REVISIT: Ringo: Peace & Love
ABOUT THE EXHIBIT
The GRAMMY Museum, in cooperation with Ringo Starr, debuted Ringo: Peace & Love on June 12, 2013. The one-of-a-kind, limited-run exhibit offered visitors an unprecedented, in-depth look at all aspects of Starr’s musical and creative life – as a musician, artist, actor, and as the man the world knows and loves simply as “Ringo.” The exhibit also aimed to propel Starr’s universal message of peace and love.
Ringo: Peace & Love was both the first major exhibit ever dedicated to a drummer and the first to explore the extraordinary career of the nine-time GRAMMY Award winner. The exhibit brings together diverse artifacts, rare and never-before-seen photographs, documents, personal letters, and footage. Ringo: Peace & Love was on display until April 27, 2014 in the GRAMMY Museum’s Special Exhibits Gallery.
INTERVIEWS WITH RINGO
In conjunction with this virtual exhibit, check out our never-before-released archived interview with Ringo Starr available now on the GRAMMY Museum’s Streaming Platform, COLLECTION:live, and stay tuned for a brand new interview with Ringo on March 18 to discuss his new EP Zoom In and his new book, Ringo Rocks: 30 Years of the All Starrs 1989-2019.
RINGO STARR: PEACE & LOVE
Ringo Starr made music history as the drummer for The Beatles—the most popular, innovative, and influential rock group of all time. As the band’s beat-keeper, Starr crafted a distinctive drum style that was crisp and simple, and left plenty of room for the lyrical and melodic genius of songwriters George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon to soar unimpeded.
Prior to Ringo Starr, rock & roll drummers were too often nameless musicians whose place in the band was marginal and whose presence onstage was barely noticed. Ringo Starr single-handedly changed the role and identity of the rock & roll drummer. His amicable personality and sharp sense of humor made him a favorite with Beatles’ fans, while his work behind the drum kit inspired an entire generation of drummers, from the E Street Band’s Max Weinberg to Evan Jones of the band fun. Even in the late 1960s, when drummers such as The Who’s Keith Moon, Cream’s Ginger Baker, and Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham radically altered the style and presence of rock drummers, Ringo remained committed to the basic backbeat, keeping it on point and precise and offering an alternative to rhythmic excess in rock bands.
After The Beatles disbanded in 1970, Starr embarked on a long and successful solo career. Hits such as “It Don’t Come Easy” and “Photograph” kept Ringo on the charts and proved he had a recording life beyond The Beatles. Later still, he formed Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band, touring the world with it and re-inventing its line-up with new musicians nearly each time he took to the road. An acting career and non-musical pursuits such as photography and painting kept Starr’s creative juices flowing. A seven-time GRAMMY Award winner, Ringo Starr continues to record and perform today and remains “a drummer’s drummer.”
RINGO: EARLY YEARS
Richard Starkey, who the world would later know as Ringo Starr, was born in Liverpool, England on July 7, 1940 during the nation’s darkest days of World War II. His parents, Richard and Elsie Starkey, were of the working class; they remained married until 1943, when Richard abruptly left. An only child, “Young Ritchie,” as he was called, grew up without a father until his mother re-married Harry Graves when he was 11 years old.
Never entirely healthy as a child, Starkey spent much of 1947 in a local Liverpool hospital recuperating from peritonitis and a burst appendix and missed much school. A fair student at best, Starkey did show some aptitude in art and mechanics, but before school significantly impacted him, he was back in the hospital, this time battling bouts of pleurisy and tuberculosis.
Richard Starkey’s last year of school was 1955, by which point he had become fascinated with pop music and the drums, finally getting his first kit. Starkey enjoyed the recordings of Johnnie Ray, Cab Calloway, and the Platters before falling for skiffle, a form of pop-folk music made popular by English Lonnie Donegan, and the early sounds of rock & roll courtesy of Bill Haley and the Comets and Elvis Presley.
Playing the drums more and more, the 17-year-old Starkey formed a band in 1957 with a friend, Eddie Miles. They called themselves the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Band because “Clayton sounded better than Miles.” Two years later, Starkey joined a new band that played more rock & roll than skiffle called the Raving Texans, which would eventually become Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. In a short time, the group would become one of Liverpool’s biggest teen draws in clubs and at dances. It was during Starkey’s tenure with Storm and the Hurricanes that he adopted the stage name, Ringo Starr.
The Beatles, as the world knew the band, came together in August 1962 when Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best. Prior to that, The Beatles—drummer Best, guitarists John Lennon and George Harrison, and bass player Paul McCartney—had been performing in Liverpool, its home base, and in Hamburg, Germany, perfecting the American rock & roll they loved and polishing a sound based on original songs that would change the course of popular music in the twentieth century.
