Ranking the Beatles Songs on Which Ringo Starr Sung Lead (Covers Not Included)

Ringo Starr provided an essential element to The Beatles‘ winning formula with his unerring drumming ability. His amiable personality also proved the ideal fit for the chemistry within the band. On top of all that, he also stepped to the microphone occasionally to sing lead.

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For this list, we’re only including those songs that were written by The Beatles, which means no covers like “Act Naturally” or “Boys.” Let’s see how the songs where Starr takes the lead stack up against each other.

7. “I Wanna Be Your Man”

The first time Starr sang lead on a Lennon-McCartney song, it was on this track from the With the Beatles album the band also donated to The Rolling Stones. There’s a lot of forward momentum within the song, but there isn’t much of a melody. Perhaps that’s why they chose Starr for it, although he would prove more than capable on more tuneful songs down the road.

6. “What Goes On”

Starr received his first partial songwriting credit for this track from Rubber Soul, although it seems likely that he didn’t contribute all that much to it other than a word change here or there. In any case, the group gave it an odd arrangement that featured John Lennon doing some truly weird rhythm guitar playing. Then again, if it weren’t for those weird touches, this song wouldn’t have much to it.

5. “Don’t Pass Me By”

Another first for Starr, as this was the first song in The Beatles’ catalog for which he received a full songwriting credit. If nothing else, it’s quirky, with some weird lyrics and a melody that ranges in some unexpected directions. In the context of The White Album, it makes perfect sense as part of the anything-goes aesthetic, but on its own, it’s more of an oddity than anything else.

4. “Yellow Submarine”

To his credit, Starr was probably the only group member who could sing lead on this track and make it work. He exudes charm from the very first note. It’s also crucial that he plays the song straight. Had he sung it with an arched eyebrow, “Yellow Submarine” might have sounded more sarcastic than anything else. Instead, it’s a delight for the silly kid inside us all.

3. “Good Night”

Again, it was a smart bit of casting by the group here. Starr is just the right guy to deliver this song with the Hollywood-style orchestration. He also subtly manages to inject just the slightest hint of melancholy into the proceedings as he sings, as if to suggest that we only get so many nights to spend on this planet, so bidding a single one farewell is never an easy thing.

2. “Octopus’s Garden”

Starr got a bit fed up with the personal politics of the band and skedaddled for a bit during the making of The White Album. A mini-vacation at sea inspired him to write “Octopus’s Garden,” and he managed to channel his hurt into a gently moving song about longing for a benign getaway from hard times. His buddy George Harrison’s chiming guitar provides just the right accompaniment.

1. “With a Little Help from My Friends”

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band just wouldn’t be the same without Starr’s brief appearance as Billy Shears. His performance does indeed sound like the work of a veteran vaudevillian stepping to the stage to charm an audience who knows him well. And when called upon for his big note at song’s end, he rises to the occasion like a champ.

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