Today is Ringo Starr’s 70th birthday. He is celebrating with a private event at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City, followed by a concert at Radio City Music Hall.
I always thought Ringo Starr was a vastly underrated rock drummer. Because he was a character who became known for his “Ringoisms” — like “a hard day’s night” — I think many people considered him to be less important musically than other members of the Beatles. When Lorne Michaels offered some ludicrously small amount for the Beatles to reunite and play on Saturday Night Live, he specifically said that the other band members could give Ringo a lesser cut if they wanted to. It was supposed to be funny, but it was a cruel joke.
Sure, Ringo didn’t write many songs or have many singing hits when he was with the Beatles. (Ironically, for a few years after the Beatles split up, Ringo had the most post-Beatles hits of any ex-member of the band, with songs like It Don’t Come Easy and Photograph.) Nevertheless, he was the man who put the beat in the Beatles. He had rock ‘n roll in his soul and never let showmanship get in the way of keeping the beat. Listen to the ferocious drumming on, say, Twist and Shout and you will know what I mean. Anyone who likes to dance to the early Beatles tunes — songs like Dizzy Miss Lizzie or I Saw Her Standing There — should tip his cap to Ringo Starr because his excellent drumming made those songs easy to dance to. Even on his one drum solo — at the end of side two of Abbey Road — Ringo seemed to focus mostly on the beat, and not on technical flourishes or showoff riffs that detracted from the rhythm. Yet within that guiding framework, Ringo also was capable of inventiveness. Rain and Come Together are two pretty good examples of that fact.
I think it is safe to say that the Beatles without Ringo would not have been the Beatles. Happy Birthday, Ringo! Let’s celebrate with this video of Rain: