Ringo Starr was born Richard Starkey in Dingle, Liverpool, England. He suffered from serious illnesses for much of his early years. When aged six, he had appendicitis, which developed complications, causing him to fall into a coma. At thirteen, he developed chronic pleurisy and was admitted to a sanatorium for two years.
His extended hospital stays kept him from finishing school. Starr's health problems had another enduring effect in the form of allergies and sensitivities to food, and when The Beatles travelled to India in 1968, he took his own food with him.
Like John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, Starr became caught up in Liverpool's skiffle craze. In 1957, he and his friend Eddie Miles formed the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group.
In 1959, he joined the Raving Texans, now adopting the stage name "Ringo Starr" because of the rings he wore and because it sounded "cowboy-ish." His drum solos were billed as "Starr Time." By October 1960, the band was renamed Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and while they were performing in Hamburg, Starr met The Beatles.
On October 16, 1960 he drummed in Hamburg with Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, recording with them for the first time to back Hurricanes singer Lu Walters.
After returning to the UK, Starr sat in for Pete Best as The Beatles' drummer on 18 August 1961 and 5 February 1962. The Beatles removed Pete Best as their drummer on August 16, 1962, after Best had played in the early recording sessions at EMI Studios.
When he arrived at EMI Studios for the second time on September 11, Starr was shocked to find another drummer there, session drummer Andy White who was commissioned by producer George Martin. Using sessions drummers familiar with studio techniques was a normal procedure for studio recordings in those days.
Starr's view at the time was that Andy White was brought in because he thought George Martin viewed him as crazy. Starr also stated, "I thought, 'That’s the end, they’re doing a Pete Best on me.'"
Starr occasionally contributed his own lyrics to unfinished Lennon and McCartney songs, such as the line "darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there" in "Eleanor Rigby." Frustrated at times of being the odd man out in the group in regard to songwriting, Starr commented in The Beatles Anthology that when he presented a song to The Beatles, it would often sound to the other three Beatles like a popular song of the day.
Starr did eventually begin composing, and is credited with "Don't Pass Me By" (on The White Album) and "Octopus's Garden" (on Abbey Road) as sole songwriter.
As drummer for The Beatles, Starr was musically creative, and his contribution to the band's music has received high praise from notable drummers in more recent times. Starr described himself as "your basic offbeat drummer with funny fills," technically limited by being a left-handed person playing a right-handed kit.
Drummer Steve Smith said that Starr's popularity "brought forth a new paradigm" where "we started to see the drummer as an equal participant in the compositional aspect" and that Starr "composed unique, stylistic drum parts for The Beatles songs."
In 2011, Starr was picked as the fifth-best drummer of all-time by Rolling Stone readers, behind drummers such as John Bonham, Keith Moon and Neil Peart.
Starr is the most documented and critically acclaimed actor-Beatle, playing a central role in several Beatles films, and appearing in numerous other movies, both during and after his career with The Beatles.
After The Beatles' break-up in 1970, Starr achieved solo musical success with several singles and albums, and recorded with each of his fellow ex-Beatles as they too developed their post-Beatle musical careers.
He has also been featured in a number of TV documentaries, hosted TV shows, and narrated the first two series of the children's television series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. He currently tours with the All-Starr Band.