George Martin

George Martin (second from left) in the studio in 1964 with John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison.

Yesterday, the music producer Sir George Martin, known as the “fifth Beatle” for his collaboration with the Beatles, died at the age of 90.  He died “peacefully” at home in England.  Over the course of his 70-year career, Martin was viewed as a legendary and innovative force in music production.  He worked with such names as Peter Sellers, Shirley Bassey, America, Jeff Beck and Cheap Trick.

While he had an impressive roster of collaborators, Martin’s most recognizable work was with the Beatles.  To this day, the Beatles are one of the most successful bands of all time, and their wild popularity led to the phrase “Beatlemania”.  Their innovative style of music, helped by George Martin and the songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, have helped to change the face of modern popular music, and is seen to embody the ideals of the 1960s counterculture.  Although they started out as a stereotypical “boy band”, starting in the mid-1960s they recorded a string of wildly successful and innovative albums: “Rubber Soul” in 1965, “Revolver” in 1966, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 1967, “The White Album” in 1968 and “Abbey Road” in 1969, all of which were produced by Martin.

George Martin isn’t the only one to be called the “fifth Beatle”, which has been attributed to various people over the years: Stuart Sutcliffe, who was the original bassist before dying of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 21.  Pete Best, who was the first drummer before Ringo Starr joined.  Brian Epstein, the band’s original manager who Martin and McCartney both called the “fifth Beatle” and whose death in 1967 marked the beginning of the band’s eventual dissolution.  Yet regardless of who you call the “fifth Beatle”, George Martin was an instrumental (pun intended) part of the band’s immortality.