Zak Starkey: Ringo Starr’s Son & The Importance Of Being Idle

Zak Starkey drumming
Starkey in action.

Here we have the son of Ringo Starr, who’s also carved himself an impressive reputation in the world of rock drumming.

In case you didn’t know about him, he’s toured with Oasis and The Who and remains one of modern music’s most successful drummers.

Let’s take a gander at this loose-limbed Londoner and how he’s been essential to many major bands, but has avoided becoming a household name.

The Importance of Being Zak Starkey

Zak Starkey was born in 1965 and, as you’d expect, grew up around rock royalty.

He was befriended and mentored by The Who’s Keith Moon, who was one of Ringo Starr’s closest friends.

Moon was famously generous with his money (to the point he thrashed all of it and was often penniless) and he bought an eight year old Starkey his first drum kit.

Young Zak referred to him as Uncle Keith. He once told Modern Drummer magazine:

“Keith Moon was my first big influence, definitely. I wanted to play the drums because of Keith. When I was very young there was music all around me in my parents’ house. You would go into the living room and find stacks and stacks of LPs. I would spend my days listening to records. My dad took me to see T. Rex when I was six. That was it for me; I wanted to be Marc Bolan. Then I got into David Bowie. I loved all of those ’70s glam bands from England, like Slade and Sweet. Then when I was eight, I discovered The Who’s Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy. That turned everything on its head. It was so different and it sounded so alive. It was bouncy.”

Moon apparently discussed drumming with the young Starkey, but didn’t provide any lessons.

The young lad taught himself, with help from The Faces drummer Kenney Jones (who was Keith Moon’s immediate replacement after the drummer died in September 1978).

Starkey drummed fro various bands in the 1980s, such as the Spencer Davis Group. He also toured with Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band fro 1992-1995.

There’s no denying his father’s reputation and global fame opened many doors for Starkey. But that would also be really unfair to his natural talent.

Starkey is an incredible drummer and much more naturally gifted than his father (even though he’s not had the same impact on music as Ringo).

His technical proficiency, perfect timing, and flair make him stand out.

To be fair to Ringo, he’s also a talented songwriter and has produced 20 solo albums. His last being only two years ago in October 2019 (when he was 79).

As for his on, it’s still impressive he’s been able to forge his way as one of the most in-demand drummers for two major bands.

He’s been The Who’s favourite stand-in drummer for Keith Moon since 1996. Starkey continues to tour with the band even now (pandemic permitting).

You can see his fancy solo up close from the 7:20 mark (also, Roger Daltrey was heading for 60 at this point in 2000 and still manages to look buff).

However, he was also a regular with Oasis from 2004-2009 and we saw him play live at Nottingham arena in late 2005.

A friend-of-a-friend leaned over to us during the gig and yelled, “He’s a good drummer, isn’t he?” Indeed, sir!

We aren’t big fans of Manchester’s biggest band. But there’s no denying the colossal influence they have on popular music.

And our favourite song by Oasis is The Importance of Being Idle (2005), which we think is a brilliant number. Really inspired.

Something of a truly inventive one off for a group that typically relied on formulaic catchy rock/pop numbers.

And a big part of that song’s appeal for us is with Starkey’s clever drumming.

As you can hear, Starkey’s playing style is characterised by a sharp, driving quality that’s influenced by big-beat, tribal-folk rhythms, and rock.

He has that vital quality the very best drummers need—incredibly agile fingers to get him around a kit at lightning speed.

His drumming graced Oasis’ albums Don’t Believe the Truth and Dig Out Your Soul. He left the band in 2009 due to the Gallagher brother’s “commitment issues”.

But he’s still drumming away for The Who. He’s toured extensively with the ’60s Mod band and recorded various songs on their albums from around 2005.

Mr. Starkey… Into The Future

Starkey’s career (at 56) is far from over. He remains a drummer in demand!

And, in 2020, he also branched out as a guitarist and producer on an album called Got to Be Tough for reggae band Toots and the Maytals.

Although born into rock royalty, he’s more than earned his place as a drumming star.

So we think it’s a bit unfair there’s little available footage of him around. Very few interviews. And few properly isolated clips of his drumming.

Plus, not as much respect as the guy deserves.

He earned those positions in The Who and Oasis by dint of being an incredible drummer. So… show some respect, eh!?


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