The recording and music industry lost a towering figure yesterday with the passing of Sir George Martin.
Though he will be forever remembered as the man who signed and produced the Beatles, George Martin enjoyed a long and illustrious career as a musician, arranger, studio owner, and producer.
In the coming days, much will be written about his seismic role in defining and redefining not only popular music, but pop culture, fashion, art and indeed 20th century history in his role as the “5th Beatle”.
We would like to take a moment here at RecordingStudio.com to focus in on one of those contributions, namely producer, as we take time to remember the gifts that Sir George shared with the world.
In the Beginning
As a curious young pre-teen I was fortunately one of the millions of “Beatles on the Ed Sullivan” show kids that experienced the sheer magic and joy delivered by the four lads from Liverpool on that cold February night in 1964. Somehow they brought new hope and possibilities to a world still reeling from the loss of our Camelot president.
As time passed and my small record collection grew, my passion for music continued to grow and I became increasingly interested in studying the minute details found on the backs (and later the inside sleeves) of the record covers, searching for details. Where was the record recorded? Who were the musicians making these glorious sounds? What about the songwriters? And, most perplexing of all, what in the world was a producer?!?
Well friends, in a word, George Martin was the answer. Arranger, musician, confidant, ally, sounding board, referee, cheerleader, disciplinarian, decision maker. He brought immeasurable skill, grace and professionalism to not only his work with the Beatles but countless others as well.
In an age where much of our recording work is done in isolation, sans collaboration, the word producer has become a watered down ceremonial phrase given to folks that paid for the sessions, brought the snacks, or somebody in our “krewe” needing a title to feel part of the goings on.
The recording industry as we knew it in the 60's and 70's is a long gone relic in today's framework, and perhaps because of this, the need for a dedicated “producer” has changed in most peoples minds.
The Legacy of George Martin
Some of us, however, still believe that the skills that George Martin and those of his ilk brought to our industry will never go out of fashion, and indeed are more needed than ever. That said, giving oneself a title (versus actually delivering the goods) should never be confused in our humble opinion!
So in closing, the next time your hear someone call themselves a producer, or read about a “producer” in the trades, remember George Martin, the man who helped define and immortalize the term for countless generations, past, present and we hope, future.
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