The Beatles grew out of a skiffle band, The Quarry Men, which a young John Lennon formed in 1956 and which, by the fall of 1957, included guitarist Paul McCartney. Within a few months, another guitarist, George Harrison, had joined the band, and by late 1959, its name had changed from The Quarry Men to Johnny and the Moondogs. When Lennon’s art school friend, Stu Sutcliffe, began playing bass in the band in early 1960, the name changed, to the Beatals, then the Silver Beetles, before finally settling on the Silver Beatles, with an “a.” By the time Pete Best joined them on drums in the summer of 1960, the group had dropped “Silver” to become simply The Beatles.
For two years—from August 1960 through December 1962—The Beatles intermittently played clubs and bars in Hamburg, honing their sound and gaining valuable experience as musicians—onstage and off. The Beatles played mostly covers of Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Carl Perkins. When Sutcliffe remained in Hamburg in late 1960 to further his painting career, McCartney switched to bass and the band became a quartet. By the time The Beatles began playing Liverpool’s Cavern Club in early 1961, the new line-up had begun to gel.
The Cavern Club provided the same kind of on-the-job training that the nightly gigs in Hamburg gave the band. But now, The Beatles were playing in front of Liverpool teens instead of half-drunk sailors and tourists. In January 1962, Brian Epstein became The Beatles’ manager. A recording contract with EMI’s Parlophone subsidiary came next and George Martin became The Beatles’ producer. All this was followed by the final piece to the puzzle: the addition of drummer Ringo Starr.
A few weeks after Ringo joined the band, Martin took The Beatles into the recording studio. The band cut two original songs: “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You.” By October 1962, “Love Me Do” had cracked the Top 20 in England. Other hit singles in 1963, including “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You,” and “She Loves You” skyrocketed up the English charts. In November that year, The Beatles gave a Royal Command Performance for Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother. Whenever the group performed and wherever the group went, hordes of screaming fans followed.
Beatlemania was underway.
THE BEATLES: 1964-1966
The Beatles became a worldwide phenomenon after the group arrived in America in early 1964. Their historic performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in early February was seen by over 70 million people and caused a national media frenzy. Almost overnight, the Beatles dominated pop culture conversations and permanently changed the way music was created and consumed.
Beatlemania intensified after the group invaded movie theaters. In the summer of 1964, A Hard Day’s Night, followed by Help! in 1965, gave fans the chance to experience not just the music of The Beatles, but also their personalities and sense of humor. The Beatles toured America three times from 1964 to 1966, performing for screaming, adoring fans in venues such as the Hollywood Bowl and Dodger Stadium.
Beatles pop singles overwhelmed the charts, many of them landing in the number one slot. But transformation came fast. With its cellos and alienation theme, the 1966 single, “Eleanor Rigby” was a far cry musically and sonically from the pop cuddliness of “She Loves You.” The albums Rubber Soul in 1965 and Revolver in 1966 were remarkable in their artistic genius and revolutionary in concept and scope. Both recordings rank near or at the top of the greatest rock albums ever.
Individually, The Beatles also soared. While John Lennon and Paul McCartney grew into pop music’s greatest songwriting duo and George experimented with the exotic sounds of India, Ringo became one of the most effective and influential drummers of the ‘60s. His style was perfectly suited for Beatles compositions. Keeping a tight beat and lightly flavoring the rhythm with easy-flowing fills, Ringo gave plenty of space to the melodies and became the unsung hero of The Beatles’ musical success.
THE BEATLES: 1967-1970
The Beatles hit their creative zenith with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. The album spent nearly four months at No. 1, and today, over 50 years after its release, is still revered as a masterpiece. Other seminal works followed: the No. 1 singles “All You Need Is Love,” “Hello Goodbye,” and “Hey Jude”; the films Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine, the latter including the title track sung by Ringo; and the double album The Beatles, more commonly called The White Album.
It was The White Album that first revealed, as Rolling Stone magazine remarked, “the divergent directions” of The Beatles. The once seamless writing team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney showed signs of strain, while both Ringo and George Harrison, each writing more and possessing more creative ideas, yearned for a greater say in the musical decisions of the band. The rift between band members—both artistic and personal—was not quelled with the release of Abbey Road in 1969, despite its critical success. The album featured the second Ringo composition found on a Beatles record, “Octopus’s Garden” (the first, “Don’t Pass Me By” was heard on The White Album), and Ringo’s one and only drum solo on a Beatles’ track was heard on the Lennon-McCartney song, “The End.”
It became clear that the future of The Beatles as a band was in serious jeopardy. Lennon’s deepening connection to his new wife Yoko Ono alienated him from the rest of The Beatles. The sudden and unexpected death of manager Brian Epstein in 1967, the hiring of Allen Klein to take his place, and the financial disaster that was Apple Corps Ltd, which included Apple Records, exacerbated the situation. In the spring of 1970, when McCartney released his debut self-titled solo album, and Ringo released Sentimental Journey, his first solo album, the band’s bottom fell out. Shortly thereafter, The Beatles were no more.
