Thanks to his production work on almost every Beatles album released in the 1960s — up through Abbey Road — Sir George Martin was often regarded as "The Fifth Beatle." As a producer and composer, Martin — who died Tuesday at the age of 90 — assembled a body of work that spanned more than half of a century and was as varied as it is legendary. Encompassing acts as diverse as Ella Fitzgerald, Cilla Black, The Beatles and Peter Gabriel, Martin was arguably the most successful record producer in the history of popular music.
After accepting a job as an assistant to the president of the small U.K. label Parlophone Records in 1950, Martin was named the label's president just five years later. Thanks to his hands-on working relationship with the artists signed to his label, Martin was able to use his musical gifts to nurture those of the artists with which he worked. In the summer of 1962, he signed an act he described as "pretty awful" (at that time); known as The Beatles, the group would go on, with Martin's help, to revolutionize popular music and irrevocably transform the cultural landscape.
After The Beatles split in 1969, Martin worked with Kenny Rogers, Kate Bush, Elton John and Celine Dion, among many others, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. Though he "retired" in '98, Martin then worked with his son, producer Giles Martin, to reimagine and remix a selection of Beatles music for the Cirque du Soleil show Love. The package serves as a de facto history of popular music, beginning with 1950s big-band material and continuing through the '90s, in the process demonstrating the elder Martin's massive influence on the course of modern popular music.
This segment originally aired on Dec. 22, 2006.
Related NPR Stories:
Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.