Record producer Sir George Martin, known as the “fifth Beatle”, has died, aged 90.
His family thanked “everyone for their thoughts, prayers and messages of support” after his death at home on Tuesday, his manager said.
Beatles drummer Ringo Starr broke the news on Twitter and led tributes, saying Sir George “will be missed”.
Sir George signed The Beatles and produced more than 700 records.
He also worked with artists including Gerry and the Pacemakers, Dame Shirley Bassey and Cilla Black.
“I have so many wonderful memories of this great man that will be with me forever,” said Sir Paul McCartney in a statement on his website.
“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.”
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Hard to imagine the Beatles achieving their level of complete pop-music dominance without Sir George. For example, the Rolling Stones cut some classic ’60s singles, but their producer Andrew Loog Oldham and his engineers ususally came up short on bringing album tracks up to snuff. George Martin and his engineers arguably made the difference in transforming Beatles album tracks into must-listen treats.
I’ve got his autobiography All You Need Is Ears which presented Beatlemania from his special perch. (He also did outstanding work for America and Jeff Beck, to name a few. Unfortunately, I had moved away from Vancouver when Sir George, about 10 years ago, gave a speaking tour, bringing audio and video examples to entranced audiences.
For years, he helped run AIR studios on the tropical island of Montserrat and pitched in to help raise funds after the paradise was devastated by a natural disaster (think it was a volcanic eruption.) Citing diminished hearing, Martin reportedly turned down the chance to graft Paul, George and Ringo’s contributions onto the John Lennon demos Free As A Bird and Real Love and ELO/Travelling Wilburys stalwart Jeff Lynne took on the task.
It irks me that the Grammys no longer include on-air presentations for Producer of the Year. It’s an enormous slight since virtually all popular artists owe their fame to the man in the studio booth who suggests revisions to songs and coaxes better performances. (Don’t want to be sexist, but for some reason record producers seem to be overwhelmingly male.)
God bless you George Martin for being an integral part of the Beatles, rescuing us from the MOR dreck dominating the early ’60s scene and, in no small way, making rock music respectable and a viable industry.