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Ringo at his most fab

Ringo Starr in 2019.Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Ringo Starr innovated in how he set his mics and tuned his drums, but especially in finding unique rhythms and fills to fit songs as different as “She Said, She Said” and “A Day in the Life.” Gregg Bissonette, drummer in Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band, notes that Starr often cites “Rain” as a personal favorite. Here are some other essential Ringo tracks cited by his peers on percussion:

Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy): “‘Something’ starts with an amazing triplet on the toms. Then he plays the groove without the hi-hat that everyone else would use as the time-keeper. In the verse he plays a Ringo fill after the first line, but after the second he steps back for the band to come in. At the end he goes to ride cymbal, and when George plays a skipping line in his solo, he skips on the toms. Then he brings the hi-hats in for the last 20 seconds. It’s a master class.”

Brian Rosenworcel (Guster): “I’ll spend the rest of my life marveling over the hi-hat part on ‘Come Together.’ I probably would have just played a kick, hat, snare through it, but he does that amazing hook on the hi-hat.”


Ash Soan (Del Amitri): “Today a song like ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ would be someone lifting a drum loop on their computer and layering it, but Ringo was playing that through the song. It sounds so inventive that if you isolate those drums now they wouldn’t sound out of place.”

Liberty DeVitto (Billy Joel): “The first Beatles song I ever heard was ‘I Saw Her Standing There,’ and the power Ringo was pushing behind the band made them push even harder. I’d also never heard anybody open the hi-hats and play on them the way he did. ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ has great drumming. Usually, the guitar player answers the singer, but when John sings, ‘Let me take you down, cause I’m going to,’ it’s Ringo answering, Dap boom dappa boom.’ John’s not saying, ‘Let me constantly take you down because we’re going downstairs and going to Strawberry Fields.’ That’s the way a drum fill would sound if you overplayed it. Ringo played like the Beatles sang.”


Joey Peebles (Trombone Shorty): “He wrote ‘Octopus’s Garden’ and the drumming has his signature groove and his super swingy fills, with very little processing on the drums and a pure sound. It sounds like jazz with a backbeat.”