George Martin, the record producer best known for his extensive and pioneering work with the Beatles, died Tuesday. Ringo Starr was first to share the news. “God bless George Martin peace and love to Judy and his family,” he tweeted of the 90-year-old. “George will be missed.” THR confirmed the update with a Universal Music Group spokesperson, but additional details about his passing weren’t immediately made available.
The London-born Martin grew up learning piano and honing his perfect pitch on his own, both skills that would serve him well with the Beatles. His love for music lasted through his schooling — as well as a stint in the British Navy — ultimately propelling him to a job at EMI’s Parlophone Records. It was there, after making the jump from assistant to recording manager, that he’d meet and sign the Fab Four.
Martin produced 13 albums and 22 singles with the band, pushing them to move their early derivative tendencies into more inventive territory. Though he was notoriously modest about his contributions, Martin is credited with introducing the Beatles to the orchestral and electronic flourishes that became trademarks of the group’s later works. For example, THR notes that as the group’s arranger, he specifically conducted the strings in “Eleanor Rigby,” did the piano part on “In My Life,” and developed the orchestra’s score on “A Day in the Life,” among other feats. The partnership would prove fruitful for both parties, as Martin helped the Beatles nab 19 chart-toppers; over the course of his roughly five-decade career, he produced 23 No. 1 hits total (still the most from any producer) for the Hot 100 (via Billboard):
- “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” The Beatles, seven weeks at top, Feb. 1, 1964
- “She Loves You,” The Beatles, two, March 21, 1964
- “Can’t Buy Me Love,” The Beatles, five, April 4, 1964
- “Love Me Do,” The Beatles, one, May 30, 1964
- “A Hard Day’s Night,” The Beatles, two, Aug. 1, 1964
- “I Feel Fine,” The Beatles, three, Dec. 26, 1964
- “Eight Days a Week,” The Beatles, two, March 13, 1965
- “Ticket to Ride,” The Beatles, one, May 22, 1965
- “Help!,” The Beatles, three, Sept. 4, 1965
- “Yesterday,” The Beatles, four, Oct. 9, 1965
- “We Can Work It Out,” The Beatles, three, Jan. 8, 1966
- “Paperback Writer,” The Beatles, two, June 25, 1966
- “Penny Lane,” The Beatles, one, March 18, 1967
- “All You Need Is Love,” The Beatles, one, Aug. 19, 1967
- “Hello Goodbye,” The Beatles, three, Dec. 30, 1967
- “Hey Jude,” The Beatles, nine, Sept. 28, 1968
- “Get Back,” The Beatles, five, May 24, 1969
- “Come Together”/”Something,” The Beatles, one, Nov. 29, 1969
- “Let It Be,” The Beatles, two, April 11, 1970
- “Sister Golden Hair,” America, one, June 14, 1975
- “Ebony and Ivory,” Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, seven, May 15, 1982
- “Say Say Say,” Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, six, Dec. 10, 1983
- “Candle in the Wind 1997,” Elton John, 11, Oct. 11, 1997
Martin’s fame soared alongside the Beatles’, earning him the affectionate “Fifth Beatle” moniker. He also worked with the likes of Cilla Black, Kate Bush, Celine Dion, Ella Fitzgerald, Peter Gabriel, the Bee Gees, Elton John, Kenny Rogers, Neil Sedaka, Sting, Dire Straits, and Cheap Trick. And in other arenas of the entertainment industry, Martin remixed music for Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles-centric Love production; appeared as a TV host; wrote three books; opened AIR recording studios; and lent his talents to the music departments of Hollywood — earning an Oscar nomination in 1965 for scoring A Hard Day’s Night. Other honors include being knighted in 1996 and landing in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. He’s survived by his four children.
This post has been updated throughout.