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Ringo Starr
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Vying with George Harrison as the least conspicuous Beatle, Richard "Ringo Starr" Starkey went on to be the most accessible member of his former outfit; releasing albums with some regularity and frequently touring with ingeniously-conceived bands. Also like Harrison, Starr may not be a flashy instrumentalist, but developed a personal style that was of incalculable value to the group.

The last to join the Beatles, Starr was a journeyman drummer in his native Liverpool, having worked with skiffle and rock and roll bands, notably the highly-regarded Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. When that band worked in Hamburg, Starr fell in with fellow Liverpudlians the Beatles, occasionally substituting there and back in England for their drummer, Pete Best.

When George Martin suggested that Best may not have been the optimum drummer for the Beatles, he was summarily sent back home and Ringo invited aboard, full-time - well, except for the Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You recording session, where Starr found himself banging on a tambourine, with session drummer Andy White sitting in.

Though his inventive and often subtle drumming was - with McCartney's melodic bass - at the core of the Beatles' music, Ringo's vocals were often reserved for novelty songs. His earliest contribution was an old Shirelles song, Boys, which he'd been performing with Rory Storm. Later, Lennon and McCartney wrote songs including the much-loved With a Little Help from My Friends and Yellow Submarine for him In addition to writing the kid-oriented Octopus's Garden, Starr showed an affinity for country music, recording Carl Perkins' Honey Don't and the Buck Owens hit Act Naturally, as well as writing and singing the country-flavored Don't Pass Me By.

Though he didn't record many lead vocals with his band, Starr recorded two albums under his own name before the 1970 break-up: Sentimental Journey, perhaps the first album of standards to be recorded in non-rock arrangements by a rocker; and Beaucoups of Blues, an album of country songs written (or pulled out of the composers' reject pile) for him, and recorded in Nashville.

The Beatles' split didn't seem to stifle his desire to work; having been drawn to film during the shooting of A Hard Day's Night and Help!, he appeared in character roles in films including Candy; The Magic Christian; Blindman and 1980's Caveman, on the set of which he met his second wife, actress Barbara Bach (In February, 1965, Starr had married his girlfriend, Maureen; by the time of their 1975 divorce, they were the parents of sons Zak and Jason, and daughter Lee).

Later, he appeared in the film That'll Be the Day with David Essex, and produced Son of Dracula, co-starring with his and John's friend, Harry Nilsson, and starred in three children-oriented televisions series: Mouse the Scouse; Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends; and Shining Time Station.

He maintained cordial relationships with all of his former bandmates, too; recording on Lennon, McCartney and Harrison sessions, and appearing at George's Concert for Bangladesh. When he recorded his platinum-selling 1973 album Ringo, all three other Beatles contributed to various tracks; later, McCartney and Lennon guested on Ringo's Rotogravure, and McCartney and Harrison appeared on Stop and Smell the Roses.

Like Lennon, Starr had his share of substance-abuse problems; but clean and sober in 1980, he began the first of his All Starr Band tours; each of which has found him with a different group of sidemen ranging from Burton Cummings to Joe Walsh. Each of the guests would perform a number of his own hits, and all would join host Ringo for the likes of With a Little Help from My Friends, Back Off Boogaloo and You're Sixteen. It's a format that has served Ringo and his audience well for more than 20 years, and seemingly could continue until he tires of the road.

© 2004