Ringo Starr's knighthood is long overdue
Twenty years after Paul McCartney was knighted, and 17 years after George Harrison turned down an OBE, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr has been awarded a knighthood for services to music and charity work.
It will be the first time the musician has been to Buckingham Palace since the band received MBEs back in 1965. Music journalist and Beatles fan Andy Welch looks back on the 77-year-old’s legacy.
Arise Sir Ringo.
And not a moment too soon. In fact, the knighthood of the Beatles drummer is hugely overdue.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney were, of course, the driving force behind the band, widely regarded as the greatest of British exports, with notable songwriting additions from George Harrison.
As a result, McCartney was knighted in 1997, quite rightly the first popular music icon to be awarded the honour for services to British music, years ahead of Mick Jagger, Cliff Richard and the rest.
It’s perhaps safe to assume the honour would have at least been offered to Lennon too had he not died in 1980.
Whether he’d have accepted – he returned his MBE, awarded in 1965 alongside the rest of The Beatles – is another matter. The same could be said for Harrison, who sadly died in 2001.
Ringo should not have had to wait anywhere near so long, not when the honours are handed to sports stars, actors and politicians whose achievements and impact on the world pales in comparison with his.
As one of two remaining Beatles, he can’t help but be in the shadow of the creative colossus that is Paul McCartney.
But Ringo was a quarter of the greatest cultural force the world has ever seen. And a brilliant part of it at that.
“John Lennon said he wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles.”
Quiet at the back. Lennon never said anything of the sort, that joke was made by one-time TV staple Jasper Carrott in about 1983.
It’s attitudes like that wrongly attributed ‘joke’ that have, I believe, held back Ringo’s right and proper treatment. It’s all part of the same pernicious, lazy perceived wisdom among pub bores and casual fans around the country that Ringo was some sort of talent-less journeyman, in the right place at the right time.
Nothing could be further from the truth. There was nowhere to hide in that band.
The next time you listen to a Beatles track, listen closely to the drums.
Ringo’s drumming, so fluid, so intuitive, is unlike virtually every other rock and roll drummer before or since. It couldn’t be anyone else on the drum stool.
He played the song, rather than merely adding a beat. His drumming has feel, he could swing like no other. Imagine, if you can, Beatles songs without his playing. It’s impossible.
After The Beatles was his solo work. Of course, it never hit the heights of his three bandmates. There are, however, diamonds in the rough – check out It Don’t Come Easy and Photograph, if you need persuading. His tours with his All Starr Band are hugely successful.
There’s also his underrated acting career, Thomas the Tank Engine narration, and philanthropy – one auction of his belongings in 2015 raised more than $9m (£6m) for his and wife Barbara Bach’s Lotus Foundation.
Not bad for a boy from Liverpool.
So arise Sir Ringo, better late than never.