When it came to handing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Award for Musical Excellence out to Ringo Starr, there was certainly no one more appropriate for the task than Paul McCartney. Not only are the two men the sole surviving members of the Beatles — for whom they comprised one of rock & roll’s most legendary rhythm sections — but it was McCartney himself who kickstarted the process of getting Starr into the Hall as a solo artist. “I talked to Bruce Springsteen and I talked to Dave Grohl, and they both said he should be in,” McCartney told Rolling Stone. “And I said I’d do the induction. That took care of it.”
During the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Saturday night at Cleveland’s Public Hall, McCartney — who had posthumously inducted fellow Beatle John Lennon as a solo performer in 1994 — bestowed ample praise upon his old mate, along with the award. The final member of the Fab Four to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a solo artist, Starr has released 19 solo albums to date, more than any former Beatle other than McCartney.
Starr’s induction was part of a stellar Class of 2015 ceremony that also included the induction of Lou Reed, Green Day, Bill Withers, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the “5” Royales, the latter of whom were inducted in the Early Influence category.
Read McCartney’s full speech:
OK. Ringo Starr was born in Liverpool at a very early age, and he had a hard childhood. Real hard childhood, but he had a beautiful mom, Elsie, and a lovely stepdad Harry. Both of them had real big hearts, beautiful people, and they loved music. So at some point during this difficult childhood, Ringo got a drum. Ringo got a drum! And that was it. He was now a drummer.
Later on he joined a group called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. And we saw these guys when we were out in Hamburg, we were playing out there. And Ringo was like a professional musician. We were just like, slamming around and doing stuff, but he had a beard — that’s professional. He had the suit. Very professional. And he would sit at the bar drinking bourbon and seven. We’d never seen anyone like this. This was like, a grown-up musician.
Anyway, we got friendly with him, and he used to come in late night when we were playing, and he requested a couple of songs, so we got to know him. And one night our drummer then, Pete Best, wasn’t available, so Ringo sat in. And I remember the moment. I mean, Pete was great, and we had a good time with him. But me, John and George, God bless ’em, were on the front line singing, and now behind us we had this guy we’d never played with before, and I remember the moment when he started to play – I think it was Ray Charles, “What’d I Say,” and most of the drummers couldn’t nail the drum part, it’s a little bit [sings a bit of it]. It was a little difficult to do, but Ringo nailed it. Yeah — Ringo nailed it! And I remember the moment, standing there and looking at John and then looking at George, and the look on our faces was like, fuck you. What is this? And that was the moment, that was the beginning, really, of the Beatles.
Anyway, then we started this great journey for these four guys from Liverpool who were . . .we just set off on their journey. We did ballrooms and clubs around England, and we got a little work in Europe, and then we eventually came to America. And here we were, we were staying in rooms together. And I wasn’t a sheltered kid, but I just had my mom and dad growing up and my brother. So I was staying in a hotel room with a strange man. This really brought us together. We lived like in each other’s pockets, virtually. But it was a beautiful thing, a wonderful thing. Eventually we got on The Ed Sullivan Show, and we got really famous. It was just so beautiful. As all the other drummers say, he just is something so special. When he’s playing behind you, you see these other bands, they’re looking around at the drummer, like, is he going to speed up, is he going to slow down? You don’t have to look with Ringo.
It’s a great honor for me to be able to induct him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland tonight!