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We’ve all heard of Beatles smash hits sung by John and Paul, but what about Ringo? What are the Beatles songs that Ringo sang?
And, if you’re wondering this, you’re probably pondering an even more niche question: what Beatles songs were written by Ringo?
I’ve got you covered. Ringo Starr’s rendition of “Boys” was my first introduction to the Beatles, sparking a lifelong obsession with the Fab Four that I don’t think I’ll ever move on from!
I’ve spent countless hours scouring the internet, and my overloaded Beatles bookshelf, to find all of the Ringo Starr Beatles songs and list them out for you today.
And, if you stick around until the end of the post, I’ll also cover some questions that’ll spring up for you like “did Ringo really have a song on every Beatles album?” Spoiler: the answer isn’t as simple as you think.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Beatles Songs Sung By Ringo Starr
Please Please Me (1963)
Originally recorded by US girl group The Shirelles in 1960, “Boys” was given a rock ‘n’ roll treatment by The Beatles. This is one of the fairly limited Ringo Starr lead vocals songs for The Beatles.
This was a song he had sung hundreds of times whilst performing with his previous band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, in Hamburg, and carried this over into The Beatles’ live shows at The Cavern Club.
As I mentioned earlier, this is one of my favourite Beatles songs sung by Ringo.
The recording you hear on Please Please Me was done in just one take – showing off just how tight the Fab Four’s live set had become before they even managed to step foot in the recording studio.
Ringo was only 22 years old when he recorded “Boys”!
With The Beatles (1963)
2. I Wanna Be Your Man
Written by Lennon and McCartney, this straightforward track wasn’t initially seen as a standout… so John and Paul gave it to Ringo!
The song was deliberately simplistic so that Ringo would be able to sing it whilst also maintaining his impeccable drum rhythm.
In an interesting twist, John and Paul also offered “I Wanna Be Your Man” to the Rolling Stones, leading to it becoming the Stones’ second single in 1963.
This quote from John thoroughly sums up how little he and Paul thought of this song:
“It was a throwaway. The only two versions of the song were Ringo and the Rolling Stones. That shows how much importance we put on it: We weren’t going to give them anything great, right?”John Lennon, 1980 (All We Are Saying, David Sheff)
Beatles For Sale (1964)
3. Honey Don’t
This catchy track, originally released by Carl Perkins in 1956, found a place in The Beatles’ live repertoire in 1962, originally sung by John.
When brainstorming songs that Ringo could sing for the Beatles For Sale album this song’s uncomplicated rhythm made it a fitting choice for Ringo’s vocal talents.
Ringo recorded this song for The Beatles on 26 October 1964, the final session for this album. The band recorded five takes, with the last one being used on the album.
4. Act Naturally
“Act Naturally” stands out as the last cover The Beatles recorded until their 1969 Get Back/Let It Be sessions.
Featured on the “Help!” album with Ringo leading the vocals, the song was originally a hit by Buck Owens in 1963, even topping the US Billboard country singles chart.
Interestingly, The Beatles hadn’t performed it live before recording it, but they did showcase it on their final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1965.
During the recording session, the song took 13 takes to record – but the first 12 were essentially just the band rehearsing how to play the song. Ringo didn’t sing along on any of the recordings until the final, the thirteenth.
“I sang ‘Act Naturally’ in Help!. I found it on a Buck Owens record and I said, ‘This is the one I am going to be doing,’ and they said ‘OK’.”Ringo Starr, Beatles Anthology
Rubber Soul (1965)
5. What Goes On
Digging into the archives, “What Goes On” was an early piece from John Lennon, written even before The Beatles scored their recording contract.
In fact, it’s thought that John wrote this even before he started “The Quarrymen“, the precursor to the Beatles.
This was the first time Ringo got a writing credit on a Beatles song!
When asked about his lyrical input at a press conference in 1966, Ringo replied that he’d only contributed “about five words.” As for the recording process, the band nailed it in just one take on 4 November 1965.
Interestingly, this session kicked off at 11pm, a notably late start, driven by the pressing deadline for their upcoming album. They needed songs recorded, and they needed them fast!
6. Yellow Submarine
Among Beatles songs sung by Ringo, “Yellow Submarine” arguably takes the crown.
Released as a double A-Side alongside “Eleanor Rigby”, this track resonated deeply with the whimsical, retro vibes of the psychedelic era, embodying both The Beatles’ evolving hippie sound and the spirit of the times.
With The Beatles moving away from cover versions by 1966, “Yellow Submarine” became the chosen song for Ringo’s voice on the “Revolver” album, marking his debut as the lead vocalist on a Beatles single.
I also love that you can hear Ringo’s thick northern accent in his singing on this track!
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
7. With A Little Help From My Friends
Tucked into the legendary “Sgt. Pepper” album, this song is another highlight among Beatles songs sung by Ringo.
