Drummers who either frown whenever Richard Starkey’s/Ringo Starr’s name comes up or belittle his abilities are the ones who either have no idea what drumming is all about or, worse, belong to the flashy school of drumming that likes to whip out their bag of tricks and drown everything and everyone with their mad “skillz”. You know, the immature ones.
I have spent years listening to all of the Beatles recordings, especially because of Ringo. If you actually take some time out to do exactly that, you’ll discover an incredibly inventive drummer who was and is far removed from the usual quips about his “simple, amateurish style”. I’ve had the chance several times to challenge drummers who thoughtlessly ridiculed Ringo’s playing and invariably they couldn’t nail even a bit of it all. They had neither the restraint nor the ear for it. Ringo had perfect tempo, a musical ear and knew when to play or not to play something.
In the wonderful recently-published Rolling Stone piece on Ringo Starr, written by Stephen Rodrick, you find two quotes that neatly sum up what most people don’t get:
[Paul McCartney:] “You could turn your back on Ringo and never have to worry. He both gave you security and you knew he was going to nail it.”
[Todd Rundgren:] “Few drummers can capture the feel of a song like Ringo. A lot of drummers are on top of the beat, which gives the song a nervous, edgy feel. That’s not Ringo. He plays relaxed, and it sounds so natural.”
Note: Better late than never, on April 18th, Ringo Starr will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist.