George Martin, the Grammy Award-winning producer affectionately known as the “Fifth Beatle,” has died at the age of 90. Martin was credited for giving The Beatles their first recording contract and subsequently produced a majority of their albums.
News of Martin’s death was confirmed by Ringo Starr.
At the suggestion of Brian Epstein, and despite not having met them or seen them perform live, Martin signed The Beatles to EMI Records in 1962. Within months, he and the band entered into the studio and proceeded to record several songs, including “How Do You Do It” (which later surfaced on 1995’s Anthology 1), “Love Me Do” (the band’s first-ever commercial single), and “Please Please Me” (the band’s second single).
Martin remained a guiding force for The Beatles throughout their decade-long existence. Not only did he produce all but one of their albums (the lone exception being Let It Be), he also penned a vast number of orchestral arrangements and instrumental parts. Most notably, he recommended a string quartet be used on “Yesterday”, notated the piccolo trumpet solo on “Penny Lane”, conducted the string orchestra on “Eleanor Rigby”, and composed brass, violins, cellos, and vocal arrangements for “I Am the Walrus”. He was even behind the orchestral climax in “A Day in the Life”.
These contributions led many, including Paul McCartney, to proclaim Martin as the “Fifth Beatle.” John Lennon downplayed Martin’s overall impact, however. In a 1971 letter to McCartney, Lennon wrote, “When people ask me questions about ‘What did George Martin really do for you?,’ I have only one answer, ‘What does he do now?'”
Aside from The Beatles, Martin worked with Elton John, Jeff Beck, Cheap Trick, and Garry Glitter. He assisted The Who’s Pete Townshend with a stage adaption of Tommy, produced two James Bond theme songs, and helmed Elton John’s 1997 tribute to Princess Diana, a re-recording of “Candle in the Wind”.
For his efforts, Martin won six Grammy Awards and was made a Knight Bachelor in 1996.