Crafted by Lennon and McCartney, it initially went by the quirky name “Bad Finger Boogie”, thanks to Lennon attempting the melody on a piano with an injured finger.
Ringo, however, had some reservations.
He was hesitant about hitting that final high note and refused to sing the line “what would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and throw tomatoes at me?” drawing parallels to their touring days when fans would hurl jellybeans and toys at The Beatles on stage.
The lyrics were amended, resulting in the classic we know and love today.
“John and I wrote this song within a vocal range that would cause no problems for Ringo, who had a style of singing different to ours.”Paul McCartney (The Lyrics: 1956 to Present)
The White Album (1968)
8. Don’t Pass Me By
Stepping into the songwriter’s shoes, “Don’t Pass Me By” is the first Beatles song written by Ringo and Ringo alone.
Hinted at in interviews as early as 1964, this track took a while to surface, finally making its appearance on the iconic White Album in 1968.
The song’s delay speaks volumes about John and Paul’s views of Ringo’s songwriting abilities, and also on their openness to recording as much new material as possible post-India.
Before settling on its final title, the song had the working names “Ringo’s Tune (Untitled)” and “This Is Some Friendly”.
9. Good Night
Closing out the White Album on a soft note, “Good Night” is a heartfelt lullaby penned by Lennon for his young son, Julian.
But, instead of Lennon’s voice, we hear the soothing tones of Ringo Starr. Unique in its presentation, none of the other Beatles feature on this track.
Instead, it’s enveloped in a grand orchestral backdrop crafted by the legendary George Martin, echoing the glamour of old Hollywood.
Paul once mused that perhaps John handed Ringo the song because a lullaby might not mesh with Lennon’s edgier image.
Abbey Road (1969)
10. Octopus’ Garden
In August 1968, feeling the weight of escalating tensions within The Beatles, Ringo took a break from the band and took a family holiday in Sardinia, writing Octopus’ Garden whilst he was away.
The song itself was first played during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions in January 1969, with George Harrison offering a helping hand – perhaps feeling a kinship with Ringo as his own songs were also frequently being overlooked by John and Paul at this time.
By April 1969, “Octopus’ Garden” was ready to be recorded, becoming a testament to Ringo’s playful lyricism and fun imagination.
“Octopus’s Garden’ is Ringo’s song. It’s only the second song Ringo wrote, mind you, and it’s lovely.”George Harrison, 1969 (source)
11. Matchbox (1964)
A homage to Carl Perkins’ 1956 hit, The Beatles’ rendition of “Matchbox” first made waves in the UK on the “Long Tall Sally EP” in 1964,, while in the US it paired up as the B-Side to the single “Slow Down”.
Pete Best, the Beatles’ original drummer, originally took the solo vocal spotlight for “Matchbox” during The Beatles’ early live shows around Liverpool in 1961. But after he was fired from the band, John Lennon took the lead vocal spot.
By 1963 and 1964, however, it was Ringo Starr’s voice that sang lead on the track for two BBC radio recordings.
Initially considered for the “A Hard Day’s Night” album but scrapped due to there being too many songs, Matchbox was eventually released on the EP.
Shared Lead Singer Credits
12. Flying (shared with John, Paul and George)
“Flying” is a unique song in The Beatles’ discography. Primarily instrumental with atmospheric, wordless harmonies from all Beatles, it set the ambience for the “Magical Mystery Tour” film.
Originally named “Aerial Tour Instrumental”, it was played during scenic aerial shots of Iceland that were shown in the Magical Mystery Tour film.
This song also marked a special occasion – it was the first time all four Beatles shared a songwriting credit, and was EMI’s only released Beatles instrumental.
While Ringo did lend his voice for the harmonies, and got vocal credit on this song, I think we can all agree that it doesn’t quite deserve credit as one of the Beatles songs sung by Ringo.
What Songs Did Ringo Starr Write for The Beatles?
Ringo Starr wrote two songs by himself for the Beatles:
- Don’t Pass Me By (White Album)
- Octopus’s Garden (Abbey Road)
Ringo Starr shared songwriting credits with other Beatles for four Beatles songs:
- What Goes On (Lennon/McCartney/Starkey)
- Flying (McCartney/Lennon/Harrison/Starkey)
- Dig It (McCartney/Lennon/Harrison/Starkey)
- Maggie Mae (McCartney/Lennon/Harrison/Starkey).
How Many Songs Did Ringo Starr Write for The Beatles?
So, in total, combining his solo writing efforts and the songs he shared writing credits for, there were six Beatles songs written by Ringo.
How Many Songs Did Ringo Starr Sing for The Beatles?
Ringo Starr sang 12 songs for the Beatles that were officially released. This number comes from the songs Ringo was either the lead singer or co-lead singer on.
Of course, Ringo Starr provided backing vocals for far more Beatles songs than this amount, especially when taking into account live performances.
Was Ringo Starr A Good Singer?
