I went to bed really early last night and missed the tweets announcing that Sir George Martin, long time producer, arranger, conductor and “Fifth Beatle”, had passed away at the age of 90.
My journey through the wonderland of Beatles music began long after they had stopped recording as a group and moved on to other things, but that didn’t stop me from discovering them and falling in love, even going so far as to take a class on just their musical catalog when I was in college. (My professor was terrible. Talk about ruining what should have been the best class ever….)
If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George.
Sir George Martin was part of the heart and soul that was The Beatles. It is no small thing that Paul McCartney acknowledged the title of “Fifth Beatle” in his kind condolence letter after the news came out late last night (or this morning if you happen to anywhere else in the world…) If George hadn’t been producing them, he was arranging them, conducting the orchestras that worked with them, and much of the music that came to be known as favorites – “Yesterday” among them, would not be the same without his influence.
Two of my favorite songs ever were touched by the hand of Sir George Martin – “Eleanor Rigby”, as he arranged it, and “Fixing a Hole”, where he played harpsichord. Plenty of the more “experimental” things The Beatles did over the years was completed with George Martin at the helm. Think of “Day in the Life”, or “Strawberry Fields”, even the circus atmosphere in “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”. It wasn’t until very late in the band’s career, notably the White Album, that The Beatles really produced on their own, meaning that it is likely that much of the music we listen to from The Beatles today we can thank Sir George Martin for, at least in part.
Fans have commented that kids today are listening to trash, that the greats have left us. Sir George Martin lived quite a long life – the beauty being that his art stays behind. I’d also add that it is up to us, the parents out there, to expose and teach our children about music. Even my parents, who were by no means experts about music of any kind, consistently had music playing in our house. I heard everything from Elvis (a LOT of Elvis, I might add) to Elton John and The Beach Boys (“Help Me Rhonda”. sigh) My kids had a pretty steady diet of Duran Duran, The Beatles, Oingo Boingo, Frank Sinatra, Tears for Fears and even a few Reggae groups in there somewhere…along with countless others while growing up. While I’m pretty sure that my oldest still listens to some pretty cringeworthy stuff (we all do at one point or another…as I recall my own college “Hair Band” years…oh boy), I know she has a pretty diverse library to choose from. My son took the EDM route. If you knew him you’d agree with me when I say it’s weird, but hey, there are moments when he’s listening to something that I’ll do a double take because it sounds just the tiniest bit like a band I know. Imagine that!! (I take a little delight in knowing that as far as he thinks he’s getting away from me…I’m still right there!) My youngest is still figuring it all out, but any kid who will request “Pressure Off” every time we’re in the car has GOT to be on the road to good taste. I’m sure many of you find the same with your kids. It’s up to us to pass it on, and we should.
RIP Sir George Martin, and thank you for a life well-spent.