How George Martin Made The Beatles Possible

Search the internet for the Fifth Beatle, and you'll find a long list of potential candidates. But the one without whom The Beatles would not have been possible was producer George Martin. He was heavily involved in the unique sound on such classic Beatles hits as "Please Please Me," "Yesterday," "In My Life," and so many others. To see just how important Martin was to The Beatles, look no further than The Beatles themselves. Rolling Stone reported John Lennon's words from 1971: "George Martin made us what we were in the studio. He helped us develop a language to talk to other musicians."

Paul McCartney extolled their former producer's influence on the band's music in a memorial post on Facebook after Martin's death in 2016: "He guided the career of The Beatles with such skill and good humor that he became a true friend to me and my family." The post goes on to tell one of McCartney's favorite moments with Martin. The guys had the idea to record "Yesterday" as Paul singing solo, but Martin wanted to put a string quartet on the track. Although the band had initial qualms about the classical instruments in their rock song, Martin's arrangement changed their minds. "His idea obviously worked because the song subsequently became one of the most recorded songs ever," wrote Paul.

Who really was the Fifth Beatle?

Both Lennon and McCartney were quoted as crowning George Martin as the Fifth Beatle, but the debate included a host of other people who had various levels of influence on what the world came to know as The Beatles. As Beatles expert Stephanie Fremaux told the BBC, the term "Fifth Beatle" was cooked up by an American radio DJ named Murray the K, but his choice seemed a little biased: He claimed that he himself was the Fifth Beatle, most likely due to his role in putting their music on the radio so often. Rolling Stone claims George Harrison joked that Murray the K was Beatle number five. Original and temporary band members such as Stuart Sutcliffe, Pete Best, and Billy Preston have also been nominated at times for the coveted title.

For most people, it comes down to a toss-up between Martin and the band's manager, Brian Epstein (whom McCartney dubbed the Fifth Beatle in a 1997 BBC interview), both of whom have been credited with making The Beatles possible. Of course, Lennon weighed in for a Rolling Stone reporter in 1971, waxing philosophical about the identity of the band: "No, I'm not The Beatles. I'm me. Paul isn't The Beatles. Brian Epstein wasn't The Beatles ... The Beatles are The Beatles ... I don't believe in The Beatles at all. I don't believe in The Beatles myth."