The Story and Meaning Behind “Weight of the World,” the Ringo Starr Comeback Single that Should Have Been a Hit

Ringo Starr’s solo career hit heights in the ’70s that even his ex-Beatle bandmates could envy. After that career staggered through the ’80s, Starr tried to bounce back with the 1992 single “Weight of the World,” a song that was a musical throwback, even as its lyrics warned about the dangers of living in the past.

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What is “Weight of the World” about? Why was Starr looking for a comeback? And did the single achieve what it set out to do? Find out all the information about a song that’s one of the finest in Starr’s post-Beatles career, even though not a lot of casual fans know much about it.

Ringo’s Return

The late ’80s and early ’90s were prime time for artists who had made their bones in the ’60s and ’70s to deliver comeback albums, often with star-studded casts attached. Ringo Starr was hoping to catch that wave in 1992 with the album Time Takes Time. It was his first album release in nine years.

The previous few in his catalog had failed to light any kind of spark with the listening public. In fact, Starr’s star had fallen so far that his 1983 LP Old Wave failed to earn a release in either the U.S. or UK. Even with Time Takes Time, he had to scramble before finding a label.

The good news is Starr had cleaned himself up in the long interim between albums after years of drug and alcohol abuse. That put him in the right mind to record again. And, as was the case back in the ’70s when he was at his peak, he could count on a lot of industry friends to step up and help him out.

Carrying the “Weight”

Look through the credits of Time Takes Time, and you’re bound to be impressed by the luminaries who helped out Starr. Just the producers alone should wow you: Jeff Lynne of ELO and Traveling Wilburys fame (and later producer of the “Threetles” songs on the Anthology product); Phil Ramone, known for his work with Bob Dylan and Billy Joel; and Peter Asher, a longtime Beatles associate who also shepherded the careers of James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, all produced tracks on the record.

As for lead single “Weight of the World,” Don Was, who at the time was about the hottest producer in the world, helmed the track. Written by Brian O’Doherty and Fred Velez, the song sounded very much like it would have fit in on Beatles classics like Revolver and Rubber Soul, with its chiming guitars and backing vocals from two members of Jellyfish, a group that wore its Fab Four influences on its sleeve.

Alas, even with a big promotional push, “Weight of the World” simply didn’t catch fire, failing to make much headway in the charts. The same went for Time Takes Time, which didn’t do much business on either side of the pond. Starr ended up in search of a new label all over again at the end of it all.

What is the Meaning of “Weight of the World”?

In a somewhat ironic twist considering Starr has always been one of the most nostalgic artists around, “Weight of the World” is a song about cutting free of ties to the past. A narrator tells a girl who’s having hard times letting go of past demons, Every soul has a secret / Give it away or keep it / But yesterday’s gone.

The narrator can’t see a way forward when all she does is look back: It all comes down to who you crucify / You either kiss the future or the past goodbye. Although he admits that he might have let her down before, he’s here now, and he’s not prepared to deal with excessive baggage: I’m not getting any younger / I’ve got all the crosses I can bear.

In lesser hands, this could all have come off as uncaring or insensitive. But the buoyancy of the music and Starr’s innate likability combine to give the track an upbeat vibe by the time it’s all over. Maybe it wasn’t the hit it deserved to be, but “Weight of the World” proved to discerning fans that Ringo still had the touch.

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