When The Beatles split, little was expected from Ringo Starr, the last man in the band.
He didn’t write. He wasn’t a singer. All he had was his musicianship — and a magnetic personality that made millions declare him their favorite Beatle.
He was also the only member of the group who left on good terms with the others. So, as he sang on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, he relied on “a little help from his friends.”
All three of his former bandmates tee’d him up for solo success.
When the group split, Ringo already had two solo albums behind him. He also drummed on John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band album and George Harrison’s three-volume All Things Must Pass.
Initially, it seemed he could do no wrong. He had a string of hit singles in the early ’70s, including “It Don’t Come Easy,” “Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen” and joined George in New York City for the Concert for Bangladesh.
His album, Ringo, was a smash hit, and John, Paul McCartney and George contributed to songs on the album — marking the closest thing to a Beatles reunion that the world would see for a long time.
He also took a swing at an acting career, appearing in 1981’s Caveman. (He’d already done a few turns in non-Beatles films during the band’s heyday, including 1969’s The Magic Christian.)
But by the mid-1970s, his personal life was spiraling out of control. He was partying and drinking like a teenager and his marriage to Maureen Cox collapsed in 1975.
He was also suffering a recurrence of the health problems that dogged him since childhood and had to undergo life-saving surgery to remove several feet of his intestine.
In 1980, John gave him four songs for a new album they planned to make together — plans that were derailed by his death in December.
The following year, he married actress Barbara Bach, his Caveman costar. But the pair continued to party, and Ringo eventually had to admit he was an alcoholic and seek help.
By 1989, he’d cleaned up his act. He starred as Mr. Conductor in the PBS series Shining Time Station. He also formed Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band, featuring a rotating who’s who of rock ’n’ roll luminaries that’s included the late Clarence Clemons, Jack Bruce, Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh and Todd Rundgren.
In 1995, Ringo reunited with Paul and George to record two of John’s unreleased songs, “Real Love” and “Free as a Bird” for the documentary The Beatles Anthology.
Finally, on March 20 of this year, he became the second Beatle — after Sir Paul — to be made a Knight of the Realm, an honor bestowed on him by Prince William in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
Asked whether he would want to be known as “Sir Ringo,” he joked, “I don’t know yet. It’s new and I don’t know how you use it properly.”