Ringo Starr Refused to Sing a Line in ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ and Made His Bandmates Rewrite It

The Beatles’ song “With a Little Help From My Friends” gave Ringo Starr a chance to sing lead vocals. He wasn’t exactly excited about it — his bandmates had to coax him into it because he lacked confidence in his singing. When they finally got him to record his vocals, Starr also had a problem with one of the lines in the song. He refused to sing it, even making his bandmates rewrite it because he feared the way fans would react.

Ringo Starr did not want to sing a line in The Beatles’ ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’
After spending an afternoon writing together, Paul McCartney and John Lennon called Starr to get him into the studio.

“It was getting near 7 o’clock, almost time to go round the corner to the EMI recording studios,” Beatles biographer Hunter Davies wrote, per Rolling Stone. “They decided to ring Ringo, to tell him his song was finished – which it wasn’t – and that they would do it that evening.”

After recording the rhythm track, the other three Beatles managed to convince Starr to record his vocals. He begrudgingly agreed, but only if his bandmates would change some of the lyrics.

“They had one line that I wouldn’t sing,” he said in the Beatles Anthology documentary. “It was, ‘What would you do if I sang out of tune?/Would you stand up and throw tomatoes at me?’ I said, ‘There’s not a chance in hell am I going to sing this line.’”

The Beatles had stopped touring at this point, but he worried fans might take the line too literally if they ever resumed live performances. In their touring days, fans threw candy and other items at them. Fans deciding to throw tomatoes didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility to Starr.

“I thought that if we ever did get out there again, I was not going to be bombarded with tomatoes!” he said. Starr’s bandmates agreed, and they changed the line to, “Would you stand up and walk out on me?”

Ringo Starr was nervous to sing the song in general
Starr was likely relieved his bandmates had been so willing to change the lyrics. He hadn’t wanted to sing the song in the first place. He rarely sang songs for the band, and he wasn’t very confident in his vocals. Starr wanted to go home after recording the rhythm track, but his bandmates convinced him to stay. They felt that springing the vocal recording on him would help with his nerves.

“Perhaps the shock tactic of having him sing when he was least expecting it took the nervousness away, or perhaps it was just how supportive everyone was being,” engineer Geoff Emerick wrote in Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. “All three of his compatriots gathered around him, inches behind the microphone, silently conducting and cheering him on as he gamely tackled his vocal duties. It was a touching show of unity among the four Beatles.”

Starr said the high note at the end of the song posed a challenge to him. His bandmates supported him through it, though. “It took a lot of coaxing from Paul to get me to sing that last note,” Starr said. “I just felt it was very high. I always worry about the vocals. I’m insecure when I do the vocals.”

How many Beatles songs did Ringo Starr sing?
Starr had the fewest writing credits of any of The Beatles. Still, he sang lead on 11 of the band’s songs. These include “Octopus’s Garden,” one of the few songs Starr wrote, and “Yellow Submarine,” which reached No. 2 (via Ultimate Classic Rock). With his All-Starr Band, the Beatles’ drummer has garnered more experience singing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mick Jagger John & Yoko’s Elvis Presley & Priscilla Presley