The Beatles: John Lennon ‘was worried’ about Ringo Starr after band split

The Beatles: Get Back documentary teased by Peter Jackson

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The Beatles made the decision to bring the band to an end in 1970 after releasing 12 studio albums and touring the world. Shortly thereafter each member of the band started working on their own albums. John Lennon began releasing music with the Plastic Ono Band, Paul McCartney released his solo album McCartney and George Harrison had begun work on All Things Must Pass. Ringo Starr had yet to find any real commercial success and Lennon was keen to make sure he wasn’t going to be a failure.

Reporter Michael Seth Starr (no relation) revealed in his book, Ringo: With a Little Help, Lennon’s tough image was shattered when it came to Starr, whom he had a “soft spot” for.

Seth Starr explained: “They’d vacationed together in the early days and were neighbours in Weybridge, spending many weekends in each other’s company outside of the studio.

“John was worried about Ringo, too, now that The Beatles ceased to exist (at least on paper, at this point).”

Journalist Ray Connolly added: “I remember John talking about Ringo when we were in [Lennon’s home] Tittenhurst Park and he said: ‘I don’t want Ringo to end up poor, having to play the northern nightclubs.'”

Connolly said: “[Lennon continued:] ‘Because the worst thing in the world for an ex-pop star in England is to end up playing Bradford or Darlington, the northern nightclubs because they are really awful places … The people eating chips and scampi while you’re trying to be heard.'”

To combat this fear, Lennon gifted Starr a song: I’m The Greatest.

Lennon had first written I’m The Greatest in 1970. 

The lyrics were based on Muhammed Ali’s legendary catchphrase.

Seth Starr wrote that Lennon decided “against” recording the track himself at the time.

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The Beatles: Get Back preview released by Peter Jackson

Seth Starr went on: “[Lennon] had forgotten about the song until Ringo asked him to contribute something to the Ringo LP.

“Lennon re-tailored some of the lyrics to fit Ringo, throwing in allusions to Ringo’s Sgt Pepper alter-ego, Billy Shears, and to [Starr’s 1972 hit] Back Off Boogaloo.”

Lennon later spoke candidly about rewriting the song for Starr.

He said: “I couldn’t sing it… but it was perfect for Ringo.”

Lennon went on: “He could say: ‘I’m The Greatest’ and people wouldn’t get upset.

“Whereas if I said: `I’m The Greatest,’ they’d all take it so seriously.”

Starr also commented on the track Lennon gifted him, saying: “It’s very tongue in cheek. Only [John] could have written it and only I could have sung it.”

Rolling Stone’s Ben Gershon wrote I’m The Greatest was one of Starr’s most “wonderful songs” on his debut album, Ringo.

To make the track even more special: I’m The Greatest was recorded with almost an entire Beatles line-up.

Starr was joined by Lennon – the song’s writer – who played piano and contributed backing vocals.

Harrison also joined the recording session with electric guitars and slide guitars.


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