He was all over the radio with “It Don’t Come Easy,” ‘‘Back Off Boogaloo,” ‘‘Photograph” and other singles at a time that John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison went through some uneven stretches.
“I had all these hits and everybody was surprised,” Starr recalled. “I don’t know why they were, but they were.”
Everyone’s favorite genial drummer still has his pride. Already a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Beatle, Starr will be inducted this weekend as an individual, joining John, Paul and George with that distinction. He keeps busy at age 74, touring regularly and promoting a just-released new disc, “Postcards From Paradise.”
Besides Starr, new inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday will be Green Day, Bill Withers, Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joan Jett, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the “5’’ Royales.
Starr wasn’t expecting the honor and, in fact, it has raised questions about whether there is a special Beatle entrance.
McCartney told Rolling Stone magazine recently that, when reminded Starr wasn’t in the hall on his own, he vowed to see what he could do. “I talked to Bruce Springsteen and I talked to Dave Grohl, and they both thought he should be in. And I said I’d do the induction. That took care of it,” he said.
Rather than being nominated and voted upon by the full panel of musicians, journalists and others who choose most members, Starr was selected under a “musical excellence” category. That category has been used four times, none before 2011.
Joel Peresman, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, said these honorees are chosen by committee. Although lobbying calls are taken, induction is a group decision. He said that any calls that come in during the process – including, presumably, McCartney’s – “are purely coincidental.”
“I only knew about it when Paul McCartney called me and said, ‘they want to honor you at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’ll be doing the speech for you. Will you accept?’“ Starr said. “I said sure, how great is that?”
Only an occasional singer and lyricist with the Beatles, Starr has maintained an active recording career, particularly since getting sober in the late 1980s. Since 1992, he’s put out as many discs of original material as McCartney, his fellow Beatle survivor, even more if you didn’t count McCartney’s classical excursions.
His Ringo 2012 disc sold fewer than 20,000 copies, according to Nielsen Soundscan. Numbers like that are why many artists of his generation stop making new music. Starr may joke onstage about how few people buy his new music, but he said making it is important to him.
“That’s where I come from – you made records, you put them out,” he said. “Also, for me, it’s a great excuse to hang out with a lot of friends and a lot of great musicians. It’s part of my life. This is what I do.”
He expresses no interest in writing a book, but has written on recent discs songs that he considers mini-autobiographies looking back on slices of his life. In “Liverpool 8,” he sang of leaving his hometown, “but I never let you down.” The song “The Other Side of Liverpool” name-checks old friends and talks about growing up poor. On the new album, “Rory and the Hurricanes” is about the band he drummed for before accepting an offer to join the Beatles, who then had less of a following than the Hurricanes. Starr had sat in for ex-Beatles drummer Pete Best a couple of times in Germany.
Could that be the best decision in rock history?
“I was as surprised as anyone when the phone call came – ‘do you want to join?’ – and I said sure, because I loved the band,” Starr said. “It was not a difficult decision because I just loved to play with those three, not knowing where it was going to go, of course.”
Starr’s “All Starr Band” of rotating musicians, an ingenious device to keep an active live career, is already more than a quarter-century old. The current incarnation features Todd Rundgren, Steve Lukather of Toto, Richard Page of Mr. Mister and Gregg Rolie of Santana. Being a featured player on at least one hit single is a job requirement, so band members can rotate in the spotlight with Ringo.
He keeps adding dates, and is already booked 22 nights in October, from Boise, Idaho and Vancouver, Canada to Boston and Brooklyn. Starr dismisses any talk of retirement, citing 89-year-old blues guitarist B.B. King – who was performing last year until being sidelined by health issues – as an inspiration.
“He’s sitting down, but he’s still out there,” Starr said. “Hey, I’m already sitting down.”