The Beatles are undoubtedly one of the most imposing figures in musical history. But often, two of the band’s members are more overlooked than their counterparts John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The guitarist and drummer of the Fab Four, George Harrison and Ringo Starr shared a kindred spirit because of this. It meant when Harrison sadly passed away in 2001, Ringo was mortified by the loss and chose to work through his grief the only way he could, with a tribute to his friend and bandmate.
The song in question featured on Ringo’s 2003 album Ringo Rama and is one of the most honest and touching pieces ever composed by the drummer. ‘Never Without You’ is a straight-up tribute song and is drenched in the agony the Ringo felt when he lost one of his best friends in Harrison. The song is full of references to the guitarist including using another friend of Harrison’s, Eric Clapton who also contributed to the track.
The two’s friendship is undeniable. Ringo had a tough time as part of The Beatles, not only was he the butt of some wholly unfair and entirely cruel jokes, which suggested his contribution to the band was minimal at best. But, inside of the group, his place in the pecking order was right at the bottom, something which wasn’t lost on Harrison during their time together.
When Ringo briefly quite The Beatles, taking himself on holiday to lounge on Peter Sellers’ yacht and, it turns out, write ‘Octopus’ Garden’, there was a real feeling that he might not return. When he did eventually decided to come back to the studio it was Harrison who shelled out to ensure the entire building was full of flowers as a welcome home gift.
Equally, when Harrison was enjoying perhaps his richest moment in the spotlight, the brilliant charity event known as the Concert for Bangladesh, he knew he could call on his old pal Ringo to help him bolster the setlist. An invite was sent to all the members of the band but while Paul McCartney completely refused to attend and John Lennon declined the solitary invite (meaning no olive branch for Yoko Ono), it was Ringo who happily sat in and played as part of the all-star band.
The duo also traded plenty of time working on one another’s solo efforts too. Following the break-up of the band, Ringo and Harrison could finally explore their own songwriting style and it saw them gain huge prominence outside of The Beatles. Speaking of ‘Never Without You’ in 2003, Ringo said of the song: “George was really on my mind when I wrote it.” He claimed that he had remained closest friends with George following the break-up of the band and that the song was an attempt to convey “how I miss him in my heart and in music.”
The song takes reference from Harrison’s most notable compositions including ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘I Dig Love’ while there are elements of Harrison’s riff for ‘What Is Life’ too. But perhaps what would have been Harrison’s favourite part was Eric Clapton’s use of slide guitar “Eric’s on two tracks on the album Ringo Rama, but I really wanted him on this song because George loved Eric and Eric loved George.”
After all, that’s what this song is about — love. The love that the two men shared when going through their respective highest highs and lowest lows. It’s one song that will always have an extra-heavy sentiment attached to it. Listen below to Ringo Starr’s beautiful tribute to George Harrison, ‘Never Without You’.