Ringo Starr has a distinct, character-filled voice that stands out. Realistically, he would have never made it as a singer (or even tried, probably) without The Beatles, but his singing voice has a depth and charm that I, like many other Beatles fans, find endearing.
There’s no doubt that his vocal range was more limited compared to the other Beatles. That said, John and Paul worked with this to create songs that worked with his voice.
Before joining The Beatles, during his time with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Ringo had his own dedicated singing segment, showcasing that he wasn’t just any drummer; he had a stage presence.
Essentially, while he might not be a vocal powerhouse, Ringo’s voice carries a warmth that resonates with listeners, and I would call him a good singer. Not an excellent singer, like John or Paul, but certainly pleasant to listen to.
Why Did Ringo Have A Song on Every Beatles Album?
The Beatles were all about sticking together and, especially in the band’s early days, it wasn’t just the “Lennon and McCartney show” – they were a tight-knit friend group, as well as a band.
Even though many saw John Lennon as the main man, everyone in the band mattered and brought something unique. George Martin, their producer, initially had a dilemma when trying to identify the leader of the group.
This highlighted their unique dynamic. There wasn’t a singular leader!
Ringo was the band’s rhythmic heartbeat and a friend whom the other bandmates loved. Sure, Ringo wasn’t the best singer in the world, but he had his groove, he could carry a tune, and he was one of them.
So, the band tried to make sure that Ringo got a song on each album because that’s what friends do!
Which Beatles Albums Didn’t Ringo Sing On?
Although the intention was that each Beatles album would always contain one song sung by Ringo, this didn’t always happen in practice. There were three Beatles albums that Ringo didn’t sing on.
- A Hard Day’s Night
- Magical Mystery Tour
- Let It Be
It’s worth noting that Magical Mystery Tour was technically an EP, not a full album, but since it’s often included in Beatles discographies as an album, I’m including it as such in this list.
Why Didn’t Ringo Get A Song on the Hard Day’s Night Album?
When The Beatles were mapping out “A Hard Day’s Night” in June 1964, Ringo was set to have a song on the album with his cover of “Matchbox.”
However, as the album took shape, the decision was made to feature only Lennon/McCartney originals.
This move was strategic – using original tracks instead of covers meant more royalties, and “Matchbox” was a cover of a Carl Perkins song.
While Ringo did record “Matchbox” during these sessions, it found its home on the “Long Tall Sally” EP.
For this album, unlike, for example, their next album Beatles For Sale (which featured numerous covers) there was no shortage of quality Beatles-penned tracks.
Why Didn’t Ringo Get A Song on the Let It Be Album?
The “Let It Be” album had a few reasons for not featuring a Ringo vocal track.
Firstly, the idea was to record new songs and then showcase them live, which might have been a challenge for Ringo’s distinct vocal range, especially in a live setting, since the band, by that point, hadn’t performed live since 1966.
Secondly, with Paul, George, and John bringing a whole host of songs to the table (including George’s massive back catalogue that had previously been overlooked by John and Paul), the album was already bursting at the seams.
“Octopus’s Garden” was considered to go on this album as Ringo’s potential contribution, but was put on the backburner, only being recorded later on during the “Abbey Road” sessions.
Why Didn’t Ringo Get A Song on the Magical Mystery Tour Album?
Okay, I’ve scoured the internet and my Beatles books for an answer to this question, but I can’t find anything definitive, so, as a lifelong Beatle fanatic and self-professed Beatles scholar, I’m going to speculate.
The Magical Mystery Tour wasn’t intended to be an album – it was an EP. In the UK, Magical Mystery Tour was released with just six songs.
The Beatles’ label in the US wanted to release a full-length album since EPs were less popular there, so they added five other songs released by the Beatles in 1967 to make it a full album.
The band were thrilled about this choice.
So, since Magical Mystery Tour was only intended by the band to be an EP, it makes sense that they wouldn’t use one of the six limited songs to dedicate to Ringo when they already had too much material for this project.
The full album version of Magical Mystery Tour wasn’t released in the UK until 1976!
Secondly, the band’s longtime manager, Brian Epstein, passed away towards the beginning of the Magical Mystery Tour project, and the band admittedly felt directionless.
It could simply have been that, amidst everything happening at the time, the band forgot to add a “Ringo” song to the EP/album.
Those are my theories as to why Ringo didn’t get a song on the Magical Mystery Tour album, but, since I wasn’t there at the time, I can’t definitively say why.
Wrap Up: Ringo Starr Beatles Songs
In conclusion, here’s a list of Beatles songs Ringo Starr sung on, in order:
- I Wanna Be Your Man
- Honey Don’t
- Act Naturally
- What Goes On
- Yellow Submarine
- With A Little Help From My Friends
- Don’t Pass Me By
- Good Night
- Octopus’ Garden
I hope you learnt a thing or two about Ringo’s writing and voice contributions to The Beatles’ discography today!