George Martin: 1926-2016, Legendary Beatles Producer

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George Martin, the legendary “Fifth Beatle” who produced all of the band’s albums except for Let It Be, died yesterday at the age of 90. His death was announced by Ringo Starr on Twitter before being confirmed by Universal Music Group:

Although Martin worked behind the scenes, he was instrumental to the Beatles’ success. He signed them to their first contract with EMI in 1962 and served as their producer and arranger for nearly their whole career as a group. Martin’s background in classical music filled in a crucial hole in the Beatles’ musical knowledge. It was his idea to arrange “Yesterday” for a string quartet, and he conducted the strings on “Eleanor Rigby” and the orchestra on “A Day in the Life,” among the countless other arrangements he contributed to the Beatles’ recording sessions. Martin also provided piano parts for many of the Beatles’ earlier records, including the iconic solo on “In My Life.”

Paul McCartney penned a moving tribute to Martin on his website, describing the time he brought “Yesterday” into the studio as his favorite memory of his friend:

It’s hard to choose favourite memories of my time with George, there are so many but one that comes to mind was the time I brought the song ‘Yesterday’ to a recording session and the guys in the band suggested that I sang it solo and accompany myself on guitar. After I had done this George Martin said to me, “Paul I have an idea of putting a string quartet on the record”. I said, “Oh no George, we are a rock and roll band and I don’t think it’s a good idea”. With the gentle bedside manner of a great producer he said to me, “Let us try it and if it doesn’t work we won’t use it and we’ll go with your solo version”. I agreed to this and went round to his house the next day to work on the arrangement. He took my chords that I showed him and spread the notes out across the piano, putting the cello in the low octave and the first violin in a high octave and gave me my first lesson in how strings were voiced for a quartet. When we recorded the string quartet at Abbey Road, it was so thrilling to know his idea was so correct that I went round telling people about it for weeks.

In addition to his work with the Beatles, Martin also worked with Peter Sellers on two popular comedy LPs in the 1950s and has produced for Kenny Rogers, Elton John, Cheap Trick, Gary Glitter, and Celine Dion, among countless others.

Martin is survived by his wife, Judy, and his four children.