Take Five: Great Zak Starkey Performances

The son of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, Zak Starkey wasn’t actively encouraged by his dad to take up the family business. But encouraged by his father’s dear friend Keith Moon (who gifted him a drum kit) Zak did indeed pursue a life as a drummer. Largely self-taught, Zak did get some lessons from Kenney Jones, the Small Faces drummer who would eventually replace Moon in The Who. And tying up the history in a neat bow, these days Zak occupies the drum throne behind Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey.

But his work with The Who is only part of the wide mix of musical endeavors for Zak Starkey. Here are five notable recordings featuring Ringo’s grown-up kid, including one with The Who.

The Semantics – “Coming Up Roses” from Powerbill (1993/1996)
One of pop music’s great tragedies is the non-success of The Semantics. An extraordinary power pop trio featuring Zak plus Millard Powers and Will Owsley, the group made a great album, produced by Peter Asher. Released three years after its making and then only in Japan, Powerbill sank without a trace. And the group members all went on to other projects. Owsley would re-recording “Coming Up Roses” on his own stellar solo debut, 1999’s Owsley, and he changed very little from the original arrangement.

Oasis – “Let There Be Love” from Don’t Believe the Truth (2005)
Britpop heroes Oasis may have seen their commercial apex come and go long before 2005’s Don’t Believe the Truth, but if you haven’t heard the record, don’t believe the lie that it’s without merit. A highlight of the album – which sold nearly a million copies in the UK, nearly five times its U.S. sales – is “Let There Be Love.” The song features Zak Starkey on drums and is very much part and parcel of the classic Oasis sound.

Sshh – “Shoot Speed Kill Light” from Issues (2016)
Zak Starkey does more than play drums; for his project Sshh (with partner and eventual wife Sharna Liguz) he plays guitar. The duo made an album – with proceeds benefiting the Teen Cancer Program in England – featuring covers of 11 songs that influenced them. This Primal Scream cover is a highlight of the collection.

The Who – “All This Music Must Fade” from Who (2019)
Anyone who felt that The Who were a creatively spent force will have been surprised when the band roared back with a self-titled 2019 album. Filled with songs that rekindle the fire and passion of vintage Who, the album continued to showcase Roger Daltrey’s powerful singing, Pete Townshend’s thoughtful lyrics and slashing guitar, and Zak Starkey’s just-right-for-the-music drum work.

Toots and the Maytals – “Got to Be Tough” from Got to Be Tough (2020)
In recent years, Zak Starkey built a recording studio in Ocho Rios, Jamaica; once established, he set to work with may of the island nation’s leading musical lights. Toots Hibbert was among them, ending a decade-long hiatus. Featuring guitar work by Zak Starkey (and tambourine by his dad), Got to Be Tough won Best Reggae Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.