As you’ve no doubt heard, one of the world’s great injustices has been overcome.
The greatest wrong in the world of drumming was overturned at the start of the new year when it was announced that Richard Starkey (aka Ringo Starr) would receive his knighthood, becoming the last Beatle to be so honored.
For the record, all four Beatles received MBE status (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, a rank in British chivalry) in 1965. Paul McCartney became Sir Paul McCartney in 1997, receiving full Knight of the British Empire honors. George Harrison was offered a lesser honor, Order of the British Empire, in 2000 and turned it down. He died in 2001. John Lennon, for his part, sent his MBE back in 1969 with a famous note to the queen saying “I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts.
“With love. John Lennon of Bag.”
McCartney had previously been asked in an interview if he might reach out to the Queen on Ringo’s behalf. He said, “The last time I went by she was out. Otherwise, I would have popped in and said ‘Look, love, Sir Richard Starkey’. Because I do think it’s about time.”
Lennon may have sloughed off his honor, but Ringo was reportedly delighted by his. Like Harrison, he had waited far too long, and like McCartney, he deserves full credit for his contributions to the band. He is recognized for his “services to music and charity,” and he’ll return to the palace he last visited decades ago for the ceremony.
The impact of the Beatles and the following British invasion on the visibility and role of Britain in the world can hardly be overstated. And, the impact of Ringo Starr on a generation of drummers needs little explanation. Questlove, Dave Grohl, and others sing his praises in the video below.
Says Ringo, “First and foremost I am a drummer. After that, I’m other things…. But I didn’t play drums to make money. I played drums because I loved them…. My soul is that of a drummer…. It came to where I had to make a decision — I was going to be a drummer. Everything else goes now. I play drums. It was a conscious moment in my life when I said the rest of things were getting in the way. I didn’t do it to be come rich and famous, I did it because it was the love of my life.”
As quoted in The Big Beat: Conversations with Rock’s Great Drummers (1984) by Max Weinberg and Robert Santelli.