By Randal C. Hill
Since you are reading this in a senior publication, you probably not only remember Ringo Starr’s “You’re Sixteen” from 50 years ago, but the original 1960 version by Johnny Burnette, as well.
Burnette’s only Top Ten career tune was the bouncy, violin-saturated “You’re Sixteen,” which ended up on the best-selling soundtrack of George Lucas’s 1973 nostalgia movie “American Graffiti.”
Ringo, the oldest Beatle, was born Richard Starkey in 1940 in the Dingle, Liverpool’s most depressed inner-city district. Housing there usually meant cramped quarters, poor ventilation and a rear door that opened onto an outhouse.
At age 13, he began a two-year stay in a sanitorium after contracting tuberculosis. He was encouraged to join the institution’s musical group after being heard beating upon the cabinets next to his bed with a mallet. “I was in the hospital band,” he has explained. “That’s where I really started playing. I never wanted anything else from then on.”
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At 15, barely literate and uninterested in school, he took menial local jobs until he found employment as a rock ‘n’ roll drummer and soon became well-known as a member of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, one of the premier rock groups in Liverpool. As he wore two rings on each hand, he adopted the stage name Rings (later Ringo) Starr. In 1962, he was hired by the Beatles to replace their dour original drummer Pete Best, who hadn’t meshed well with fun-loving John, Paul and George.
Ringo’s version of “You’re Sixteen” featured a “chugging” lope and a lot of help from his friends (get it?) on his million-selling Apple Records single. Among the many musicians who offered background support that day in the recording studio were—no surprise here—John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney.
Sometimes thought of as the neglected Beatle who dwelt in the Lennon-McCartney-Harrison shadow, Sir Richard Starkey is said to have a net worth of $350 million today.