Why Ringo Starr Was Hospitalized For A Year When He Was A Kid

In addition to being the drummer for The Beatles, Ringo Starr — born Richard Starkey — is known for his "easygoing personality," according to Biography, as well as his ongoing belief in "peace and love." He celebrates this notion annually on his birthday via a "Peace and Love" celebration. That classic '60s message goes out now via more modern methods, including official corporate sponsors and its own social media hashtag, per People magazine. Perhaps Starr learned to be easygoing and to appreciate simple yet powerful concepts like peace and love during his lengthy stay in the hospital as a child. 

As he relayed to NPR's Terry Gross during a 1995 interview, he was first hospitalized at the age of 6 when his appendix burst. This led to peritonitis, which the Mayo Clinic defines as "inflammation of the peritoneum," the membrane that lines the abdominal wall, covering the internal organs. In Starr's own words, peritonitis is still dangerous, but "in 1947, it was very dangerous." To top it all off, after six months he was finally on the mend, and got so excited one day that he fell out of bed "and ripped open all these stitches in my stomach," requiring doctors to "dive in again and sew me up." All told, young Ringo ended up staying in the hospital for a year. 

Dishcloths and drumsticks

This wasn't the last experience young Ringo had with long-term hospitalization. In his NPR interview, he went on to discuss a second long term bout with illness at the age of 13, when he came down with tuberculosis, which the Mayo Clinic tells us is an infectious disease mainly affecting the lungs, spread through droplets released into the air. Starr noted that TB was very common in his industrial neighborhood in Liverpool, England, where there were often "six or seven cases in every street where people were just in the living room dying of TB." Starr was saved from this fate by the discovery of the antibiotic streptomycin and was consequently "shipped off to a greenhouse in the country" where "they put all us kids ... and let us breathe some decent air for a change."

This led to another year of recovery for Starr, but his stay in the country may have ultimately been responsible for his future career. Starr reminisced that in addition to keeping the patients busy by letting them knit dishcloths, a teacher "would come in with musical instruments, being drums, tambourines, maracas, triangles — all percussive stuff." Ringo got a drum and took to it right away, refusing to give it up for a different instrument during subsequent music classes. Ringo told NPR, "I made my first kit when I came out of hospital out of biscuit tins and firewood." The rest is rock and roll history.