Sir George Martin, who died last night at the age of 90, was best known for producing The Beatles throughout their career. In fact, he played such a significant role in how their music was created in the studio that he was often called “the fifth Beatle.”
Here’s what you probably don’t know about him, plus videos of five of his greatest Beatles productions:
5 Things You Might Not Know About George Martin
1. When Martin first auditioned The Beatles, he was a little skeptical of their songwriting skills, and they were a little apprehensive about working with an older, square-looking producer. But a shared sense of humor brought them all together. After their first recording session, Martin played the tape for the band and asked if there was anything they didn’t like. “Well, for a start,” deadpanned George Harrison, “I don’t like your tie.”
2. Martin had a hand in many of the Beatles’ musical innovations. He convinced Paul McCartney that a string quartet could perform Yesterday without sounding schmaltzy. At John Lennon’s urging, Martin spliced together two separate recordings (in different keys and at different tempos!) to create Strawberry Fields Forever. And he reversed a recording of a George Harrison solo to create the “backward guitar” effect on I’m Only Sleeping.
3. After The Beatles broke up, Martin worked several times with McCartney. He produced Paul’s two biggest duets: Ebony and Ivory with Stevie Wonder in 1982 and Say Say Say with Michael Jackson in 1983.
4. Martin also produced Live and Let Die, the song McCartney’s post-Beatles band Wings recorded for the James Bond film of the same name in 1973. It was Martin’s second Bond theme: He was also responsible for Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger in 1964.
5. Though he’ll always be most closely identified with The Beatles, Martin produced songs for several other artists as well. Post-Beatles hits he recorded included the folk rock group America’s Tin Man (1974) and Elton John’s tribute to the late Princess Diana, Candle in the Wind, in 1997, which would become the second-biggest selling single of all time.
5 of George Martin’s Greatest Beatles Productions
2. A Day in the Life
3. Strawberry Fields Forever
4. Penny Lane
5. Hello Goodbye
Keith Harris has written about music and pop culture for more than 20 years. His work has appeared in publications such as Rolling Stone, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Slate and Salon. He lives in Minneapolis and blogs at usefulnoise.wordpress.com.
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