Paul McCartney Ends The Debate: George Martin Was The ‘Fifth Beatle’

Getty Image

There are many challengers to the Fifth Beatle throne — Billy Preston, Stuart Sutcliffe, some guy playing in a Beatles cover band at the Hard Rock Cafe later this week — but only one true king: George Martin, the legendary producer and arranger who died in his home yesterday. He was 90. Martin’s impact on not only rock ‘n’ roll, but all of pop culture, was massive, and according to Paul McCartney, “he was the most generous, intelligent, and musical person I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.” (Sorry, Ringo.)

Macca penned a tribute to Martin, a “true gentleman” who was “like a second father to me. He guided the career of the Beatles with such skill and good humour that he became a true friend to me and my family.” McCartney also ended the Fifth Beatle debate once and for all. “If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George,” he wrote. His favorite Martin memory?

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. 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.

He took my chords that I showed him and spread the notes out across the piano, putting the cello in the low octave and the first violin in a high octave and gave me my first lesson in how strings were voiced for a quartet. When we recorded the string quartet at Abbey Road, it was so thrilling to know his idea was so correct that I went round telling people about it for weeks. 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. (Via Paul

I’m as shocked as you are that he didn’t say “side two of Yellow Submarine.” Have a look/listen to one of Martin’s greatest accomplishments.

(Via Paul McCartney)