On March 20, 2018, Beatles fans finally got what they’ve been wanting for more than two decades. Ringo Starr became “Sir Ringo” when Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, bestowed the long-overdue honors at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
If you’re an American, you might be asking right about now, “What’s the big deal?” Well, as a lover of all things English, I’ll be happy to tell you all about it – as I sit here, sipping my Earl Grey tea and listening to BBC America on the telly.
The prestigious title of Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (or Dame Commander for the ladies) is awarded to Britons who better the world through charity work, outstanding contributions to the arts and sciences, or by performing some other meaningful service to the public. It is a great honor to be called “Sir” or “Dame.”
Some of our most beloved rock stars have received the title, including Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton John, and Rod Stewart. Bono and Bob Geldoff have also received honorary KBE’s, but since they are both Irish, they are not called “Sir.” (The Queen’s rules, not mine, but to be honest, “Sir Bono” really sounds a bit weird, anyway.) David Bowie turned down his knighthood because he was too cool and too Rock & Roll for such things. I’m sure Ringo would have been more than happy to take Bowie’s spot back in 2003.
(For the record, neither John Lennon nor George Harrison will ever be knighted because deceased individuals cannot receive knighthoods, but they both received other honors from the Crown during their lifetimes.)
SO, WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG FOR RINGO?
Sir Paul received his KBE in 1997. Beatles producer George Martin was knighted in 1996 for his contributions to British music. While Martin’s work as a composer and producer certainly deserves to be celebrated, how in the world could the Queen knight the guy who produced the Beatles albums and then wait a whopping 22 years to knight the guy who actually played on them?
Poor Ringo, he always seemed to get short-changed, didn’t he?
Think about it this way. I’ll bet ten bucks that if I asked you to name all four Beatles, you would list them off as “John, Paul, George, and Ringo.” If you try to argue otherwise, you’d be a liar. Nobody ever lists “Ringo, George, Paul, and then John.” Ringo always gets put last. While John, Paul, and George shared the title of “The Cute Beatle,” Ringo was known as “The Funny One.” Ouch. When the band recorded new albums, Ringo usually got stuck with the songs no one else wanted to sing. (That’s how we ended up with “Boys.”)
As the drummer, Ringo was always in back of the other three, just keeping the beat while the others got all the good close-ups. And, as the last to join the group, I’ll bet he felt like a bit of an outsider at times. Even George Martin had his doubts about Ringo in the beginning, famously hiring a session drummer to record one of the band’s earliest singles.
When the Fab Four went on tour in 1964, at the height of Beatlemania, they left poor Ringo behind when he fell ill with a bout of tonsillitis. THEY LEFT HIM BEHIND and carried on with a replacement drummer for THIRTEEN WHOLE DAYS! Brian Epstein would never have considered doing that to Paul or John. (Maybe George. Maybe.)
Thanks to the usually rather simplistic Lennon-McCartney compositions (especially the earlier songs), Ringo Starr is one of the most underrated drummers in all of Rock & Roll. He is truly legendary. If you try to argue with me about that, I will fight you. Really, it may just come to fisticuffs. The man drummed for the Beatles, the biggest rock band in the history of EVER – the band that, even to this day, continues to influence scores of pop and rock acts. To downplay his contributions would be like calling the advent of the Internet “kinda neat.”
Additionally, Sir Ringo’s contributions are not limited to the music world. He started the Lotus Foundation, which supports a variety of causes around the world in the areas of substance abuse, cerebral palsy, cancer, domestic abuse, homelessness, and animal welfare. He has also famously supported WaterAid, the Elevate Hope Foundation, AIDS research, and the clearing of landmines in previously war-torn countries. The man spreads “Peace and Love” wherever he goes.
I can’t think of too many rock stars who deserve this more than Ringo. And at 77 years old, I’m glad he lived long enough to get it.
Peace and Love, Ringo. Peace and Love.