CLEVELAND (AP) – Ringo Starr was always behind the other Beatles.
Bobbing his head as he sat at his drum kit, Starr kept the steady backbeat for Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison, a once-in-a-century group that conquered the music world. Starr got fourth-billing, the adored and yet overlooked sideman to his more celebrated bandmates.
John, Paul, George … and Ringo.
Once he stepped from their shadows, Starr proved he could hold his own.
Forever a Beatle, Starr will enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist on Saturday, inducted along with an eclectic class of musicians.
Starr, who was previously enshrined with the Beatles in 1988, will be honored along with pop punks Green Day, soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers, underground-rock icon Lou Reed, bluesy guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and The “5” Royales.
When the Beatles split at the height of their fame, Starr decided to take a shot at being a frontman and surprisingly flourished with a string of radio hits, including “It Don’t Come Easy,” ”Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen,” singles that earned him new-found respect and popularity.
He wasn’t the artistic one, but Starr was the first of the “Fab Four” to have commercial success upon going solo.
Starr will be inducted by McCartney, who pushed for the drummer’s enshrinement after learning Starr was the lone Beatle not to be honored for his individual music. McCartney told Rolling Stone magazine that he and Lennon began writing songs for Starr because fans were so fond of Starr.
“We wrote the line, ‘What would you do if I sang out of tune?’ for him,” said McCartney, referencing the opening line to “With A Little Help From My Friends.” ”When you think about it, how many people in rock and roll can sing? But Ringo can deliver a song.”
Green Day pushed punk rock into the American mainstream. Lead singer/guitarist Billy Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool thrashed onto the scene in the early 1990s, spewing Generation X attitude and teenage angst to the masses.
The Bay Area trio’s album “Dookie” won a Grammy and the group went on to make “American Idiot,” a punk-infused rock opera that later became a hit show on Broadway.
Disillusioned with the industry, Withers walked away from his lucrative career in the mid-’80s, leaving enduring songs like “Lean On Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” in his stubborn wake. His songs have been covered by a wide range of musicians, including the Temptations, Garth Brooks and Kid Rock.
Stevie Wonder will induct Withers, who has performed only a few times in public over the past 20 years.
The late Reed, who died in 2013 at age 71, took listeners to dangerous places with lyrics that often dealt with taboo subjects like drugs, prostitution and suicide. Though he didn’t have much commercial success, Reed’s songs like “Walk On The Wild Side,” ”Sweet Jane” and “Heroin” remain vibrant today.
Reed’s transformative sound influenced artists such as David Bowie, R.E.M. and U2. He will be inducted by Patti Smith.
One of rock’s biggest guitar heroes, Vaughn created magical moments with the way he bent and bled notes on his Stratocaster. A blues legend from Texas, Vaughn, who was tragically killed in a helicopter in 1990, had hits like “Pride and Joy,” ”Look At Little Sister” and his cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” earned him a Grammy. John Mayer will induct Vaughn and then join Gary Clark Jr. on stage for a blistering set of Double Trouble tunes.
For the third time, the induction ceremony is being held at Cleveland’s legendary Public Hall, where thousands of fans will undoubtedly scream “I Love Rock and Roll” along with Jett, who is expected to perform her Top 40 classic along with her hard-charging band.
Jett helped found The Runaways, a band that broke down barriers for women in rock. With The Blackhearts she did even more with an unapologetic, loud style that empowered girls and boys.
Jett’s thrilled she’ll be honored in a city where she’s felt a deep connection.
“If I’m going to be inducted, Cleveland is where it should be,” she told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I don’t find Cleveland to be a kind of place that puts on any airs, and I don’t either.”
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