George Martin, Beatles Producer, 1926 – 2016

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The Beatles with George Martin during a recording session at Trident Studios 1968 (Photo: Tony Bramwell / © Apple Corps Ltd.; used with permission)

Our original obituary, from 2016…

Word arrived very late Tuesday night, March 8 – fittingly via Ringo Starr – that legendary producer and arranger Sir George Martin has died. The so-called Fifth Beatle was 90. In an email to The New York Times, a founder of CA Management, which represented Martin, wrote that he “passed away peacefully at home yesterday evening.” No cause of death has been stated.

From the Beatles’ promising beginning through the days of toe-tapping hits like “Can’t Buy Me Love” of the British Invasion and Beatlemania to the group’s growth and development of songs with orchestral arrangements like “All You Need is Love” and the complexity of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Martin was a significant force and influence.

Starr tweeted out two messages, the first reading: “God bless George Martin peace and love to Judy and his family love Ringo and Barbara George will be missed xxx”

Shortly thereafter, Starr added a second tweet: “Thank you for all your love and kindness George peace and love xx” that featured an early photo of the four Beatles with Martin.

When it comes to performer-producer relationships, there was The Beatles collaborations with Martin and then there was everyone else. The Parlophone Records executive famously met with Fab Four manager Brian Epstein in 1962 after all other British record labels had passed on the quartet. Martin signed them soon after.

Paul McCartney wrote, in part, “If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George. From the day that he gave The Beatles our first recording contract, to the last time I saw him, he was the most generous, intelligent and musical person I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.”

Related: Paul McCartney’s beautiful tribute and anecdote about recording “Yesterday”

One of Martin’s first decisions was to replace then-Beatles drummer Pete Best who had been with the group since 1960. Following the June 1962 Beatles audition for Martin, the producer had concerns about the steadiness of Best’s time. In August Epstein informed the drummer he was being let go. Starr was hired to replace him.

The band members were duly impressed that Martin had produced comedians Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers of The Goon Show, which was an inspiration for the Beatles’ legendary humor. Starting with 1963’s Please Please Me and continuing through 1969’s Abbey Road, Martin produced almost all of the band’s remarkable output.

He produced a stunning total of 30 #1 U.K. hits and 23 in the U.S. including songs for such artists as Gerry & the Pacemakers and America. Martin’s productions include British Invasion artists Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, The Fourmost, Jeff Beck, America, Cheap Trick and others. He also produced Shirley Bassey’s theme song for the James Bond film Goldfinger and the McCartney and Wings theme song as well as composing and producing the score for Bond film Live and Let Die.

Related: Tributes from fellow musicians poured in

In 1970 he opened his AIR Studios in London on Oxford St., a premier world-class recording facility, and later AIR Montserrat in the Caribbean where such artists as The Police, McCartney, Jimmy Buffett, The Rolling Stones and other notables made albums. One of his productions is considered to be the biggest selling single of all time: Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997,” which was recorded as a tribute to the late Diana, Princess of Wales. He earned six Grammy Awards, five for his work with The Beatles and one for producing the Broadway show album of The Who’s Tommy. He published a well-received memoir, All You Need is Ears in 1979.

Martin was knighted in 1996 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

Watch him talk about recording two Beatles’ favorites

Related: George Martin: the “Lost” Interview

Best Classic Bands Staff

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