According to ever-trusty, website-of-the-people Wikipedia, The Beatles officially split on the 10th of April, 1970. By all accounts, the dissolution was acrimonious and filled with pent-up spite from all relevant parties. Many people associated with the band, including fans, hangers-on and even the band itself (sans Lennon, obviously) felt that Yoko Ono was the primary reason for their untimely demise. No matter who or what was to blame, the end result is unchanged: no more Beatles.
In hindsight, perhaps it was for the best. Let It Be, the Fab Four’s swan song, is a fine album in its own right, but it’s certainly no White Album both in terms of creative output and lasting appeal. To be fair, what is though? They made it tough on themselves in a sense, producing some of the finest music ever recorded in the critically important 1960s. Maybe Let It Be was the start of an inevitable decline, a slippery slope that even the most heralded musical acts aren’t immune to. Some bands hang on too long and forsake a big chunk of their mystique. The Rolling Stones are the biggest culprits of this most heinous musical crime. They’ve gradually become a parody of themselves, as they lazily squeeze out albums that no one is interested in, and play shows to a gaggle of lawyers, property developers and hedge fund managers in cavernous stadiums.
As for The Beatles, each of its members went on to pursue other endeavors with varying degrees of success. Lennon kicked dope and bedded down with Yoko as a bizarre form of protest against the Vietnam War. McCartney formed Wings and recorded possibly the greatest of the post-Beatles records. Ringo narrated a stop-animation show about trains. George joined one of the earliest and most celebrated/feared of beasts: the Supergroup.
In 1980, Lennon was gunned down outside his Manhattan apartment building. He was 40 years old. Mark David Chapman, Lennon’s killer, claimed to be his biggest fan.
It was three decades before we lost another one. Harrison was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1999. He fought valiantly but succumbed to the awful disease in 2001. He was just 58.
The question remains: who will be the last remaining Beatle, heir to the veritable throne?
McCartney vs Starr. Paul vs Ringo in the Great Rhythm Section Sweepstakes.
There are several factors when determining mortality. In this case, let’s focus on the key areas.
According to Wikipedia, the average life expectancy for males born in the United Kingdom is 79. McCartney is 71. Starr is 73. Based purely on mathematics and the laws of the universe, McCartney has 8 years to live, Ringo has 6.
The Beatles and drug use were familiar bedfellows, harking back to their early days playing several thousand shows a week in Hamburg, Germany. Popular thought would suggest that the band’s introduction to narcotics was through beatnik poet Royston Ellis. Benzedrine was their gateway drug of choice. Of course, this lead to different drugs for different Beatles. The group was given Preludin, an appetite suppressant which upped their energy levels, which, along with copious amounts of beer, would get them through the long nights in Hamburg. Of the drug, Ringo is quoted as saying:
“This was the point of our lives when we found pills, uppers. That’s the only way we could continue playing for so long. They were called Preludin, and you could buy them over the counter. We never thought we were doing anything wrong, but we’d get really wired and go on for days. So with beer and Preludin, that’s how we survived.”
Unsurprisingly, Lennon was the most avid user of this method, favoring it over his band mates. McCartney had more the reputation for being less keen to indulge:
“I suppose I was a little bit more sensible than some of the other guys in rock ‘n’ roll at that time. Something to do with my Liverpool upbringing made me exercise caution.”
Bob Dylan introduced the group to cannabis in New York in 1964 and there was no looking back. Having never indulged, the group were hesitant. Dylan rolled the joint and passed it to Lennon, who passed it onto Ringo without imbibing himself. Ringo was known as Lennon’s “royal taster”, and instead of toking and then passing onto the next in line, Starr finished the entire joint! If Chris Tucker can abide by the unwritten rule of puff puff give, surely Ringo can too.
The Beatles became synonymous with LSD, for better or worse, sometime in 1965. From all accounts, however, it seems that it was mainly John and George that took to the hallucinogen rather than Paul or Ringo. In an interview with Jann Wenner for Rolling Stone magazine, Lennon dissects the band’s LSD use:
“I think George was pretty heavy on it. We were probably both the most cracked. I think Paul’s a bit more stable than George and I. I don’t know about straight. Stable. I think LSD profoundly shocked him.”
Despite Lennon’s assertion that Paul was a teetotaler, a 1967 interview with the man suggests otherwise:
In the late 1960s, it was reported that Paul was the first of the group to regularly use cocaine. He says this in a 2004 interview with Uncut magazine:
“I did cocaine for about a year around the time of Sgt Pepper. Coke and maybe some grass to balance it out. I was never completely crazy with cocaine. I’d been introduced to it and at first it seemed OK, like anything that’s new and stimulating. When you start working your way through it, you start thinking: ‘Mmm, this is not so cool an idea,’ especially when you start getting those terrible comedowns.”
“I got involved with a lot of different medications and you can listen to my records go downhill as the amount of medication went up. I’ve got photographs of me playing all over the world but I’ve absolutely no memory of it. I played Washington with the Beach Boys – or so they tell me. But there’s only a photo to prove it.”
Paul didn’t have anywhere near the health issues that Ringo experienced growing up, nor seemingly in his adult life. Aside from the aforementioned drink and drug use, Paul has enjoyed relatively good health in his 71 years. He did, however, undergo a heart procedure in 2007. He underwent a coronary angioplasty to open up his arteries and increase blood flow.