Let me begin today’s post with what may be a startling confession. Up until recently I had zero respect for Ringo Starr’s drumming. Simply put, my ignorance kept me from acknowledging the historic contributions of the man. Perhaps it was because I am far too young to have been around for Beatlemania, or that my middle age has brought me more wisdom, or that my palette for drumming has been expanded but recently I have been enamored with Ringo’s playing. No one served the song like Ringo and the way he used his kit as an extension of the music is brilliant. There are so many drum parts from The Beatles music that look simple on the surface, but are incredibly fitting when examined through the proper lens. Ringo played like a musician first and a drummer second.
Listen to the opening groove on “Ticket to Ride.” You can’t help but think “Who does that?” The answer is Ringo. Other hits that feature standout drum performances are “I Wanna’ Be Your Man,” “Day Tripper,” “Come Together,” “All You Need is Love,” and “Something.” Each of these songs has an original drum part that fits perfectly within the confines of the overall composition.
Another feather in Ringo’s cap is the countless number of drummers that he has influenced over the years. Many of the most respected drummers today cite Ringo as their primary influence and he continues to inspire new generations of drummers while touring around the world. According to Steve Smith, “Before Ringo, drum stars were measured by their soloing ability and virtuosity. Ringo’s popularity brought forth a new paradigm… we started to see the drummer as an equal participant in the compositional aspect… His parts are so signature to the songs that you can listen to a Ringo drum part without the rest of the music and still identify the song.”
One may be surprised to learn that Ringo never took a drum lesson. According to the man himself, “I never studied anything, really. I didn’t study the drums. I joined bands and made all the mistakes onstage.” This is a testament to his natural feel. His unorthodox style was derived from the fact that he played a right-handed kit despite being left-handed. This influenced his fills to be more ‘back and forth’ between the toms and snare as opposed to going ‘around’ the toms.
Beyond the drums Ringo seems to be a genuinely nice guy. His moniker is “Peace and Love” and I believe that he really means it. He is also a children’s author with titles such as Octopuses Garden. Not surprising Ringo tops the list of richest drummers with a net worth of $300 million and he continues to share his wealth by being very active in worldwide charity work. Therefore Ringo the person deserves our respect first and foremost, then as a drummer. It took a long time for me to realize that but I’ve finally come around.