Two final Beatles albums were released in 1970: Hey Jude and Let It Be. The former was merely a collection of singles and B-sides and lacked the cohesion of an album, while the latter, actually recorded before Abbey Road, included the number-one single “Get Back,” and was co-produced by Phil Spector.
First publicly seen in The Beatles’ 1969 documentary film Let It Be, this American-made Ludwig maple drum kit was used by Ringo Starr for the recording of the Let It Be and Abbey Road albums. In recent years, Ringo has recorded with this kit, most prominently on his 2005 Choose Love album. The snare drum displayed is from Ringo’s third Ludwig oyster black pearl kit. There is no documentation demonstrating that it was ever used by Ringo during recording sessions with The Beatles.
RINGO STARR: THE SOLO YEARS
After the breakup of the The Beatles in 1970, Ringo Starr wasted little time developing a solo career. That year, he released his debut solo album, Sentimental Journey, a mix of standards that Starr grew up hearing in England. In 1971, he recorded Beaucoups of Blues, a collection of country standards that played on his longtime interest in American country music. That same year, his first hit single, the now classic “It Don’t Come Easy,” began what would be a run of seven consecutive Top Ten singles, including a pair of No. 1 hits, “Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen (You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine)” from his 1973 Ringo album.
Starr continued a regular recording pace, releasing an album a year from 1974 through 1978. He began with Goodnight Vienna in 1974, followed by Blast from Your Past in 1975, Rotogravure in 1976, Ringo The 4th in 1977 and Bad Boy in 1978. There were more Top Ten singles as well. “Only You (And You Alone)” and “No No Song” became big hits for Starr and maintained his presence on Top 40 radio.
Starr returned to the recording studio in 1981 with the release of Stop and Smell the Roses, followed by Old Wave in 1983. Though the former was critically received, it became clear that he had saturated his fans with music. Thus, with the exception of a greatest hits album, Starr went on a recording hiatus for the rest of the 1980s. Then, in 1989, he formed the first of the Ringo Starr and His All Starr Bands, giving his career a new vitality. He began a series of tours that ran through the next couple of decades that supported future recording efforts, some of which occurred with the All Starr Band.
Arguably his most celebrated solo album of the All Starr era came in 1992 with Time Takes Time, an album the New York Times called “one of Ringo’s very best.” In 1998, now with a new studio band he dubbed the Roundheads, Starr released Vertical Man followed by Ringo Rama in 2003. Other recording efforts with new versions of the All Starr Band were also released. Starr’s 2010 album, Y Not, included a cameo appearance by Paul McCartney. Ringo Starr continues to record.
ALL STARR BAND
Beginning in 1989, when he formed the first version of Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band, Starr has toured often, much to the delight of fans around the world. Thus far, there have been 14 versions of the All Starr Band, each made up of true “all-star” musicians and performers from all corners of rock & roll.
All Starr alumni include guitarists Joe Walsh (Eagles), Nils Lofgren (E Street Band), Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad), Steve Lukather (Toto), Peter Frampton, Dave Edmunds, Todd Rundgren, and Rick Derringer; keyboard players Roger Hodgson (Supertramp), Dr. John, Edgar Winter, and Gary Wright; bass players John Entwistle (The Who), Rick Danko (The Band), and Jack Bruce (Cream); drummers Levon Helm (The Band), Jim Keltner, and Ringo’s son Zak Starkey; percussionist Sheila E.; and saxophone player Clarence Clemons (E Street Band).
The live set for each of the All Starr tours has remained remarkably consistent: Ringo, as the front man and lead singer, performs a cross-section of Beatles and solo career hits, coupled with mini-sets made up of two or three songs performed by various All Starrs, with Starr behind the drum kit.
Ringo and his All Starr Band continue to perform today.
SWAROVSKI KIT (AKA “CRYSTAL KIT”)
This drum kit, often called “the crystal kit,” was built in 2008 and used in concert on that year’s Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band tour. It was also used on a tour through South America in 2011. The kit was designed by Ringo and drum tech Jeff Chonis. It consists of four Ludwig Legacy Classic maple shells. Each star on the drums has individual Swarovski crystals glued into place one by one, requiring many hours of tedious labor. The “crystal kit” is one of Ringo’s favorite drum sets.
PHOTOGRAPHS… BY RINGO STARR
Ringo Starr picked up photography early in the meteoric rise of The Beatles, when he purchased a camera to document his days and travels with the band. Along the way, he captured a rare, behind-the-scenes look at his band mates and other close associates of the group, and a unique glimpse of Beatlemania—from the eye of a Beatle.
Of the many photos from the early ‘60s in his collection, Ringo Starr personally selected these images for display. “These are photos that I like,” Ringo remarked. “They say something about me and something about the band I was in at the time.”