Sir George Henry Martin, the “Fifth Beatle,” has died at the age of 90 at his home. The public announcement was from the twitter account of Richard Starkey/Ringo Starr.
Sir George (1926-2016) signed The Beatles to their first recording contract with the Parlophone label of EMI Records in June 1962. When other record labels, most famously Decca Records, had declined to offer the group a contract, he gave the group a chance to audition for him and, seeing their potential, signed them to a contract. He contributed to much of The Beatles success. He produced more than 700 records for The Beatles and other popular British music artists and bands, including Dame Shirley Bassey, Cilla Black and Gerry and the Pacemakers.
Sir Paul McCartney posted the following statement on his statement on his website:
“I have so many wonderful memories of this great man that will be with me forever.
“He was a true gentleman and like a second father to me. He guided the career of The Beatles with such skill and good humour that he became a true friend to me and my family. 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.”
John Lennon once said of him: “He had a very great musical knowledge and background so he could translate for us.”
Neil Portnow, the president and chief executive of The Recording Academy, paid tribute to him:
“Having worked on hundreds of recordings, he was one of the most innovative producers of all time and his impact on music is unparalleled,” he said.
“Our creative community has lost a gifted artist, and our thoughts go out to his family, his friends, and the many musicians with whom he collaborated.”
BBC music reporter, Mark Savage, said: “Without George Martin, The Beatles would have been a very different band. His calm demeanor and technical expertise allowed the band to experiment and indulge in their wildest and most elaborate ideas. On many occasions, Lennon and McCartney would entrust him with arranging their songs – the string quartet on “Yesterday” is all his work.” Many times he would play along with the band on the piano, organ, keyboards or other musical instruments. He used his technical prowess and innovation to splice together two different tempo versions of “Strawberry Fields.” The group’s first number one single, “Please Please Me,” was changed to a faster tempo and some quicker harmonies using his recommendations. The ending of “A Day in the Life” was from his conducting an orchestra “to start at the lowest possible note for their instruments and slide gracefully to the highest possible note nearest to E major” – an effect that John Lennon said “sounds like the end of the world.”
After the end of one of their first recording sessions together (which would later produce the song “Love Me Do“), Martin asked if there was anything the band didn’t like. George Harrison replied, “Well, for a start, I don’t like your tie.” Luckily, he saw the funny side – and together he and the band reshaped the style of popular music during the 1960’s. He had a great sense of humor and helped put the group at ease around him and to bond with him.
He was a “visionary” and saw the potential in The Beatles; they were “like an orchestra without a conductor, until George Martin came along and found them,” according to BBC Arts editor Will Gompertz. “He had the most magnificent set of ears, as well as a wonderful personality. He was a calm, gentle, kind man with an amazing intelligence and fantastic creativity.”
Sir George’s background was very similar to the background of The Beatles – John and Paul in particular. Born on January 3rd of 1926, his parents were poor and part of the “working class” of Great Britain. Since his parents could not afford his education, he went to public art schools as did John, Paul and George. He taught himself music like The Beatles taught themselves; the piano was his musical instrument of choice. Unlike The Beatles, he did military service with the Royal Navy during World War II. After being discharged, he used a military education grant to attend the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he studied music composition, theory and conducting. He loved many other music genres including pop, rock-n-roll, rhythm-n-blues and jazz. With his knowledge of classical music and gentle suggestions, John and Paul became receptive to his ideas without thoughts of classical music being old and stuffy.
After The Beatles disbanded, he wrote many film scores and worked with artists as varied as Sting, Aerosmith, America, Jose Carreras, Celine Dion and Stan Getz. Along with Paul McCartney, he wrote the score to the James Bond film, “Live and Let Die.” He never regretted his work in popular music. He once said, “Rock and roll has the same function as classical music – to make sounds that are appealing to a mass of people and are of some worth.”
He won 6 Grammy awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for the score to “A Hard Day’s Night.” He received a knighthood in 1996. In 1999, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He produced 205 commercially-released Beatles tracks. Twenty of the tracks reached Billboard Chart number one. Of the more than 700 records he produced, 23 of them reached Billboard number one. The last number one record was the re-release of “Candle in the Wind” with Sir Elton John in 1997. The record later became the best selling single of all time with over 37 million copies sold.
Before Sir George died, he and his son, Giles Martin, were working on an 8 part series for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Public Broadcasting System (PBS), called “Soundbreaking: Songs from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music.” The series is scheduled to air in November, 2016.
There was a 3 minute YouTube clip celebrating the life of George Martin containing video portions from this series. However, the owners of Soundbreaking has since removed it from YouTube. In the tribute, Ringo Starr says “without Martin, The Beatles might never have become the music icons they are today. Martin took a chance on a band with a strange name and some kids from Liverpool – and the rest is music history.” Also in this clip, Martin talks about what he can do with recorded music, like adding things backwards and slowing down and/or speeding up the tape.
Other clips of Martin can be found of The Beatles YouTube page, Beatles YouTube Channel.
“A Tribute to George Martin” is a 3 minute clip from the series and is a celebration of Sir George’s life. It was possible to view the clip at this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Th7HbPL-wnY) YouTube page. The clip features a statement from Ringo Starr. It use to be on (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCc4K7bAqpdBP8jh1j9XZAww) The Beatles YouTube page as well. However, there are other Beatles clips that can be viewed on this channel too. Try this (http://youtu.be/w9H2zB6qnbg) clip address from billboard.com.
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