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George Martin receiving a Grammy in 2008. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Sir George Martin, the legendary producer and so-called “fifth Beatle,” has died at age 90, with Ringo Starr and Sir Paul McCartney among the first to pay tribute.

In a statement on his website, McCartney called Martin a “great man,” saying: “He was a true gentleman and like a second father to me. He guided the career of The Beatles with such skill and good humor that he became a true friend to me and my family. If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George.”

The news first emerged in a tweet by Ringo Starr and was later confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter by Universal Music Group and by Martin’s management.

Starr later tweeted his own tribute.

Starr’s tribute was quickly followed by Sean Ono Lennon, son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who said:

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

The Beatles had been turned down by several record labels when Martin invited them for an audience at London’s Abbey Road Studios in June 1962. While initially skeptical about their ability as musicians and songwriters, he took to their humor and personalities immediately, and went on to produce all but one of their albums.

His contribution to their music can be summed up with one example, said Paul McCartney’s statement:

“I brought the song ‘Yesterday’ to a recording session and the guys in the band suggested that I sang it solo and accompany myself on guitar. After I had done this George Martin said to me, ‘Paul, I have an idea of putting a string quartet on the record.’ I said, ‘Oh no George, we are a rock’n’roll band and I don’t think it’s a good idea.’ With the gentle bedside manner of a great producer he said to me, ‘Let us try it and if it doesn’t work we won’t use it and we’ll go with your solo version.’ I agreed to this and went round to his house the next day to work on the arrangement.

“He took my chords that I showed him and spread the notes out across the piano, putting the cello in the low octave and the first violin in a high octave and gave me my first lesson in how strings were voiced for a quartet. When we recorded the string quartet at Abbey Road, it was so thrilling to know his idea was so correct that I went round telling people about it for weeks. His idea obviously worked because the song subsequently became one of the most recorded songs ever with versions by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and thousands more.”

Martin went on to become one of the most influential producers in popular music history, responsible for a whopping 23 No. 1 singles in the U.S. and 30 in the U.K.

The response to his death shows his influence went even further, with tributes from artists as diverse as Brian Eno, Lenny Kravitz, Mark Ronson, Liam Gallagher of Oasis, Flea of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Nigel Godrich (producer of one-time Parlophone act Radiohead), and singer-songwriter Josh Groban, who said, “What an ear, what a life, what a legacy.”

Sir Roger Moore added to the multiple British knights paying tribute, saying:

While The Wire‘s David Simon had this to say:

Martin is survived by his wife Judy and four children.

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By Kat Sommers
Kat is a freelance writer for Anglophenia.