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Beatles producer George Martin, RIP

George Martin

Legendary producer George Martin, who most famously worked with The Beatles, has died at age 90. Word broke via Beatles drummer Ringo Star who tweeted:

Martin was head of EMI’s Parlophone Records when the Beatles first started. From Billboard:

Martin called their demo made for Decca Records a month earlier “rather unpromising,” but there was something about those Lennon-McCartney harmonies, so he scheduled The Beatles for a recording session at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in June. He liked what he heard and signed them up. (The Hollies would later join Parlophone as well.)

Martin chose not to promote one of them as the frontman, suggested they replace Best (studio drummer Ringo Starr came on board) and allowed them to record their own material. Their first single, “Love Me Do,” peaked at No. 17 on the British charts.

For The Beatles’ first U.S. single, “Please Please Me,” in November 1962, he convinced the boys to speed up the tempo. It proved to be a smash hit. “Gentlemen, you have just made your first No. 1 record,” he memorably told them from the control room.

Martin also served as The Beatles’ arranger. He suggested strings be added to “Yesterday,” which would become one of the most covered songs of all time, and conducted the string section for “Eleanor Rigby.” He played piano on “In My Life” and composed its harpsichord section; was responsible for the breathtaking orchestral windup in “A Day in the Life;” and used backward tapes to help shape the psychedelic elements of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

His influence/collaborative nature with the Fab Four earned him the nickname the fifth Beatle. In addition to John, Paul, George and Ringo, Martin also worked on records by America, Jeff Beck, Cheap Trick, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Jimmy Webb, Dire Straits, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Meat Loaf, Carly Simon, Kate Bush, and more.

UPDATE: Paul McCartney wrote a tribute on his website. Here’s an excerpt:

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. His idea obviously worked because the song subsequently became one of the most recorded songs ever with versions by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and thousands more.

Read the rest here.

George, your influence on pop music cannot be overstated. You are missed, but your work lives on. Rest in Peace

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