George Martin, legendary Beatles producer and the mastermind behind most of the group’s hit songs, died on Tuesday at 90. Martin’s representatives confirmed the news to the Associated Press, noting Martin “died peacefully in his home.”
Often called the “fifth Beatle,” Martin first signed the group in 1962 when they were just a club band and not the Fab Four. “They were a great band, a great band,” Martin said in a 2011 interview. “I mean, they started off very poorly, really, because when I first met them, they didn’t really excite me very much musically. Their songs, I thought, were pretty crappy. But they learned so quickly, they shot up like hothouse plants.”
The Beatles would score 23 No. 1 hits in the U.S. with Martin as producer and arranger and 30 total in the United Kingdom. He was responsible for producing iconic albums Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver, Rubber Soul, and Abbey Road, and helped shape the group’s game-changing sound. In a statement released after his death, Beatles co-founder Paul McCartney recalled the famous story of how Martin turned “Yesterday” into one of the most popular songs ever recorded.
“It’s hard to choose favorite memories of my time with George, there are so many but one that comes to mind was the time I brought the song ‘Yesterday’ to a recording session and the guys in the band suggested that I sang it solo and accompany myself on guitar,” McCartney said. “After I had done this George Martin said to me, ‘Paul I have an idea of putting a string quartet on the record.’ I said, ‘Oh no George, we are a rock and roll band and I don’t think it’s a good idea.’ 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.’ I agreed to this and went round to his house the next day to work on the arrangement.”
“His idea obviously worked because the song subsequently became one of the most recorded songs ever with versions by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and thousands more,” McCartney added.
Martin’s death was first announced by Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, who wrote on Twitter, “God bless George Martin peace and love to Judy and his family. Love Ringo and Barbara. George will be missed.” Starr added, “Thank you for all your love and kindness George, peace and love.”
Sean Lennon, son of late Beatles co-founder John Lennon, also posted condolences for Martin on his social media accounts.
“R.I.P. George Martin. I’m so gutted I don’t have many words,” he wrote. “Thinking of Judy and Giles and family. Love Always, Sean.”
Martin, who was knighted in 1996 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, won six Grammys. He’s survived by his wife, Judy Lockhart-Smith (the pair married in 1966), and two children, Judy and Giles.
“RIP dad. I love you. I’m so proud to have been your son. I’ll miss you more than words can say. Thank you for the all times we had together,” Giles wrote on Twitter.