Ringo Starr’s Drumming: Debunking That John Lennon Quote

Ringo Starr Love

Over the past few months, our post on Beatles songs which do not feature Ringo Starr on drums has garnered a lot of comments — most of it pro-Ringo, some of it not. But one very commonplace piece of misinformation is the attribution of the following quote to John Lennon: “Ringo isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.”

For the record, this misattributed zinger has been circulating for years. Evidently what started off as a joke by comedian Jasper Carrott ended up being printed as a fact by the London Times. You’ll get a thoroughly detailed report of the full story in this helpful video from the Fab Four Archivist over at YouTube.

CS Team

Photo Credit: Public domain image of Ringo Starr courtesy of Wikimedia.

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16 comments on “Ringo Starr’s Drumming: Debunking That John Lennon Quote

  1. David Robertson

    I watched eight day a week on pbs last night and it stated profoundly that until ringo the Beatles hadn’t quite found their sound that thrust them to popularity.

  2. Paul cambria

    Listen to his drumming on a day in the life,rain,golden slumbers cmon they each were special in their own way JOHN and Paul wrote tons of songs but it would not have been the same without George and Ringo

  3. The drums on Glass Onion was simple, eleguent and helped make the song

  4. Douglas Leftwich

    Ringo Starr is nothing more than an average drummer. By no stretch of the imagination is he exceptional or extraordinary and certainly cannot be considered one of the best drummers in rock. He was good for the Beatles sound and kept a solid beat and he delivered what was required for the music. To suggest he was the best drummer of all time is ludicrous and downright insulting to the truly great drummers, past and present.

    • You are 100% wrong. Ask any “truly great drummers, past and present” and they would say you were wrong as well.

      • Ronnie Childs

        You are 100% right, JD. I’ve seen article after article on line and in magazines in which dozens of big-name drummers, damn near every one I’ve ever heard of, trip over themselves praising Ringo’s drumming. I don’t really have much of an opinion on the issue; that is just what I continue to observe. To say that big-name drummers don’t enormously respect Ringo’s playing–that is simply contradicted by fact. In fact, a heckuva lot of them say Ringo is the reason they took up the instrument.

      • Douglas,
        You’re right. Ringo is nowhere near the greatest drummer of all time. But he was also nowhere near average.

        Ringo was a fantastic drummer and a brilliant musician. He was not a virtuosic drummer. But Hendrix, who arguably was the greatest guitarist of all time was not virtuosic. There are dozen of virtuoso guitar player who have come since. None of them have come close to. touching Hendrix.

        Ringo was no Hendrix, but he was really fucking good. He was a true artist. Sure, he was perfect for the Beatles, because that’s the music he was playing. I suspect he would have been perfect for whatever band he played with. But je would have played differently. The Beatles wrote many different styles of music. They were not a one trick pony. Ringo wrote equally compelling drum parts for whatever they wrote.

    • Daren Sweeney

      See any drummer’s magazine. Ringo is often named in polls of professional drummers as one of the best and most influential drummers in pop/rock history. He’s known as the quintessential “groove” drummer. As Phil Collins, a great drummer himself, once said, non-drummers don’t give Ringo give proper credit due to the fact that “he doesn’t play like a drummer. He plays like a musician.”

  5. Andrew Bailey

    To suggest that Ringo was only an average drummer would be an insult to Ringo, but to suggest he was one of the greatest would be an insult to drummers.

  6. Ted Williams

    The comments here that say Ringo wasn’t a great drummer are from people who have a limited ability to appreciate what a great drummer is. It isn’t just being a great technical drummer, it has to do with keeping the others tight and being creative. If you do not recognize the contributions that Ringo made to the greatest musical group of all time, you do need to recognize that you don’t know what you’re talking about and you should be quite because you’re embarrassing yourself.

    • Couldn’t agree more. It’s a bit like the famous Keith Richards debate – can he play or can’t he? To me this is pointless and leads nowhere. And I can name quite few musicans who are/were technically at best mediocre, but who impacted music like few others did

      The first names that come to mind? Mick Jagger and David Bowie. Mick’s not really all that good vocally – nowhere near guys like freddie or even rod. but his specific tembre, the way he interprets his stuff and his whole persona make him rock ‘n roll’s probably biggest frontman.

      david bowie was an ok musician, but no great shakes. A weak singer, middling guitarist – basically what I’d call a musical dabbler. But despite this – he was one of the most important people in music, a real roadsign and roadmap for many, many things

      Technical ability is very important, but only a means to an end. Career graveyards are full of musicians who thought otherwise

      • I thought that Dave Clark was a better drummer. As a kid, I worshipped Ringo but he was not the Greatest. Find footage of Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich. They are tops in the field of drumming

        • Steve Fred

          I love Ringo, very versatile. I vote for Michael Shrieve. The youngest performer at Woodstock, behind Carlos Santana, whose music was very percussion heavy. He has evolved where as Ringo has kinda stayed in his groove over the decades.

        • Debra Bosetti

          I agree about Mick’s voice – pretty average nut what a great front man. I disagree about David though- his voice was great. I saw him in concert and still remember that .

  7. Allan Calleja

    You know what makes a great musician ? It is when that musician makes it his own work. Technically there were better guitarists than Hendrix …listen to the live shows …bum notes all over. But damn it when you hear Hendrix you know it’s Hendrix . Listen to what other drummers were doing at the time of Ringo’s Beatle work ….it’s unique to every song . When the Beatles split both George and John insisted on Ringo. He’s past his prime but most great drummers PHIL Collins , Paul Thompson ( Roxy Music ) Bill Legend ( T.Rex marvel at the work he’s done .

  8. The quote has always bothered me mostly because John would have never, ever said it. John never had an unkind word about Ringo, and through all his feuds with Paul and George he never said anything bad about their playing their respective instruments. As well, who would be the alternative? John *did* slag Pete Best, and I doubt he’d consider Paul’s attempts to fill in for Ringo better.

    George said it best (no pun intended) he said in The Anthology that Ringo was *the* drummer for the Beatles – he just “entered the movie” late.. Whatever one says about technique, Ringo was the *right* drummer for the Beatles, and I can’t imagine anyone else.

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