Sir Paul McCartney posted congratulations on social media Saturday (Dec. 30) to Friday’s official announcement that Beatles drummer Ringo Starr would be knighted in the 2018 New Year’s Honors. “Huge congrats Sir Ringo! Sir Richard Starkey has a nice ring to it. Best drummer, best pal! X Paul.”
Starr was honored for “services to music.” Ringo’s knighthood comes 20 years after McCartney was knighted, in 1997. Starr, 77, will be given his honor in the list of annual honorees that pay tribute to those recognized for high achievements to the U.K. In a statement, Starr said, “It’s great! It’s an honor and a pleasure to be considered and acknowledged for my music and my charity work, both of which I love. Peace and love.”
Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, in an email statement, said, “I’m delighted for Ringo that he’s received this honor. More than half a century on, what the Beatles did continues to be magnificent, so it feels right that Ringo has joined Paul in having this significant award in his homeland. (Next, I’m hoping Paul will be elevated to the peerage, to become Lord Allerton.) If they’re watching on, Elsie and Harry would be tickled beyond belief to know that their boy – who was raised in such humble circumstances, and twice defied death in his childhood – is now Sir Richard Starkey. That’s an extraordinary accomplishment and this is great news. Congratulations, Sir Ringo.”
Among the first reactions to the official announcement were by Ringo’s longtime recording engineer Bruce Sugar, who wrote on Facebook Friday, “I couldn’t be more proud and thrilled to see him get this prestigious award. Sir Richard is a constant inspiration for how he lives his life, showing us how to age gracefully in this youth oriented business and how he carries himself with a healthy dose of humility and gratitude and his tireless promotion of peace, love, and goodwill.” In an email earlier this week, Sugar said, “It’s about time and I am thrilled for Sir Richard.”
Kenneth Womack, the author of Maximum Volume, the first of a two-volume biography on Beatles producer Sir George Martin, and several other books on the Beatles, also reacted to the news via email: “Ringo’s Starr’s knighthood is, quite frankly, long overdue. He is arguably the most innovative drummer in the history of popular music, and he was the perfect drummer for the Beatles. Working with a trio of gifted songwriters in Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, Ringo unfailingly kept the beat, and often the peace, in a band rife with egos and creative tensions. As the group made one artistic leap after another, it was Ringo subtly working his magic behind his trusty Ludwigs that kept the Fab Four moving inexorably forward. Long live Sir Ringo!”
Veteran British journalist Ray Connolly, who has covered the Beatles throughout their career, wrote in an article for the Daily Mail earlier this week, “Ringo’s value to the Beatles went beyond music. While Lennon and McCartney might have dazzled, and George Harrison suggested mysticism, it was level-headed Ringo who worked as an emollient in the band when they were falling out among themselves. And it was Ringo whom people trusted. Which is why his knighthood will make an entire generation smile with affection.”
The Beatles caused a stir when they were given the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1965.at Buckingham Palace, with some previous honorees protesting and returning their medals. John Lennon returned his in 1969 to, he wrote, protest the war in Biafra, England’s support of America’s involvement in Vietnam and, in typical Lennon style, “against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts.’”
Barry Gibb is also being knighted this time around. His honor is for services to music and charity. He and his fellow Bee Gees Maurice and Robin Gibb were named Commanders of the British Empire (CBE) in 2002. Also being honored this year but with an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) is musician Marc Almond, for services to art and culture. Other musicians given the high honor of knighthood in recent years, besides Paul McCartney, were Ray Davies of the Kinks, who was knighted last year, and Mick Jagger, Elton John, Van Morrison and Rod Stewart.
In 2015, shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher sharply criticized the fact Ringo hadn’t been knighted. He told the U.K.’s Mirror, “The Beatles changed the course of popular music forever and they continue to bring massive benefits to the U.K. in terms of trade and tourism. Ringo’s unique drumming was intrinsic to the music of the Beatles — just listen to “A Day in the Life” or “Strawberry Fields Forever” — and his charisma and personal charm was an intrinsic part of their act as entertainers. Ringo is a legend and has made a massive contribution to our country. It’s been over 50 years since he got his MBE. … it’s time for Ringo to get a knighthood for services to music. No other country in the world would take so long to properly honor one of its music legends.”
McCartney jokingly put in a word for Ringo’s knighthood near the end of an interview with Geoff Lloyd of Absolute Radio in 2011. Lloyd asked McCartney why Ringo hadn’t been knighted and he first said, “Yeah, well, don’t look at me,” then responded to a question about whether he could ask the Queen himself. “The last time I went by she was out. Otherwise I would have popped in and said ‘Look, love, Sir Richard Starkey.’ Because I do think it’s about time, but she probably was a bit busy with Sir Brucie.” McCartney was referring to Bruce Forsyth, who was being knighted at the time.