Sir George Martin and How He Saved the World

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World renowned producer/ arranger George Martin passed away on March 9th, 2016 at the age of 90. Recognized for his very British dignity, reserve, intelligence, humor and style, he revolutionized record making and music appreciation almost effortlessly, and not only changed, but saved the world in the process. And everyone everywhere knows exactly how he did it, too. By producing the most incredible, mind-blowing records you had ever heard in your entire life.

A native Londoner, George Martin was born into a working class family on January 3rd, 1926. After only 8 weeks of piano lessons, he ceased being tutored but pursued studying and practicing independently. After military service during World War II, he used his grant money to attend college to study classical piano and oboe. It was those skills that would inform his greatest success.

Becoming an executive and a producer at EMI’s Parlaphone label, Martin forged a career producing comedy records for the Goon Show (featuring Peter Sellers) and Beyond the Fringe (featuring Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore). These recordings gained him favor with his most famous charges, the Beatles. Staring in 1962, Martin produced and helped arrange every recording by the Fab Four. There is absolutely no way to overstate his contributions, adding immaculate instrumental arrangements and innovative recording techniques with engineers Norman Smith and Geoff Emmerick. As a result, he became a superstar producer when the only other one a Rock N’ Roll record collector could name was Phil Spector. (Note: the only co-production credit Martin would share on a Beatles project was with Spector on “Let It Be”.)

Recording the most important albums (of the rock era, the 1960s, the 20th century, or of all time) would have been enough of a contribution to civilized history, but Martin continued, and produced solo LPs by Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. Even during the Liverpool Lads dominance during the 60s, Martin contributed to the British Invasion by producing Gerry & the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. In the 1970s he produced LPs for folk/rock trio America, Neil Sedaka and 2 remarkable LPs for Jeff Beck.

The 80s found him working with Cheap Trick, the Little River Band, Ultravox, Kenny Rogers, UFO, and through Paul McCartney, both Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. In 1969 he opened Associated Independent Recording Studios (a.k.a. AIR Studios) in London and in 1979 on the island of Montserrat in the West Indies. The latter served as a facility that recorded smash hit albums for the Police, Dire Straits, Elton John, Duran Duran, Sting and finally the Rolling Stones. In 1989, it was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo.

Film scores and authoring 3 books on his work were included, as were Oscar nominations and Grammy wins. But even a knighthood in 1996 only indicates how he saved the world. All of his production work, but most especially the work with the Beatles, provides a safe and joyful haven for each of us from the strain of everyday monotony, and an undeniable link to every human being on the planet. People meeting total strangers who speak a different language can bond over Beatles songs, even if they are hearing them for the first time. He was eulogized and praised by Paul and Ringo, as well as other legendary producers Quincy Jones and Brian Eno. His passing not only leaves an empty space that can and never be filled, but hastens the end of a culture and industry. But his massive body of work provides eternal inspiration and example. Sir George Martin was more than just a genius and gentleman, he saved the world today and forever.

 

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