Was surfing through YouTube the other day and found a couple videos devoted to the talent of Ringo Starr.
Even today, the Beatles’ drummer (who turned 76 in July!) is the subject of jokes — jokes that fit the drummer stereotype of not being the brainiest boffin in the lab. Ringo, in particular, is taken for granted because of his shambling, good-natured manner, regular-guy looks and the misbegotten idea that he lucked into the drummer’s chair with the best band that ever was.
In fact, I had to be corrected myself — by Beatles biographer Mark Lewisohn, no less — when I mentioned an alleged John Lennon quote about Ringo’s prowess. Lennon, supposedly asked by an interviewer if Ringo was the best drummer in rock ‘n’ roll, was said to have responded that “he wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.” (Paul McCartney is a capable drummer in his own right.) Lewisohn told me the quote actually came from a 1980s comedian.
The Beatles themselves knew his value. When he walked out during the fraught recording of the White Album, John, Paul and George sent him a telegram asking him to come back and welcomed him with a flower-laden drum kit.
All that aside, if you want to know how good Ringo is, simply ask another drummer.
“Define the best drummer in the world,” says Dave Grohl. “Is it someone that’s technically proficient, or is it someone that sits in the song with their own feel? Ringo was the king of feel.”
What’s even more interesting is how Ringo came up with some of his distinct beats and fills. It’s because he’s a lefty playing a right-handed drum kit. That’s particularly noticeable on “Come Together,” he told Dave Stewart.
“That’s why everyone thought, ‘Wow, he’s a genius,’ ” he said. “But all I was doing was trying to play backwards.”
Close enough to genius, Ringo.