Liverpool act, the Beatles.

Not long after the Beatles signed to EMI in early 1962, producer George Martin expresseddispleasure with the technique of their drummer, Pete Best, and suggested he be replaced. Starr immediately came to mind and was invited to join, officially replacing Best in August 1962. This fortuitous event stirred up controversy in the Liverpool music scene --some accused the other Beatles of being jealous of Best's good looks, replacing him with the less-attractive Starr. Regardless of the true reasons behind the decision, personal or artistic, the lives of both Best and Starr were changed forever. As the Beatles grew from a popular Liverpool act to national celebrities to international superstars, Ringo integrated himself into his new band, and was quickly accepted by fans worldwide despite critical grumblings that his drumming was technically inferior.

During the Beatles' June 1964 world tour, Ringo's old health problems resurfaced, and hewas hospitalized with severe tonsillitis; session drummer Jimmy Nichol filled in withthe Beatles in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Asia and Australia, while Ringo had histonsils removed in England. The following year Ringo married longtime sweetheartMaureen Cox, with whom he later had three children, Zak (himself a professionaldrummer), Jason and Lee. The remaining Beatles years were rather uneventful for Ringo, who remained pleasant and compliant despite being permitted to sing on only a handful of songs (such as "Octopus's Garden"). As the Beatles began to fall apart in 1968, Ringo stormed out of the White Album sessions for nearly a week, angry at his bandmates' squabbling, but returned without incident.

While John Lennon and Paul McCartney were plotting solo careers in 1968-70, Ringo was working on an acting career, appearing in the films Candy (1968) and The Magic Christian (1969). After the Beatles' breakup in 1970, Ringo continuedacting, starring in a string of bad, forgotten films such as 200 Motels and Son ofDracula and contributing to TV shows as a voice actor and cameo guest. He also dabbled in painting and furniture design, and formed his own record label and publishing company (which later went bankrupt). But first and foremost, Ringo remained an active musician. His first solo album, 1970's Sentimental Journey, was a collection of popular music from the '30s and '40s arranged by several noted producers; though it was completely unrelated to anything the Beatles ever performed, the strength of his association to the group made the record a Top 30 hit in the U.S. Later that year he released Beacoups of Blues, a country album recorded with top Nashville session musicians. Ringo also drummed on John Lennon's and George Harrison's solo albums - Ringo was the only Beatle to remain good friends with all of his bandmates after the breakup.

In 1972 Ringo's solo career got a boost with the No. 1 single "Back Off Bugaloo."His third solo album, Ringo, was released in 1973 and marked Starr's returnto more standard pop-rock. Featuring contributions from all three ex-Beatles (though never all three together on any given track), Ringo spawned the No. 1 single "Photograph,"and was a critical and commercial success. His 1974 album, Goodnight Vienna,followed a similar pattern as Ringo, and though it was not as big of a hit, it stillsold quite well.

Unfortunately, as 1974 wore on Ringo began to experience a variety of personal problems.Though he contributed some drumwork to his friend Harry Nilsson's album Pussy Cats,for much of the year Ringo immersed himself in the Los Angeles party scene with hisfriend John Lennon -- like John, Ringo was experiencing marriage problems. In 1975he divorced Maureen Cox and moved to Monaco for tax purposes, living the high life.His music began to suffer, and his next three albums, Rotogravure (1976), Ringo the Fourth (1977), and Bad Boy (1977), were complete flops.Atlantic Records, his American distributor, sold his contract to another label. Thingsgot even worse for Ringo when, in early 1979, he was hospitalized with intestinal problemsstemming from his childhood illness. After having several feet of intestine removed, Ringorecovered, only to face another bout of bad luck when, in November, his Los Angelesmansion burned to the ground. In early 1980, while working on the movie Caveman, Ringo fell in love with actress Barbara Bach, co-star of The Spy Who Loved Me. While traveling with her through England in May 1980 the couple suffered a near-fatal car crash, miraculously surviving with few injuries. Starr and Bach married the following year.

Ringo's next album, 1981's Stop and Smell the Roses, featured contributions fromboth Paul McCartney and the recently-deceased John Lennon, who contributed four songsto the project. Though Lennon's death brought the Beatles back into public consciousness,Ringo's new album was strangely ignored, and Ringo was dropped by Polydor, losing hisU.S. and U.K. distribution. Not surprisingly, his 1983 album Old Wave did notsell well. Though he contributed drum tracks to several other artists' albums over the nextfew years, Ringo's own career was greatly hampered by his growing alcoholism. Tomake ends meet Ringo appeared in several children's TV programs and did commercialsfor (ironically) wine coolers. In 1987 Ringo recorded an album in Memphis, Tenn., butit was shelved; when his record company tried to release it several years later, Ringo suedto prevent it from coming out, claiming his personal problems at the time contributed toa sub-standard performance.

By 1989 Ringo had sobered up, but found himself in terrible financial condition thanks to a lavish lifestyle and many poor business investments. After releasing a "greatest hits" album, Starr formed the "All Starr Band" (composed of a rotating cast of talented industrymusicians, sometimes including his own son, Zak) and embarked on his first-ever U.S. solo tour. Over the next few years Ringo and the All Starr Band toured regularly andreleased several albums. In 1995, he reunited with the three surviving Beatles to record new music for two forgotten John Lennon home demos, "Free As a Bird" and "Real Love."Thanks to these "new Beatles songs," sales of the three Beatles rarities double albums, Anthology, were phenomenal; it is rumored that one reason that Paul McCartney and George Harrison agreed to the project was that their old friend Ringo sorely needed the money.

With his problems largely in the past, Ringo continued to tour regularly and contributed drums to Paul McCartney's 1997 Grammy-nominated solo album Flaming Pie.

In 1998 Starr released Vertical Man on Mercury Records. The album was written by Starr, musician Mark Hudson, songwriter Dean Grakal and guitartist Steve Dudas. It was recorded at Hudson's studio with an "open door" policy that accomodated appearances by Ozzy Osbourne, Brian Wilson, Steven Tyler, Scott Weiland, Alanis Morissette, Paul McCartney and George Harrison.

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