How producer George Martin's contributions to the Beatles changed music forever

Martin also produced the music of artists such as Elton John and Jeff Beck but is best remembered for his work with the Beatles. 'I was consciously trying to get a sound that grabbed you by the scruff of the neck and said: 'Listen to this,'' Martin recalled of working with the band.

Fred Prouser/Reuters
Sir George Martin conducts the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra with a program of music by the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood in 1999.

Legendary record producer George Martin, whose work with the Beatles in the 1960s forever altered the course of popular music, has died Tuesday, according to his management company.

Mr. Martin has been credited for his essential role in the creation of the legendary group’s recordings. 

He was knighted in 1996, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, and won several Grammy Awards, including one for album of the year as a producer for the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have paid tribute to the producer. 

“He was a true gentleman and like a second father to me,” Mr. McCartney said of Martin. “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.” 

Mr. Starr wrote of Martin on Twitter, 

In 1962, Martin asked the unknown Beatles to record a test session after hearing their music from the band’s manager, Brian Epstein. Martin then signed the Beatles to their first recording contract. 

“It was kind of instantaneous,'' Martin said of meeting the group in a 1995 interview with the Monitor. ''We simply hit it off. I thought they were terrific. They were kooky. They were unusual. They were a little bit arrogant, but it was fun as well.” 

The Beatles were soon a worldwide phenomenon and some of the group’s appeal seemed to be that their music was so different from anything else on the market at the time.

“I was consciously trying to get a sound that grabbed you by the scruff of the neck and said: 'Listen to this,' '' Martin told the Monitor. ''With that song ['I Want to Hold Your Hand'], it technically all seemed to knit together.'' 

McCartney recalled how Martin advised him when he was recording the now-classic song “Yesterday.” Martin suggested adding a string arrangement. 

“I said, ‘Oh, no, George, we are a rock and roll band and I don’t think it’s a good idea,’" McCartney recalled. "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.’ … 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.” 

Martin continued to work with the group on records including “Pepper,” though during “Let It Be,” Martin told Rolling Stone that the Beatles wanted something different. “They were going through an anti-production thing,” the producer said. “John said, 'I don't want any production gimmicks on this. I want it to be an honest album.’” 

“I was very shocked later on when [John Lennon] took it to Phil Spector and Phil overdubbed heavenly choirs and lush strings and harps and things, and John over-dubbed the voice and did all the things he said he shouldn't in the first place,” Martin told Rolling Stone. “I thought we were through then. I wasn't happy and I didn't want to go on.” 

But for “Abbey Road,” “they came back to me afterward and said, ‘Look, let's try and get back the way we were in the old days. And will you really produce the next album for us?’" Martin said. "Which became ‘Abbey Road.’ And … it was fine. We really did work well, we worked nicely together. That was the last album.” 

Since working with the Beatles, Martin has also produced work for such artists as Elton John and Jeff Beck as well as working with former Beatles on their solo albums.

However, the producer will most likely always be best remembered for his time with the ensemble that is often called the greatest music group of all time. 

“Those four people together something much stronger than those four individuals,” Martin told the Monitor. “That's true of their songwriting, their recording – everything. Together they were impregnable.”

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