6 Songs You Didn’t Know Ringo Wrote for the Beatles

Not known as a songwriter—instead, as one of the greatest drummers in music and for serenity and love—Ringo Starr was a major part of what’s considered likely the best band of all time: the Beatles.

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He was the man behind the kit, more often than not providing an affable attitude amidst prideful turmoil with the other members. For evidence of this, check out the 2021 documentary: The Beatles: Get Back.

But while Starr (born Richard Starkey) wasn’t known as a songwriter on the level of his bandmates Paul McCartney or even guitarist George Harrison, he did write a couple of songs for the band and served as a co-writer on several others.

Surprised? These are six songs you didn’t know the now-82-year-old Ringo Starr wrote for the Beatles. (Spoiler alert: he didn’t write “Yellow Submarine,” that was John and Paul.)

1. “Octopus’s Garden”

Written by Ringo Starr

One of two songs Ringo wrote outright for the former Mop Tops. Released in 1969 from the band’s Abbey Road album, this song is synonymous with Starr today. The Beatles liked to let Starr sing the goofier tracks (see: “Yellow Submarine”) because they fit his more cartoonish voice. This track, which was the last released by the Beatles with Starr as the lead singer, was assisted minorly by Harrison.

“‘Octopus’s Garden’ is Ringo’s song,” Harrison said, “It’s only the second song Ringo wrote, and it’s lovely.” He added that the song gets very deep into the listener’s consciousness “because it’s so peaceful. I suppose Ringo is writing cosmic songs these days without even realizing it.”

I’d like to be
Under the sea
In an octopus’ garden
In the shade

He’d let us in
Knows where we’ve been
In his octopus’ garden
In the shade

2. “Don’t Pass Me By”

Written by Ringo Starr

The second of the two songs written solely by Starr for the band, “Don’t Pass Me By” was released in 1968 on The White Album. The track marks Starr’s first solo contribution to the Beatles’ catalog. As the story goes, Starr showed the song to the band members not long after he joined the group in 1962.

“I wrote Don’t Pass Me By when I was sitting ’round at home,” said Starr. “I was fiddling with the piano—I just bang away—and then if a melody comes and some words, I just have to keep going. It was great to get my first song down, one that I had written. It was a very exciting time for me and everyone was really helpful, and recording that crazy violinist was a thrilling moment.”

Don’t pass me by, don’t make me cry, don’t make me blue
‘Cause you know, darling, I love only you
You’ll never know it hurt me so, how I hate to see you go
Don’t pass me by
Don’t make me cry

3. “What Goes On”

Written by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr

From the 1965 album, Rubber Soul, “What Goes On” is the only track credited to just the three Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr (sans George Harrison). It’s also the only track on the album that includes Starr’s vocals.

What goes on in your heart?
What goes on in your mind?
You are tearin’ me apart
When you treat me so unkind
What goes on in your mind?

4. “Maggie Mae”

Written by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr

This is an adapted traditional song that originates in Liverpool, England, the famous home of the Beatles. The quick Beatles rendition of the tune is about a prostitute who robbed a man who had just returned from sea. Together, the four members of the Beatles arranged the lyrics and released the song on their 1970 album, Let It Be.

Oh, dirty Maggie Mae they have taken her away
And she’ll never walk down Lime Street anymore
Oh, the judge, he guilty found her
For robbin’ the homeward bounder
That dirty, no good, robbin’ Maggie Mae
‘Tis the part of Liverpool
They returned me to
Two pounds ten a week, that was my pay

5. “Dig It”

Written by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr

From the 1970 album, Let It Be, which was the group’s last LP release, “Dig It” is one of only a handful to be credited to all four Beatles. The vast majority were credited to the duo of McCartney and Lennon. The song is more of an interstitial track, clocking in at less than a minute. It’s almost a quick pre-recording studio jam.

Like a rolling stone
Like a rolling stone
Like a rolling stone
Like the FBI
And the CIA
And the BBC
B.B. King
And Doris Day
Matt Busby, dig it, dig it

6. “Flying”

Written by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr

Another of the few tracks from the band to be credited to all four members, “Flying” is an instrumental song from the group’s 1967 LP, Magical Mystery Tour. Only about two minutes long, this song is like an LSD dream through a toy factory.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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