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Summary Article: Ringo Starr
from The Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music

In contrast to the more exploratory and innovatory solo careers of his fellow Beatles, Starr successfully sustained his cheerful, easy-going Beatles persona in a series of pop hits throughout the seventies. In the process he became one of the grand old men of rock.

The first of The Beatles to record solo, Starr's Sentimental Journey (Apple, 1970) was a lacklustre collection of standards remembered from his childhood. That was followed by the Pete Drake-produced collection of country songs Beaucoups of Blues (1970) - Starr had generally sung country songs on the few occasions he sang lead with The Beatles, such as Carl Perkins' 'Matchbox' and Buck Owens' 'Act Naturally'. His first chart success came with the defiant declaration of his independence from The Beatles, 'It Don't Come Easy'* (1971), and 'Back off Boogaloo' (1972), both self-penned and produced by George Harrison.

Even more successful was Ringo* (1973), produced by Richard Perry whom Starr had met while working with Nilsson. On the album (at different times) Starr was given support by Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The album included a pair of American No. 1s, 'Photograph'* and 'You're Sixteen'* (a revival of Johnny Burnette's 1960 hit), a third Top Ten hit, 'Oh My My', and Lennon's 'I'm the Greatest', which told the story of Starr's Beatles days. Goodnight Vienna (1974) featured two further hits, a revival of the Platters' 1954 recording 'Only You' and 'No No Song'. Following a move to Polydor (Atlantic in the US) for three albums, including the 1978 covers set Bad Boy and the solitary American hit single 'A Dose of Rock'n'Roll' (1976), Starr moved to Boardwalk for Stop and Smell the Roses (Boardwalk, 1981), which included his last American hit, 'Wrack My Brain', written and produced by Harrison. After the failure of Old Wave (RCA, 1983), Starr recorded only intermittently. In 1985, the year his son Zak made his first album, Starr made a guest appearance on the protest record 'Sun City' (Manhattan) by Artists United Against Apartheid.

Starr's musical career during the rest of the eighties was largely confined to making guest appearances on other people's albums until he returned to live performing with the All-Starr Band in 1989. The line-up included former members of The Band, Bruce Springsteen's sax-player Clarence Clemmons, Nils Lofgren, ex-Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh and Dr John. In 1991 he signed to the Private Music label, releasing Time Takes Time and touring with the All Starr Band to promote it. The Live at Montreux album, recorded during the tour, was released in 1993. Although pleasantly easy-going affairs, neither album enjoyed any commercial success. In 1994, along with McCartney and Harrison, he added music to tracks recorded by Lennon for The Beatles' Anthology series. He also contributed to the tribute album to Nilsson, For the Love of Harry (1995), singing 'Lay Down Your Arms'. He returned to performing with Ringo and His All-Starr band, which toured intermittently throughout the nineties as a revivalist band of sorts, with its floating cast (which included at various times Peter Frampton, Dave Mason, Todd Rundgren, Procol Harum's Gary Booker and Jack Bruce) each parading their moment in the sun.

Starr also essayed a film career with parts in such films as Candy (1967) and That'll Be the Day (1973), the year he made his directorial début with Born to Boogie, a documentary about Marc Bolan's T. Rex. In 1981 he starred in Caveman and married his co-star Barbara Bach. In 1984 Starr commenced a new career as a narrator of the television series derived from the Rev. Awdry's Railway Stories series of children's books devoted to Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends. The series was a major success in Britain, America and Japan, where Starr was in great demand as a voice-over artist for commercials.

*This title sold at least a million copies

The Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music, © Phil Hardy 2001

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