You are currently viewing Ringo Starr on the greatest song John Lennon wrote for him: “I miss the guy”
British pop group The Beatles at a press reception held at the Saville Theatre after their MBE Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London, 26th October 1965. Left to right: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and John Lennon (1940 - 1980). (Photo by Mark and Colleen Hayward/Getty Images)

Ringo Starr on the greatest song John Lennon wrote for him: “I miss the guy”

Ringo Starr never claimed to be the most talented member of The Beatles. Compared to every other member of the Fab Four, Starr was usually just happy to be behind his drums and play music with his mates until the sun burned out of the sky. Although business and creative differences led them to finally call it off at the end of the 1960s, Starr still thought that John Lennon gave him one of his best songs in ‘I’m the Greatest’.

Because, really, there was a major chance that Starr was going to be forgotten when The Beatles announced their split. He never showed much interest in songwriting until later in his career, and even when he did, you can see in the Get Back documentary that he did have some help from George Harrison when putting together ‘Octopus’s Garden’.

That’s not to say that Starr didn’t have any talent as a musician. He was one of the greatest drummers in the world for a reason, and his ability to sit in the song and play exactly what was needed is still unrivalled, especially considering he turned up on records by John Lennon and Paul McCartney later in life.

Granted, Lennon was in a very different place after leaving The Beatles. After undergoing therapy and leaning on Starr as the heartbeat of Plastic Ono Band, Lennon was starting to get back into his role as the serious poet of the group. That didn’t mean he was above writing a pop song, but ‘I’m the Greatest’ would never work for him.

It’s one thing for The Beatles to be listed as one of the most successful bands ever, but once the man behind all the songs starts singing a line like “I’m the greatest,” he’s bound to get some dirty looks. When put into Starr’s hands, why not? He was already the underdog of every Beatles song, so giving him his own braggadocious song is actually pretty funny.

Later on, Starr said that Lennon’s track was one of the greatest favours that he could have received, telling Rolling Stone, “I think the finest song he wrote for me was ‘I’m The Greatest’. And look, you got me going. I miss the guy. Miss him, I miss George. I still miss those two boys. But you know, I’ve still got my brother. So we’re okay”.

Lennon was far from the only one who was sweet to Starr later. Looking at the co-writes and guest stars on 1973’s Ringo, it practically feels like a Beatles album that just so happens to have Starr singing lead on every track, with every one of his bandmates bringing a little bit to the table.

It’s not like Lennon skimped out on writing the tune, either. Is it as dense as a song like ‘Gimme Some Truth’ or ‘Power to the People’? No, but that wasn’t the point. Starr was just meant to sing lighthearted pop songs, and letting him cut loose with a bluesier gem resulted in a vocal performance that could rival his best moments in The Beatles.

Thanks to his buddies, Starr honestly became one of the biggest former Beatles for a while, sharing time on the charts alongside Harrison, who was still dominating the 1970s with All Things Must Pass. Thinking of someone like Ringo Starr as the most famous of the ex-Beatles seems impossible, but you’d be surprised what you can do with a little help from your friends.

Leave a Reply