George Martin

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Obituary

LONDON (AP) - George Martin, the Beatles' urbane producer who quietly guided the band's swift, historic transformation from rowdy club act to musical and cultural revolutionaries, has died, his management said Wednesday. He was 90.

"We can confirm that Sir George Martin passed away peacefully at home yesterday evening," Adam Sharp, a founder of CA Management, said in an email.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney said Martin had been "a true gentleman and like a second father to me."

"If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George," McCartney said. "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."

Beatles drummer Ringo Starr tweeted earlier: "God bless George Martin peace and love to Judy and his family love Ringo and Barbara. George will be missed."

Too modest to claim the title of the fifth Beatle, the tall, elegant Londoner produced some of the most popular and influential albums of modern times – "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," 'Revolver," 'Rubber Soul," 'Abbey Road" – elevating rock LPs to art forms – "concepts."

He won six Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1999. Three years earlier, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Martin both witnessed and enabled the extraordinary metamorphosis of the Beatles and of the 1960s. From a raw first album in 1962 that took just a day to make, to the months-long production of "Sgt. Pepper," the Beatles advanced rapidly as songwriters and sonic explorers. They composed dozens of classics, from "She Loves You" to "Hey Jude," and turned the studio into a wonderland of tape loops, multi-tracking, unpredictable tempos, unfathomable segues and kaleidoscopic montages.

Never again would rock music be defined by two-minute love songs or guitar-bass-drums arrangements. Lyrically and musically, anything became possible.

"Once we got beyond the bubblegum stage, the early recordings, and they wanted to do something more adventurous, they were saying, 'What can you give us?'" Martin told The Associated Press in 2002. "And I said, 'I can give you anything you like.'"

Besides the Beatles, Martin worked with Jeff Beck, Elton John, Celine Dion and on several solo albums by McCartney. In the 1960s, Martin produced hits by Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. And for 37 straight weeks in 1963 a Martin recording topped the British charts.

Martin started producing records for EMI's Parlophone label in 1950, working on comedy recordings with Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and others, Sharp said. He had his first No. 1 hit in 1961 with The Temperance Seven.

But his legacy was defined by the Beatles, for the contributions he made, and for those he didn't.

When he took on the Liverpool group, Martin was very much in charge, choosing "Love Me Do" as their first single and initially confining the newly hired Ringo Starr to tambourine – a slight the drummer never quite got over. But during a time when the young were displacing the old, Martin too would be upstaged.

Before the Beatles, producers such as Phil Spector and Berry Gordy controlled the recording process, choosing the arrangements and musicians; picking, and sometimes writing, the songs or claiming credit for them. The Beatles, led by the songwriting team of McCartney and John Lennon, became their own bosses, relying on Martin not for his vision, but for what he could do for theirs.


Published in Journal Tribune on Mar. 9, 2016
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