Ringo Starr

On this day in 1940, Richard Starkey Jr., known to the world as Ringo

Starr, was

born in Dingle, Liverpool, England. He was a sickly child, raised by

his

mother and stepfather in a poor neighborhood. His first job was for

British

Railways, but he soon began drumming with the popular beat group

Rory Storm & the Hurricanes.

When the Beatles decided to fire original drummer Pete

Best, they selected Starr, who they had known and respected, as his

replacement. Although his drum part wasn't used on the Beatles'

historic

recording of "Love Me Do," Starr was with the band throughout its

ride as

the most popular and influential rock group in history.

Starr provided the

easygoing charm in Beatles films such as "A Hard Day's Night" and

steady

drumming that the band depended on for all of its classic albums.

While the

bulk of the Beatles repertoire was written by the legendary

songwriting team

of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Starr sang a few of their tunes,

such as

1967's "With A Little Help From My Friends," and wrote a few catchy

numbers,

such as 1968's "Don't Pass Me By" and 1969's "Octopus's Garden," by

himself.

But when the Beatles disbanded in 1970, Starr wasn't as prepared as

fellow

Beatle George Harrison -- who had written more extensively and

played with

other musicians, including Indian instrumentalists -- to chart a solo

course. Starr recorded an album of early pop standards, 1970's

Sentimental Journey, and a platter of country tunes, that same

year's

Beaucoups of Blues. Both amounted to nothing more than

interesting

experiments. He then had two top-10 hits, 1971's "It Don't Come

Easy" and

1972's "Back Off Boogaloo," which added to his confidence as a solo

act.

What followed was the 1973 Ringo album. Produced by

pop/rock veteran Richard Perry, the disc featured a number of

catchy tunes, several written by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, as

well as a few composed by Starr himself. Starr was a big pop star

that year with three top-10 hits from the

album, the #1 "Photograph," the #1 "You're Sixteen" and the #5 "Oh

My My." The 1974 album Goodnight Vienna, which included

more help from the ex-Beatles and a song composed by Elton John

and Bernie Taupin, was a hit, too, spawning the popular singles "Only

You" and "No No Song."

But this superstardom was

short-lived for the solo Starr. His good-natured, novelty-ish songs

started

to wear thin, though he continued releasing albums until 1981. He

also

starred in a few films, including "Caveman" with his second wife,

actress

Barbara Bach. After entering alcohol rehabilitation in the '80s, Starr

resurfaced with his "All-Star Band," a touring troupe that at various

times included Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh and the Rascal's Felix

Caviliere,

among others. They played Starr's songs as well as their own. In the

mid-'80s, Starr also provided narration to the popular British TV

children

series "Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends" and appeared in ads for

such

products as wine coolers.

In the '90s, Starr attempted to resuscitate his

recording career with Time Takes Time, a 1992 album that

didn't make

much of a splash. A higher profile accompanied this year's release of

Vertical Man, Starr's first album for Mercury Records. The

album

includes appearances by McCartney and Harrison. Starr and his band

will

begin touring in August.

Lennon once told Playboy magazine: "Ringo was a

star in his own right in Liverpool before we even met. Ringo was a

professional drummer who sang and performed and was in one of

the top groups in Britain ... So Ringo's talent would have come out one

way or the other. I don't know what he would have ended up as --

whatever that spark is in

Ringo, we all know it but we can't put our finger on it. Whether it's

acting, drumming or professional singing, I don't know. There's

something

in him that is projectable and he would have surfaced as an

individual."

Other birthdays: Warren Entner (the Grass Roots), 54; Jim Rodford

(Kinks/Argent), 53; David Hodo (Village People), 51; and Larry

"Rhino" Reinhardt (Iron Butterfly), 50.