Ringo Starr’s best songs and top moments on the Beatles’ 80th birthday

(Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)(Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
(Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

7 July 2020 marks the 80th birthday of Ringo Starr, legendary musician and drummer for The Beatles.

The Beatles career was relatively short-lived, spanning just ten years. But in that time, the Fab Four were prolific, putting out 12 studio albums, oftentimes as regularly as twice a year. That means that their output runs to hundreds of songs.

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Despite that, Ringo sang lead vocals on only 11 songs. He only wrote two of them.  

We’ve included both of them on our list of the best songs written by Starr, as well as a few choice cuts from the man’s ongoing solo career.

Here are five of the best songs written by Starr:

'Octopus's Garden'

Starr's last lead vocal on a Beatles track, fans actually dispute whether or not he really did write only the second Beatles song he's given sole credit for.

That’s because George Harrison reportedly played a big part in its composition, and can be seen helping Starr work the song out on piano in the Let It Be documentary.

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This upbeat ditty goes against Abbey Road’s otherwise dour blueprint for arena rock, and the track is often considered a song for children alongside ‘Yellow Submarine’ or ‘All Together Now’ and has been performed by the Muppets several times.

This is Starr at his fun best, though he did later admit the song was inspired by his desire to escape mounting hostility among the other members of The Beatles.

'Don't Pass Me By'

Starr's first sole writing credit is also considered his best original composition among The Beatles’ canon, and even charted at Number 1 in Denmark following its Scandinavian release as a single.

Starr had an idea for the song as far back as 1962, when he first played the song for the other Beatles soon after he joined the group; in a 1964 interview Starr was asked if he had written a song and Paul McCartney mocked him by singing the first line.

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Though The Beatles had come to an end a few years prior, Starr and Harrison continued working on each other's records, and Beatles-lite was able to pump out a fair few bangers in its own right.

One such bop is ‘Photograph’ from Starr’s third solo album, a track which topped singles charts in the United States, Canada and Australia, and has been described as "among the very best post-Beatles songs by any of the Fab Four" by critics.

Written in luxurious surrounds on a luxury yacht during the 1971 Cannes Film Festival after attending Mick Jagger's wedding in St Tropez, the song focuses on lost love, with Starr having only a single picture by which to remember his absent lover.

'Back Off Boogaloo'

Another track spurred on by Harrison (though there’s no writing credit here, just production duties), ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ peaked at Number 2.

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Some have interpreted the lyrics as an attack on Paul McCartney, reflecting Starr's disdain for the music McCartney had made as a solo artist over the previous two years, though Starr has claimed the song was inspired by Marc Bolan “and nothing more”.

That Bolan influence is easy to see though, and this glam rock stomper could rank up there with the best T. Rex tracks.

'It Don't Come Easy'

Again written with Harrison in tow, 'It Don't Come Easy' was Starr’s third solo single, but his first major hit after striding out on his own.

According to legend, Harrison suggested the last verse be about God, to which Starr protested. Harrison countered with Hare Krishna, Starr protested again, and the pair eventually settled on “peace” as the topic.

The song was a commercial success, peaking at Number 1 in Canada and Number 4 in both the US and UK singles charts.