Disney Songwriters Wrote Ringo Starr’s Final No. 1 Song

Many Ringo Starr songs were written by other musicians. For example, one of Ringo’s biggest hits was written by a pair of writers behind many Disney songs. The songwriters wanted the track in question to give listeners something they hadn’t heard before.

Ringo Starr playing songs in The Beatles' cartoon
Ringo Starr in The Beatles’ cartoon | American Broadcasting Companies via Getty Images

The songwriters behind some Disney films wrote ‘You’re Sixteen’

Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, also known as The Sherman Brothers, were a pair of professional songwriters. They wrote the songs for some of Walt Disney’s later films such as Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book. They also penned songs used in Disneyland such as “It’s a Small World (After All).” The Sherman Brothers also wrote pop singles.

During an interview in the 2016 book More Songwriters on Songwriting, Richard discussed the origin of The Sherman Brothers’ song “You’re Sixteen.” “We wanted to give the listeners something they hadn’t heard,” he recalled. “They heard so many hard rock beats. But nobody had heard shuffle rhythms. 

“So basically we said, ‘Let’s do a shuffle rhythm for the verse, and then when you get to the chorus, you hit them with a hard rock beat,” he continued. “So basically, it was all thought out before we wrote anything.” Subsequently, the duo came up with the line “you’re sixteen, you’re beautiful, and you’re mine.”

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The singer who sang the song before Ringo Starr

Sherman explained how “You’re Sixteen” came into the hands of early rock ‘n’ roll artist Johnny Burnette. “And we did it, and it’s exactly the way Johnny Burnette recorded it, because we did a demo,” Richard remembered. “And we just happen to do the demo with Dorsey Burnette, who is Johnny’s brother. It was just pure coincidence.

“The powers that be, out of Chicago, heard it and said they had Johnny Burnette,” Sherman continued. “And Johnny was such a talented kid, and he heard the demo his brother did — not knowing it was his brother — and said ‘Hey, I can do that. It sounds just like me!'”

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How Johnny Burnette’s ‘You’re Sixteen’ and Ringo Starr’s cover performed on the charts in the United States

Burnette’s original “You’re Sixteen” became a huge hit. The song reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Burnette’s “You’re Sixteen” stayed on the chart for 15 weeks. The track appeared on the album Johnny Burnette, which did not chart in the United States.

Ringo’s cover of “You’re Sixteen” became far more popular. His rendition topped the Billboard Hot 100 for one week, remaining on the chart for 15 weeks in total. None of Ringo’s subsequent songs reached No. 1. The track’s parent album, Ringo, was a hit as well. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200, staying on the chart for 37 weeks.

The Sherman Brothers wanted “You’re Sixteen” to be something new — and it connected with audiences, even in the hands of another artist.

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