What Do People Mean When They Say, “Somebody Has to Be Ringo”?

Portrait of talented African-American man singing to microphone and playing guitar while recording music in studio, copy space

The Heneral Lunacy website published a blog post in October, 2021 discussing the presidential election in the Philippines. That post began by discussing John, Paul, and the fact that somebody has to be Ringo. Without proper context, you might read that and not understand what the author is talking about.

“Somebody has to be Ringo” is a pretty common idiom among people old enough to remember the Beatles. If you don’t remember one of the most iconic rock groups of the 1960s though, the phrase probably means nothing to you. But you are about to learn all the details.

  • The Fab Four

The Beatles were a British rock band formed in Liverpool, England in 1960. They bandied about the UK for several years before their managers decided it was time to transform them into a more professional act worthy of taking the world by storm. Part of that transformation was to replace drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr.

Eventually the band traveled to the U.S. as part of what we call the British Invasion. It wasn’t long before they were dubbed the Fab Four, quickly becoming one of the most popular bands in the world. But who got all the attention? Paul McCartney, John London, and George Harrison. Ringo remained in the background, both literally and euphemistically.

What many people did not know about Starr – and still don’t know today – is that he is quite an accomplished musician. We all know he plays drums. But he also sings and plays other instruments as well. His songwriting skills are not too shabby, either.

  • Being In the Background

“Somebody has to be Ringo” became somewhat of a joke that even Starr himself laughed about. The idea is that someone has to be in the background. In a four-piece rock band, you can only have one lead guitar. You can only have one lead singer. Someone has to sit at the rear of the stage and play drums.

On a grander scale, you could make the case that session musicians of all types are quintessential Ringo Starrs. No one knows them. They never become famous. You could hire them through Supreme Tracks to help you make music online, and they would forever be in the background while you take the credit for the music.

Supreme Tracks owners are quick to point out that session musicians are the foundation of any reputable recording studio. Whether customers buy beats online or trust a studio to put together a new arrangement of their material, the session musicians are the ones who do the heavy lifting. They just do it in the background.

  • Not the Big Star

You could apply the “somebody has to be Ringo” idiom to just about every aspect of life. At work, there can only be one boss. Even the best of teams only have one or two stars. Everyone else plays a supporting role. That is really the key. Are you out front or are you in support of someone else?

Being Ringo isn’t a bad thing. Without supporting rolls, nothing would ever get accomplished. Moreover, there is a lot of responsibility that comes with being Paul or John. But being Ringo lets you do your thing without any added pressure.

Somebody always has to be Ringo. Even the original Ringo had to do it. It is the way life works. That doesn’t mean the Ringo Starrs of the world are inferior. They aren’t. Rather, they are just happy to quietly play a supporting role while the Pauls and Johns of the world take the spotlight.