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Meet the Beatle: A Guide to Ringo Starr’s Solo Career in 20 Songs

A crash course in the last 45 years of the most under-appreciated Beatle

Ringo Starr

02 Jul 1969 --- Ringo Starr Playing Acoustic Guitar --- Image by © Douglas Kirkland/Corbis

Douglas Kirkland/Corbis

Since the Beatles called it quits in 1970, the three men who stood in front of the stage have had no problem building their legacies — John Lennon wrote the iconic “Imagine” and “Give Peace a Chance,” George Harrison released All Things Must Pass and spent time as a Traveling Wilbury, Paul McCartney headlines Super Bowl halftime shows and Olympic opening ceremonies. 

Drummer Ringo Starr, alas, has not been afforded the same luxury: After a string of hit singles in the early Seventies, he’s mostly been out of the musical spotlight, reappearing as a consummate session man (he’s drummed for Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Ben Harper among others) or as a voice actor.

Starr’s Award for Musical Excellence at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony gives the drummer some well-deserved, and long-overdue, props as both a sideman and a solo artist. In the latter role, he’s released 18 albums, with his latest, Postcards From Paradise, due this month. Catch up with the career of our cover star with these 20 songs.

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02 Jul 1969 --- Ringo Starr Playing Acoustic Guitar --- Image by © Douglas Kirkland/Corbis

Douglas Kirkland/Corbis

“Weight of the World” (1992)

Back in the groove after touring with his All-Starr Band, Ringo recorded his first album in nearly a decade, 1992's Time Takes Time, and the lead single was his best song since the Seventies. As though taking a hint from Starr's buddy George Harrison, producer Don Was arranged shimmering 12-string guitars to take on an almost Wilbury-ish feel.

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02 Jul 1969 --- Ringo Starr Playing Acoustic Guitar --- Image by © Douglas Kirkland/Corbis

Douglas Kirkland/Corbis

“Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On” (1999)

Starr's 1999 Christmas album, I Wanna Be Santa Claus, contained the usual standards like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Winter Wonderland," as well as "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)," a song the Beatles had recorded for their 1967 Christmas message. But for the promo single, Starr got back to his glam roots with this football chant, featuring background vocals by Jeff Lynne.

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02 Jul 1969 --- Ringo Starr Playing Acoustic Guitar --- Image by © Douglas Kirkland/Corbis

Douglas Kirkland/Corbis

“The Official BBC Children in Need Medley” (as Thomas the Tank Engine) (2009)

Many millennial tots are likely to have first encountered Ringo not as a Beatle, but as the voice of the original narrator of Thomas the Tank Engine or as Mr. Conductor on Shining Time Station. Here, he joined in with a number of other British kiddie show voice talents for a strange medley that starts out with the Jacksons' "Can You Feel It" and arrives at Elbow's "One Day Like This," with stopovers in "Jai Ho!" and "Hey Jude." 

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02 Jul 1969 --- Ringo Starr Playing Acoustic Guitar --- Image by © Douglas Kirkland/Corbis

Douglas Kirkland/Corbis

“Walk with You” (with Paul McCartney) (2009)

Starr had initially planned to pen a song about God, with something of a gospel flavor, but writing partner Van Dyke Parks took the tune in a more secular direction. The new topic was friendship and its power to endure over the years, which made it the ideal setting for a collaboration between the two surviving Beatles as they neared their seventies.

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02 Jul 1969 --- Ringo Starr Playing Acoustic Guitar --- Image by © Douglas Kirkland/Corbis

Douglas Kirkland/Corbis

“I Wish I Was a Powerpuff Girl” (2014)

As adorable and animated in his way as the Powerpuff Girls themselves, Starr was just the Chemical X the Keane-eyed crime fighters’ 2014 comeback special needed. “‘Cause then I’d save the world, and afterward, cuddle up with a puppy or two,” he sings, proving that you’re never too old to dream of becoming a lab experiment gone awry.

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