What John Lennon Really Thought About Ringo Starr

John Lennon rarely minced his words when expressing his opinions, and his opinions of his fellow bandmates, like Ringo Starr, were certainly no exception. Starr joined Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison to form the final lineup of the Beatles in 1962, adopting a somewhat shadowed but musically crucial role in the band.

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Compared to the guitar-playing trio in front of him, Starr stayed in the background. His writing contributions were scant, with only two solo compositions: “Octopus’s Garden” and “Don’t Pass Me By.” But just because he wasn’t the star of the show doesn’t mean Starr didn’t have the respect of his bandmates—even the more opinionated ones like Lennon.

John Lennon Thought Ringo Starr Could Have Made It Without Them

In a 1980 interview with Playboy, Lennon described his feelings toward Ringo Starr in blunt and honest detail. The musician acknowledged that Ringo Starr, born Richard Starkey, was an accomplished performer in his own right before joining the Fab Four. “Ringo was a star…before we even met,” Lennon explained. “He was a professional drummer who sang and performed and had Ringo Starr-time, and he was in one of the top groups in Britain, especially in Liverpool, before we even had a drummer.”

“Ringo’s talent would have come out one way or the other,” Lennon continued. “I don’t know what he would have ended up as, but whatever that spark is in Ringo that we all know but can’t put our finger on… whether it is acting, drumming, or singing, I don’t know… there is something in him that is projectable, and he would have surfaced with or without the Beatles. Ringo is a damn good drummer. He is not technically good, but I think Ringo’s drumming is underrated.” 

Underrated drumming or not, Lennon’s belief that his bandmate could have found success without the Beatles doesn’t necessarily mean that the “Imagine” singer thought Starr could make the Beatles himself. In a 1980 interview for David Sheff’s All We Are Saying, Lennon explained, “Let’s say, I think it’s possible for John and Paul to have created the same thing with two other guys. It may not have been possible for George and Ringo to have created it without John and Paul. Okay?” (via Express)

The Guitarist Believed The Public Generally Underestimated Ringo

Ringo Starr took a backseat role in both writing and performing. Consequently, his three other bandmates often overshadowed him, creating a public misconception that he was the dullest of the group. Lennon spoke about this falsehood in a 1975 interview published in Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon. “I’m most happy—I guess we all are, in a way—for Ringo’s success because of the other three of us…It always went around that Ringo was dumb, but he ain’t dumb,” Lennon argued (via CheatSheet).

The musician went on, “But he didn’t have much of a writing ability, and he wasn’t known for writing his own material. There was a bit of a worry that..you know, although he can make movies and he does make movies, and he’s good at it, but how is his recording career gonna be? In general, it’s probably better than mine actually.”

Starr and Lennon continued to collaborate post-Beatles breakup in the Plastic Ono Band, and Starr had relative success as a solo artist with U.S. No. 1 hits like “Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen.” The award-winning drummer has steadily released various projects as recently as October 2023 with Starr’s EP, ‘Rewind Forward.’

Photo by Stan Meagher/Express/Getty Images

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