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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

3 reasons why George Martin deserves the "Fifth Beatle" title

3:39 PM Posted by Nicole M
By now you have probably already heard the sad news of George Martin's passing, on March 8, 2016. As the first record executive to "discover" The Beatles, as a mentor, as a collaborator, as a schoolmaster/father-figure, and as a friend, George Martin has long been considered "the Fifth Beatle." And rightly so. Here are three reasons why he deserves that honorific title.

He signed the Beatles
When so many record executives weren't willing to take a chance on this unpolished, scruffy group from Liverpool/Hamburg, George Martin saw the potential in their energy and in their charisma. He correctly understood that the raw talent could be polished up and made into something wonderful, so he took the chance and signed them to a record deal. Approaching George Martin and Parlophone was a last gasping effort, it's probably fair to wonder if The Beatles would have ever broken onto the professional music scene if he hadn't followed his instinct.

He let The Beatles be The Beatles
The story goes that George Martin really wanted The Beatles to record "How Do You Do It?" as their first single, because he correctly identified that song as a hit. They didn't like the song, so he did what any good mentor would do: he challenged them to write something better. When they showed him a lethargic, plodding version of "Please Please Me," he didn't dismiss it out of hand, he saw the potential in the song and showed them how to make it more commercial: speed it up, add some harmonica, change the harmonies, back off on the lead guitar. In the end, legend has it that George Martin recorded the song and told the lads, "you've just recorded your first number one song." He was right.

He let The Beatles be more than The Beatles
Some producers would have been tempted to forever freeze The Beatles in their lovable, mop-top image once they proved to be an international sensation. Why change a wildly successful formula? But when Paul McCartney wrote songs like "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby," or John Lennon wrote songs like "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "I Am the Walrus," George Martin helped them break the mold by actively getting involved. Would "Yesterday" have been the hit that it was without George Martin writing the string arrangement? Probably not.

Rest in peace, Sir George. Your name liveth for evermore.