Sir George Martin, the music producer whose collaboration with the Beatles helped redraw the boundaries of popular music, died Tuesday, according to his management company. He was 90.
Martin died “peacefully at home” in England, according to Adam Sharp, the founder of C A Management which represents the music producer.
“In a career that spanned seven decades he was recognized globally as one of music’s most creative talents and a gentleman to the end. The family ask that their privacy be respected at this time,” Sharp said.
Martin worked with countless others over a career that spanned decades, including Peter Sellers, Shirley Bassey, America, Cheap Trick, Jeff Beck and Celine Dion.
But his fame, and his influence, rests on the seven years he spent with the Beatles, the most successful group in music history — a group Martin helped propel to the top spot with his musical expertise, tasteful arrangements and willing experimentation.
For Paul McCartney, Martin was “like a second father to me.”
“If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Ringo Starr thanked the producer in a tweet: “God bless George Martin peace and love to Judy and his family.” Judy refers to Martin’s wife of nearly 50 years.
Martin’s partnership with the group he signed to Parlophone Records in 1962 changed all of their lives — and, by extension, popular culture.
“When I first met the Beatles in 1962, I didn’t think much of their songs at all,” he told JazzWax.com. “But they learned so quickly how to write a hit. They were like plants in a hothouse. They grew incredibly fast.”
The polished, classically trained producer began as a father figure to the four somewhat scruffy lads from Liverpool, capturing their songs on tape with a minimum of fuss or studio gimmickry.
But by 1966, he was as much a collaborator as mentor, using his knowledge of both musical structure and recording technology to help the band realize its musical visions.
George Henry Martin was born in London on January 3, 1926.
He took an interest in music from an early age, teaching himself piano and becoming enraptured by radio broadcasts of orchestras.
By the time he was 15, he was running a small band, George Martin and the Four Tune Tellers.
He enlisted in the Royal Navy at 17 and served as a pilot and commissioned officer, though he “managed to evade Japan,” he told Rock Cellar magazine.
Upon leaving the military in 1947, he enrolled in the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, studying piano and oboe.
After a short stint at the BBC, he joined EMI Records’ Parlophone label, a tiny part of the huge record conglomerate. Martin had some success — he did a hit record with actor Peter Ustinov in 1952 — but was still caught off-guard when he was asked to take over the label in 1955. He hadn’t yet turned 30.
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