‘Fifth Beatle’ George Martin dies at 90
Beatles drummer Ringo Starr earlier broke the news, writing on Twitter: “God bless George Martin peace and love to Judy and his family… George will be missed,” alongside a black-and-white picture of the band with Martin. British Prime Minister David Cameron led tributes to the producer, who signed up the Beatles when he was the head of the Parlophone label after hearing their demo record in 1962. “Sir George Martin was a giant of music — working with the Fab Four to create the world’s most enduring pop music,” Cameron wrote on Twitter.
First single ‘Pretty Poor’ – Martin’s innovative recording techniques and role as authoritarian figure and mentor was so essential to the band’s success that he was nicknamed the “Fifth Beatle”.
“R.I.P. George Martin. I’m so gutted I don’t have many words. Thinking of Judy and Giles and family,” late band member John Lennon’s son Sean wrote on Instagram, referring to Martin’s wife and one of his four children. Martin was born on January 3, 1926, a carpenter’s son from north London. After serving in the Second World War, he studied at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and began playing the oboe in bars and clubs around London.
His first job was in the BBC’s music library. He then joined the record label Parlophone, a division of EMI, and rose to become its head by 1955 at the age of just 29. Martin quickly realised the Beatles’ potential after first hearing them in 1962. “I liked them as people apart from anything else and I was convinced that we had the makings of a hit group,” he told Melody Maker magazine in an interview. But he added that: “As composers, they didn’t rate. They hadn’t shown me that they could write anything at all.” The band’s first single “Love Me Do”, which reached number four in the charts in October 1962, “was pretty poor but it was the best we could do,” he said.
– ‘Visionary’ – That song was followed by “Please Please Me”, which made number two, and “From Me To You” in April 1963 — their first chart-topper. He also composed scores for the Beatles films “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Yellow Submarine”. Martin helped combine the sophistication and discipline of his classical background with the band’s raw attitude to spearhead a new generation of rock’n’roll groups, the so-called “British Invasion”. He was also an early adopter of new technologies, pioneering techniques such as automatic double tracking — where two copies of the same track are played milliseconds apart to thicken the sound — and flanging, where one of the two copies is momentarily slowed down to produce a “whooshing” effect.
The band’s use of reversed samples and randomly spliced together snippets of recordings helped develop their later psychedelic sound, spawning a whole new genre of pop music. After the band split, Martin built the Air Studios on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, which was forced to close in 1989 due to damage sustained by Hurricane Hugo. He went on to work with other artists including Bob Dylan, Sting and Elton John. He also recorded two of former Beatle Paul McCartney’s solo albums, “Tug of War” and “Pipes of Peace”. Martin, who received a knighthood to become Sir George Martin in 1996, continued to write music and work with music charities until his death.
Music stars reacted quickly to the news, with singer Lenny Kravitz paying tribute to Martin as a “visionary producer” and tweeting: “The legends are really going home!” Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher also took to Twitter, writing “Sir George Martin RIP.” Martin had two children with first wife Sheena Chisholm, and two more with his second wife Judy Lockhart-Smith, who survives him.