Ringo Starr, the drummer of the famed Beatles, announced today that record producer and arranger Sir George Martin has died at the age of 90. Martin was associated with the Beatles for decades, having collaborated with the group with their recordings and even lending a hand as a pianist.
 
In a series of posts on Twitter, Starr passed the word during the morning hours. 
 
Martin gave the band their first big break by signing them to the Parlophone label in 1962. Over time, Martin became known as the “Fifth Beatle,” for his contributions to nearly every recording and to their collective sound.
 
During the Second World War, Martin worked as a quantity surveyor and a clerk before joining the British Fleet Air Arm in 1943. After the end of hostilities, he was given a veterans’ grant to enroll at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. This development would mark a sea change in his life, since until then he had believed that a career in music was beyond his reach.
 
By the 1950s, Martin had gone on to shape the sound of a number of the most popular British musical acts. At Parlophone, he was first assigned to produce classical and regional folk music, in addition to comedy records. When he was successful with stars such as Peter Cook, Spike Milligan, and Peter Sellers, he became more widely known.
 
In 1962, The Beatles's manager, Brian Epstein sent Martin a demo tape, after other labels had turned it  down. Martin met Epstein at Abbey Road Studios and agreed to sign the band sight unseen. However, the deal was not inked until Martin met the group and gave them an audition.
 
Martin’s classical training can be heard on iconic tracks such as In My Life and A Hard Day's Night. The instrumental bridge Martin played in My Life was recorded in 1965. John Lennon had asked Martin to play a “Baroque-sounding” solo. Martin then wrote a piece influenced by the great Johann Sebastian Bach, but found he could not play at the song's tempo.
 
On October 22 of that year, the solo was recorded with the tape running at half speed. When it was played back at normal speed, the piano was twice as fast and an octave higher,  thus solving the challenge and also giving the solo a unique timbre, reminiscent of a harpsichord.
In the United Kingdom, Martin is listed as the producer of 30 number-one singles in the UK and 23 in the US. Besides the Beatles, among those he helped to number one are Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Sir Elton John, for his 1997 hit Candle in the Wind.
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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