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The 'fifth' Beatle, George Martin, has died

Musician Ringo Starr of the Beatles, with producer Sir George Martin and producer Giles Martin at the 50th Grammy awards in 2008. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Producer Sir George Martin, nicknamed the “fifth Beatle”, has died. He was 90.

London-born Martin was the man who signed the Beatles after others had knocked them back, and then helped the band develop their distinctive sound as their producer and arranger. That influence earned him the title the fifth Beatle.

Ringo Starr took to Twitter to announce the news.

The late John Lennon’s son, Sean, paid tribute on Instagram.

R.I.P. George Martin. I'm so gutted I don't have many words. Thinking of Judy and Giles and family. Love Always, Sean

A photo posted by Sean Ono Lennon (@sean_ono_lennon) on

With an incredible 30 No. 1 singles in the UK and US between 1961 and 1997 to his name, he is considered one of the greatest record producers of all time, as well as being a musician and composer in his own right.

Born on January 3, 1926, Martin’s musical career spans six decades, starting with the BBC’s classical music department and a focus on Baroque, before he moved to EMI. He was classically-trained, studied at Guildhall School of Music and played the oboe professionally.

Martin signed up for the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm in 1943, while still just 17, but never saw active service.

One of his early roles as producer was dealing with Goons Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan on comedy albums, as well as Peter Ustinov, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and even David Frost. His efforts helped revive the fortunes of the EMI offshoot Parlophone.

Martin signed The Beatles to EMI in 1962 at the urging of manager Brian Epstein and produced every recording in the band’s 9-year career (although Phil Spector was responsible for post-production on Let It Be).

In the mid ’60s, Martin set up his own production company, which led to Air Studios in London, which continues to this day, where the likes of Dire Straits, Elton John, Oasis, Radiohead, Travis and Coldplay have recorded albums. He built another Air Studios in Montserrat, in the Caribbean, but it closed after Hurricane Hugo devastated the island in 1989.

Martin’s career is an astonishing roll call of greats from the era, from Jeff Beck to Cheap Trick, Ultravox, Kenny Rogers, Neil Sedaka, Jimmy Webb, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Shirley Bassey, Cilla Black, Paul McCartney. His final studio recordings were made in 1998 and included the album ‘In My Life’, mostly featuring Beatles tracks performed by ‘heroes and friends’ such as Robin Williams, Jeff Beck, Phil Collins, Celine Dion, Goldie Hawn, Jim Carrey and Sean Connery. His final project was an arrangement of John Lennon’s ‘Grow Old With Me’ for EMI and Yoko Ono.

Martin’s composition credits include The David Frost Theme, BBC Radio One’s signature ‘Theme One’, and the James Bond film, ‘Live and Let Die’, which earned him one of six Grammies, alongside producing the the cast album for Tommy 20 years later. In 2008 he received the Grammy Foundation’s Leadership Award.

He was inducted in the American Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for his outstanding contribution to music in 1999.

Martin’s last No. 1 was a rerecording Candle in the Wind by Elton John in 1997 following the death of Princess Diana.

A few year later, he arranged a musical tribute for Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee, which culminated in the June 3 rock concert in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.

The Queen knighted Martin in 1996 for services to music.

A BBC documentary about his life, ‘Produced by George Martin’, was released in 2012.

Sir George Martin died peacefully at home.

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