A couple of days later, late in the afternoon, I heard guitars and the sound of Paul’s and John’s voices. They were sitting with Ringo among the potted plants on the steps of their bungalow. I got my camera and after taking a few pictures through the chain link fence, opened the gate and joined them. They were strumming their Martin D-28 acoustic guitars, singing fragments of songs, musically meandering through some of my favorites: Michelle, All You Need Is Love, Norwegian Wood, Eleanor Rigby and others.

Ringo was dressed in his favorite heavy, gold-brocade Nehru jacket and jeans, with his ever-present black bag over his shoulder and his silver 16mm camera case nearby. He was calm, quiet, almost motionless. Of the four Beatles, he appeared the most serene, the most grounded, the most at ease with who he was. Late in his life, John said, “People think Ringo was the least of the Beatles. Actually, he was the heart and soul of the group.”

Having been photographed so often, and in the completely informal ashram setting, they paid no particular attention to the camera. Paul started strumming again and John joined in. Paul had a slip of paper sitting on the step beneath him and he started to sing the words that he had scribbled down. It was the refrain to Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. They repeated it over and over again—working with it, playing with it—and when they paused for a moment Paul looked up at me with a twinkle in his eyes and said, “That’s all there is so far. We don’t have any of the words yet.”

John chuckled with pleasure at his new folk-guitar picking technique he said Donovan had been teaching him. Some time later Ringo mentioned dinner was ready but as John got up, Paul started to sing and play Ob-La-Di again. John couldn’t resist and fell in with him, playing and singing very upbeat. Then Ringo joined in, finger-snapping the rhythms. By then the sun had dropped behind the hills. A gentle aroma of evening jasmine drifted over the grounds, a peacock shrilled off in the woods, and after a while we all headed off to eat.