When Ringo Starr accidentally wrote a Bob Dylan track

No one would claim that Ringo Starr was the most talented member of The Beatles. Although he may have been known to keep a solid backbeat and make every one of the band’s songs breathe, Starr was also just as liable to sing the most tongue-in-cheek tracks on every album, knowing that he didn’t have the most incredible voice to deliver tracks like ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’. While he ultimately blossomed into a good solo artist, Starr’s first writing attempts suffered from accidental plagiarism.

When talking about the band’s early days, Starr initially had no desire to work as a songwriter. Working off whatever John Lennon and Paul McCartney brought into Abbey Road Studios, Starr was more interested in serving the track whenever he got the chance, often toying with the groove and turning those sketches into the classics fans know them as today.

McCartney would later commend Starr and George Harrison for being able to interpret their material so quickly, recalling in Living in the Material World, “We would come in and say, ‘This is how it goes…[and would sing] ‘She loves you, yeah yeah’, or whatever it was, and they would go ‘Mm-hmm’. And this would be the first time they had ever heard the songs, this was how good they were.”

Even though Harrison would ultimately blossom as a writer throughout his work with The Beatles, Starr was more comfortable in the background, often playing the best grooves he could on tracks like ‘What Goes On’ and ‘She Loves You’. When Starr did come up with what he thought was a masterpiece, though, the rest of the band fell into hysterics.

Making his first attempt at writing, McCartney would later recall how Starr initially rewrote a track by one of their contemporaries, telling Barry Miles, “I was always pretty keen not to repeat other people’s tunes because it’s very easy to do when you write. Ringo’s got a funny story of the most brilliant song he ever wrote. He spent three hours writing a very famous Bob Dylan song.”

As the Beatles were finding their voice, though, it was only natural for them to gravitate to Dylan’s music. Coming from the opposite end of the spectrum, Dylan would start writing militant folk songs for the mainstream market before going to electric based on what the Fab Four had created.

Even though Starr would admit that he took a Dylan song note-for-note a handful of times, it wasn’t like Dylan-esque material was off the table. When working on material that would turn up in their second movie Help!, John Lennon’s ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ is ripped directly from what Dylan was doing, as if Lennon was trying to create his unique take on a track like ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’.

That wouldn’t be the last time Starr tried to get a tune into the band’s repertoire. In the movie Get Back, Starr would fiddle with different fragments of a tune he had in his head, with Harrison helping finish off what would become ‘Octopus’s Garden’. Starr may not have been the best at coming up with a tune, but considering how well The Beatles got along with Dylan, they never needed to worry about the rock legend pursuing legal action.

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