You either kiss the future or the past goodbye.”— "Weight of the World," written by Brian O'Doherty and Fred Velez, performed by Ringo Starr from his Time Takes Time CD (1992)
All through his childhood and early teens, it would have amazed those who knew him to think that Richard Starkey—born on this day in 1940 in working-class Liverpool, England—would live to see 75, let alone that he would amount to much.
His parents divorced when he was a child. Through his early years, he battled one medical affliction after another: a ruptured appendix, an inflamed peritoneum, a coma for several days, a concussion, chronic pleurisy, and lung complications. All the time out of school left him barely able to read or write as he reached his teens, and he was forced to leave his second job out of school when he injured his finger on his very first day of work.
After all that, how did Ringo Starr ever turn into the zaniest Beatle, the one who came up with the phrase that became the title of the band’s first hit film: “A Hard Day’s Night”?
Normally, when I pick a “Song Lyric of the Dad,” I credit the composers directly in the title. But, if the onetime Beatles drummer didn’t write "Weight of the World," he directly inspired it.
Few outside the Beatles circle could have known how much this seemingly easygoing musician had endured. The hard work he put into playing the drums after his stepfather bought it as a birthday gift; the success that came to him and his bandmates; even the wonderful sense of humor that helped him survive bad fortune and insane success alike proved, after a while, inadequate to the challenge of living.
The 1980s became not a lost weekend for Ringo, but a lost decade. It started with the murder of friend John Lennon, and ended with Ringo and his second wife, model-actress Barbara Bach, in rehab for alcoholism.
When he re-emerged, it was with his 10th studio album, Time Takes Time. Its emotional centerpiece, "Weight of the World," did not chart very high in the U.K., and did not rise at all in the U.S. But of all his solo works, it is this one—not “It Don’t Come Easy,” not “Photograph,” not “You’re Sixteen,” not the ebullient tunes that were so much his stock in trade in the Seventies—which is my favorite. Without flinching, without self-pity, it reflects what he had learned in recovery: that you might have to square up against misfortune out of necessity, but also that you could do so on equal terms.
In the five decades since the onset of Beatlemania, people have tended to slot the Fab Four into The Cute One, The Subversive Genius, the Spiritual Seeker, and the Funny One.