Everyone has a favourite Beatle, and for some people, the answer isn’t the caustic genius of john Lennon, the songwriting mastery of Paul McCartney or the spiritual softness of George Harrison, but the jovial, affable and all-around saintly Ringo Starr. Not only was he a pivotal member of the Fab Four – despite battling against derogatory criticism for the majority of his time in the band – but Starr is also undoubtedly a great musician in his own right, and has proved so throughout his solo career. But perhaps the reason Starr has remained so dearly beloved is his undeniably welcoming nature.
While some people know him primarily as a drummer, Starr has earned his stripes as a singer-songwriter, too, proving an ability for a catchy tune on multiple occasions, as well as devising some great roles on screen. Even during his time with The Beatles, Starr contributed his vocal ability on some of their most adored songs, including ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’, and one of the most memorable Beatles numbers, ‘Octopus’s Garden’.
While he may well be the most famous musician in his neighbourhood, the man at the centre of the fame is still a music lover at heart. So when Ringo Starr was asked the question, “what song do you want played at your funeral?” by the NME, he had a tough choice on his hands.
The former Beatle gave an intriguing answer by picking one of his own songs with The Beatles. In response to the question, Ringo Starr said, “I don’t know what we’d have playing, so I’ll say this one because it’d be nice to have everyone singing along” in regards to ‘Octopus’s Garden’.
It’s actually an extremely sweet sentiment, especially given the song in question is such a fun and carefree one. Although some people might find it to be slightly egotistical in other circumstances for an artist to choose a song that they wrote themselves, Ringo Starr’s choice is a wholesome one on reflection, especially considering the criticism he has taken over the years.
The song is one fo the few from the band’s canon directly written by Ringo Starr. “‘Octopus’s Garden’ is Ringo’s song,” George Harrison once said. “It’s only the second song Ringo has ever written, mind you, and it’s lovely.” When detailing why the song is so loved by Beatles fans, Harrison added: “Because it’s so peaceful. I suppose Ringo is writing cosmic songs these days without even realising it.” It’s hard to argue, the “peace and love” man is the archetypal Zen master of drums.
It was the mark of a band starting to fully explore their creativity in the face of growing tensions. In fact, the song was composed during a tough time for Ringo as he felt pushed out of the band and took himself on holiday with actor Peter Sellers.
Having ordered fish and chips on board, Starr was presented with squid and found the whole meal a little peculiar. Having never eaten the animal prior, Starr was taken aback by his surprise meal which kickstarted a conversation with the boat’s captain. The captain would tell a story about how “octopuses travel along the sea bed picking up stones and shiny objects with which to build a garden.” It delighted Starr, stirring his creative juices, and the song was born. With the Beatles’ thrust of musical creativity, it was given the space it desired.
It seems that The Beatles might just make for some popular funeral music, which isn’t an unheard-of sentiment. However, the usual “funeral song” picks appear to be a bit more melancholy. Songs like ‘Blackbird’ come to mind when considering potential Beatles funeral tracks much more than ‘Octopus’s Garden’, but that’s what makes Starr’s choice even more special.