Ringo Starr Found the Positive Part of Being the Fourth Beatle: ‘I Let the Others Do All the Worrying’

Ringo Starr was already an accomplished and sought-after drummer when The Beatles asked him to join. That didn’t make it easy. He compared it to going to school — he was the new kid and everyone else was already friends. Ringo once shared a brutally honest take about his place in the band, but he found a positive to being the fourth Beatle early in his tenure.

The Beatles during a British television performance in 1964: Paul McCartney (from left), John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison.
Paul McCartney (from left), John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison. | Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Ringo Starr was once brutally honest about his place in The Beatles

Ringo’s steady rhythm and ability to craft the perfect beat for each song helped propel The Beatles to the top of the charts. He found fame and fortune with the Fab Four, but that didn’t mean his life was a breeze.

The drummer was once brutally honest about his place in The Beatles. He understood he was the least talented songwriter. He played what the others told him to, and then felt bad when other drummers praised that work. Ringo was sometimes the whipping boy when frustrations between the other three boiled over.

Yet Ringo found a positive side about being the fourth Beatle, especially early in his tenure.

Ringo said it was a positive to let the other three Beatles ‘do all the worrying’

Ringo’s gift of being a subtle drummer was also his curse. Despite standout tracks like the B-side “Rain,” his sublime playing was so understated that casual fans missed it entirely. 

Being the least creative songwriter in The Beatles sometimes wore on the drummer (he wanted to write songs, but he just found it to be a struggle). Yet being the least visible member had its pluses. Early in Ringo’s tenure, sitting in the background as the fourth Beatle had its advantages. Ringo said he found a positive about standing outside the spotlight, writes Alan Clayson in Ringo Starr: Straight Man or Joker?:

“[I] let the others do all the worrying. I’m happy to go on up there and play drums, and that’s all.”

Ringo Starr

Since first playing drums during one of his lengthy childhood hospital stays, Ringo never wanted to be anything but a drummer. He knew it was the one thing he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Ringo ignored his family’s advice and quit his job to take up drumming full-time well before The Beatles came calling. He had the best of both worlds when he first joined The Beatles — he got to play with a popular band, but George Harrison, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney shouldered all the burdens.

History was more than kind to the Fab Four’s drummer

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He might have been the least talented songwriter in The Beatles, but Ringo shined when given the opportunity. 

Songs such as “Rain,” the hard-to-recreate steady shuffle of “Act Naturally,” “The End,” and “Come Together” (really, everything from the Abbey Road sessions) proved that Ringo was more than a background player. The other three Beatles grabbed the attention, but Ringo more than held his own when given the chance. 

And as the years progressed, history looked kindly on Ringo’s drumming skills. Some of the best drummers to come after him — Dave Grohl, Max Weinberg, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, The Police’s Stewart Copeland — praised Ringo’s game-changing drumming when he entered the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The RNR HOF doesn’t just open the door if you ask nicely. You have to earn it, and Ringo did.

Ringo also walked into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, which houses talented timekeepers across musical genres. The other Beatles never had a shot at joining that hall, which speaks to how groundbreaking Ringo’s drumming skills were.

He grabbed part of the spotlight as he helped push The Beatles to international fame. Early in his tenure, Ringo Starr liked being the fourth Beatle since he only had to focus on his drumming.

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