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Beatles producer George Martin has died

"The Fifth Beatle," dead at 90.

George Martin, the British record producer who signed the Beatles to a contract and went on to guide the Liverpool band's world changing career, died on Tuesday at age 90.

The news was confirmed by Ringo Starr, who tweeted "Thanks for all you love and kindness George peace and love" on Tuesday night.

Paul McCartney issued a lengthy statement, which began: "I'm so sad to hear the news of the passing of dear George Martin. I have so many wonderful memories of this great man that will be with me forever. He was a true gentleman and 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. If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George. From the day that he gave The Beatles our first recording contract, to the last time I saw him, he was the most generous, intelligent and musical person I've ever had the pleasure to know."

As McCartney said, Martin deserved the label "the Fifth Beatle" more than any other pretender to the title. He aided in the arrangements of many of the band's recordings, adding a string quartet to "Yesterday" and writing and conducting the string arrangement that was the sole accompaniment to Paul McCartney's vocal on "Eleanor Rigby."

The classically trained oboe player and pianist worked in EMI's classical department before transferring to the Parlophone label in 1950, where the artists he would work with would include Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers of The Goon Show, comedians whose irreverent brand of humor would be influential on a group of ambitious young lads listening in Liverpool.

In June of 1962, swayed by the enthusiasm of Beatles manager Brian Epstein, he auditioned the band at Abbey Road Studios. He was not overly impressed musically, but charmed by the band's sense of humor. When he asked if there was anything about the experience they didn't like, George Harrison replied: "Well, there's your tie, for a start."

Later, Harrison would say of Martin, who was knighted in 1996 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999:  "I think we just grew through those years together, him as the straight man and us as the loonies. But  he was always there for us to interpret our madness."

In September of 1962, Martin recorded "Love Me Do," and two months later, they cut "Please Please Me," transformed from a slow ballad to a frantic rocker at Martin's suggestion. When the song was over, the producer prophetically told the band: "Gentlemen, you've just made your first number one record." Martin would go on to produce a total of 30 #1 hits in the United Kingdom, and 23 in the U.S.

Below, Martin talks about "Please Please Me." He is survived by his second wife Judy Lockhart-Smith, his Parlophone secretary who he married in 1966, and his children Giles, Gregory Alexis and Lucy.

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