Not the 5th...

My heart grew heavy when I heard George Martin had passed away. Every news story I seem to see or hear proclaim that the 5th Beatle has died.  Let me put it very plainly:  George Martin was NOT the 5th Beatle.

The "title" of 5th Beatle has been hung on many.  There has been of course George Martin, but there has also been Brian Epstein, radio dj/personality "Murray the K"to name but two.  If we're going to be technical, Pete Best was the 5th Beatle.  The relatively unknown (outside of fan circles) Stu Sutcliffe would be the 4th Beatle. In order of 1st to 3rd when it comes to the creation of the band it would be John, Paul and then George.  Stu, who had the money to buy a bass, would be 4th and Peter, who had the drums (and a mother who ran a club), would be 5th.   Would that make Ringo the 6th?  Where do we throw long time sidemen/supporters Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans?

So let's throw out the "5th" title and get down to brass tacks.  Who was George Martin?  He was the #1 producer.  He listened, and unlike those who had heard before, his ears heard potential.  He took the incredible talent that existed, honed it and made it better.  He was a teacher and a mentor.  He didn't make the Beatles, but he improved upon what was already there and let them grow.  He nurtured the group and let them go, but was always on the sidelines when he was needed.

Perhaps it was because he had very little to lose that he was able come up with unique ideas.  He was an encourager, not a discourager.  That's part of why he was such a great producer.  Think about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band for a moment.  How easy it would have been to say to the Beatles, "it can't be done" or "it shouldn't be done."  (Ok, maybe it wouldn't have been THAT easy.)  Would the Beatles have grown as they did without George Martin?  I think not; he cultivated his artists in a way that no one else could.

Of course, not only did he cultivate artists, he also cultivated his own "sound."  Can you imagine the movie Yellow Submarine without the orchestral work of Sir George Martin?  His score goes hand in hand with the story; even more so than the Beatles songs that were included with the film.  I cannot imagine scenes from the movie without hearing in my head "Pepperland" or "Sea of Monsters" (to name but two). When I listen to his later contributions to solo artists, his "touches" are often my favorite part of the song.  Specifically, one of my favorite McCartney songs is "Beautiful Night" (found on the Flaming Pie album).  The horn build up towards the end of the song is pure George Martin and the song is all the more rich for it.  It brings to the up-tempo conclusion of the song an energetic excitement that gets me every time I hear it. (I hear it in my head as I write these words.)  Would I love the song as much without out?  I can emphatically say no.  In my opinion, George Martin's "touch" takes the song to a higher level.

Sir George Martin: he will never be 5th anything to me. He was and will remain first when it comes to producing and cultivating musical talent. The world sounds better thanks to his talent in production and cultivation of musical talent.  Thank you Sir.


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