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Remembering Sir George Martin

Sir George Martin, center, surrounded by the Beatles (Source: Flickr Commons) Sir George Martin, center, surrounded by the Beatles (Source: Flickr Commons)
(WVUE) -

We have said so many goodbyes to legendary musical artists lately - David Bowie, Allen Toussaint and the Eagles' Glenn Frey - it's been an emotional rock-and-roller coaster for many. Now we bid farewell to one who influenced them all and is one of the most important figures in all of Rock and Roll. The "Fifth Beatle," Sir George Martin, has passed away at the age of 90.

While the British-born genius had one of most storied careers in music, It's hard to quantify just how important Martin was to lending a hand to the most adventurous and popular music the world has ever heard. You start simply with what can be described as the "Big Bang" of popular music. As the story goes, after being rejected by just about every record company, Beatles manager Brian Epstein finally found producer George Martin. At the time, Martin worked mostly with jazz and classical musicians and produced comedians, but he gave the Fab Four their big break. While the Beatles may have seemed like an unlikely fit, Martin was the man who finally believed in them, and the four mop tops from Liverpool became his muses.

Rock music hasn't been the same since, and there's nary an artist over the past 50 years that doesn't owe a debt of gratitude to what the Beatles and Martin produced from 1962 to 1970. It was Martin who helped John, Paul, George and Ringo develop their songwriting from uptempo inspired bubblegum love songs to the most inspired, imaginative and inventive music in the world. From "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to "Yesterday" to "Eleanore Rigby" to "Tomorrow Never Knows," the growth and creativity of The Beatles would never have happened without Martin's expertise.

Martin was the guiding force behind the orchestral arrangements on Beatles records as well as the many experimental sounds the band explored on classic songs like "Strawberry Fields Forever" and classic albums like "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Anyone interested in music should put this on their bucket list and go on a Beatles Magical Musical Tour. Sit back and listen to all 12 of their influential original albums in order starting with "Please, Please Me" from 1963 to "Let It Be" released in 1970. While Martin isn't credited with producing "Let it Be," he touched everything they performed, and listening to the phenomenal leaps the band made in eight years of recording is the best way to pay homage to the man who helped create a musical revolution!

The surviving two Beatles, Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, remembered Martin. Sir Paul remembered his friend and mentor on his website, sharing, "I'm so sad to hear the news of the passing of dear George Martin. I have so many wonderful memories of this great man that will be with me forever. He was a true gentleman and like a second father to me."

Now it's time to say good night, Sir George.

Here's Sir Paul McCartney's full tribute to Sir George Martin from McCartney's website:

I'm so sad to hear the news of the passing of dear George Martin. I have so many wonderful memories of this great man that will be with me forever. He was a true gentleman and like a second father to me. He guided the career of The Beatles with such skill and good humour that he became a true friend to me and my family. If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George. 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.

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.

This is just one of the many memories I have of George who went on to help me with arrangements on 'Eleanor Rigby', 'Live and Let Die' and many other songs of mine.

I am proud to have known such a fine gentleman with such a keen sense of humour, who had the ability to poke fun at himself. Even when he was Knighted by the Queen there was never the slightest trace of snobbery about him.

My family and I, to whom he was a dear friend, will miss him greatly and send our love to his wife Judy and their kids Giles and Lucy, and the grandkids.

The world has lost a truly great man who left an indelible mark on my soul and the history of British music.

God bless you George and all who sail in you!


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