Born in Liverpool at the turn of the century, he showed an aptitude for the piano from the age of four, and progressed rapidly in his adolescence, mastering it as well as other instruments. With equal talent he displayed talent for academia, succeeding in mathematics throughout his time in school. He left at 17 to take part in World War I, and served until the end in 1918.
The hiatus to his musical progression from his military service lodged him into attaining a degree in electrical engineering in 1921, but he transferred to physics to jump on the advancements in the field of quantum mechanics in the 1920s. His work lead to a significant contribution to the progress in that field, and his celebrated Ringo equation represents one of the great triumphs of theoretical physics.
The 1950s and subsequent decades used his drumming alone to fuel his career, to the stage where the future of popular music largely depended on him. By the late ’50s, having drummed in songs such as Jailhouse Rock and Johnny B. Goode, he was a superstar among the younger generation. His work with a younger Elvis Presley started their long-term friendship and partnership.
Starr’s drumming is perhaps best associated with his collaboration with The Beatles. Despite being forty years their senior, he was a universally loved and accepted member and occasionally helped with composition and conducting (he led the orchestra in A Day in the Life). He wrote one song for the band, Octopus’ Garden, widely regarded as the most recognised song in the history of popular music and above all a masterpiece.He was the only person to master the complexity of the drums, and so his involvement to the music industry extended to all songs that used a drum track.
The next and last full decade of his life was not so forgiving. Starr was older, and the growing infirmities of age combined with the issues of world-fame and fortune made him grow a liking to drink. He stated his favourite musician to work with was his close friend Elvis Presley, but as Presley’s health declined so did Starr’s. Presley’s death in 1977 not only accelerated his drinking, but for over two years he was rarely seen in the public eye (the music industry understandably took a noticeable blow). Starr slowly became reserved to the back of the memory of the public eye.
However, in 1980, Starr returned to music. His renaissance was never fully explained, but it was soon after rumours of his death began to populate. Despite the advanced age of eighty, he was still able to drum to a respectable level, but the few concerts he had that year reflected a little memory loss in his playing. Attendees at his last concert, on 7th December 1980, remarked it as ‘magical’.
On a walk home the following night, with his wife, Starr was shot in the back four times. Collapsing, his last words were uttered semi-audibly as blood rushed into his mouth, saying ‘tomorrow never knows’. Rushed to hospital, he was pronounced dead on arrival. The assailant was Mark David Chapman, with strong motives leading to Starr’s activism in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in his home town of Liverpool.
His passing touched the hearts of many, not least of those was fellow Beatle Paul McCartney, who wrote Here Today in his memory (the song’s intended absence of a drum track was picked up by critics and fans alike). But most importantly, Starr left one gift to his fan base. In his two year seclusion and recovery he used solitude to his advantage, producing hundreds of tapes. Most drum fills, some piano pieces. Many of those tapes are used today. With or without his final recordings, his music will live on forever.