For whatever reason, it because commonplace to diminish the influence of Ringo Starr in the years following The Beatles’ breakup. Starr clearly wasn’t on the same songwriting level as his bandmates, but the narrative that Starr was just lucky to be there started to emerge. That couldn’t have been further from the truth: Starr was both incredibly talented and massively innovative as a percussionist, setting the template for over 60 years of rock drumming that has followed. If you play the drums, it’s nearly impossible to not reference Starr’s playing in some way.
For his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, the institution gathered together some of the greatest American drummers to pay tribute to Starr’s legacy as a drummer. In just three minutes, some of the most revered and accomplished percussionists of all time sit at Starr’s iconic Pearl drum kit from the Fab Four’s early 1960s heyday and gush about how much Ringo Starr meant to them.
Highlights include E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg showing off the atypical rhythm of ‘Ticket to Ride’, Foo Fighter Taylor Hawkins attempted to explain the ‘Ringo swing’ like “wash[ing] the windshield on the hi-hat”, and Dave Grohl explaining that all Starr needed was a floor tom to get people to dance. There are a few iconic drum parts that none of the drummers can resist replicating on Starr’s kit, including the opening fills of ‘Come Together’ and the legendary solo on ‘The End’. Even though each drummer comes from a different genre, they all trace their roots back to Ringo.
That includes Jim Keltner, one of Starr’s peers whom Starr has previously called his favourite drummer, Green Day’s Tre Cool, Stewart Copeland, Chad Smith, and Paul McCartney drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr., who has been replicating some of Starr’s most iconic drum parts for over 20 years.
But it’s Questlove who gets the last word on Starr’s legacy: “Ringo was the coolest one”, forever putting to rest the jokes and cuts that Starr gets for his abilities. He might not have been flashy or ferocious like some of his contemporaries, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any drummer in the history of music with a larger collection of iconic drum parts than Ringo Starr.
Check out the tributes to Ringo Starr down below.