The many tributes being paid to Sir George Martin, who died yesterday at the age of 90, describe him as “the fifth Beatle”, such was his creative input into their amazing work.
What is less known is that he was also, in effect, the founder of the Parlophone Records we know today.
He joined Parlophone in 1950, heading the label from 1955. The company’s focus at that time was on classical music, original cast recordings and comedy records. It was in the early 1960s that he chose to expand the label’s repertoire to the relatively new genre of rock and roll. In 1962 he met The Beatles, who had been turned down by other record labels around town, saw something promising in them and gave them a chance. Parlophone became ‘that welcoming shelter for unconventional minds’ under the wing of Sir George Martin and to this day his creative inspiration is always present.
He went on to work with The Beatles for the rest of their recording career, as an arranger and a producer, matching his formal musical expertise with their raw talent to generate a sound that changed the face of music forever and revolutionised pop as we know it. His creative input and backing encouraged The Beatles to push the boundaries of popular music, creating legendary albums including Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Yet he was not just about The Beatles. He produced recordings for other artists including America, Jeff Beck, Cilla Black, Celine Dion, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Kenny Rogers, Neil Sedaka and Ultravox. He produced the themes to the James Bond movies Goldfinger and Live And Let Die, as well as co-producing the stage musical Tommy. He also produced Elton John’s Candle In The Wind 97, the tribute to Princess Diana that became one of the best-selling singles of all time.
Sir George’s career lasted for more than six decades. In his spare time, he worked for charitable causes, notably The Prince’s Trust. He was knighted in 1996 in recognition for his contribution to the music industry and his charitable work.
On behalf of everyone at Parlophone, and the wider Warner Music Group family, I would like to express our sincere condolences to his family, friends and everyone who had the opportunity and privilege to work with one of the greatest music executives of all time.
He will be sadly missed, but his legacy, both in his recordings and the record label he reshaped, will live on.
Miles Leonard, Chairman, Parlophone Records UK & Warner Bros. Records UK