The Beatles captured the hearts and ears of a generation with music that continues to resonate today. Here are 12 hits by the Beatles, produced by George Martin, whose contributions ranged far beyond the traditional producer role, from arranging to composing to playing instruments:
— “Please Please Me” (1962): After “Love Me Do,” this was the song that rocketed the Beatles to fame on both sides of the Atlantic. Martin is said to have sped up what was initially a slower song. Lead vocals: John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
— “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964): Song featured in the Beatles’ first film, with that title — taken from drummer Ringo’s response to a comment that he looked tired: “Yea, I’ve had a hard day’s night, you know.” Lead vocals: John Lennon with Paul McCartney.
— “Yesterday” (1965): Wistful love song, featuring Paul McCartney with string quartet, an innovative idea for a rock and roll band that McCartney said was Martin’s idea. It initially made him hesitate but ended as a “thrilling” experience. McCartney says the song became “one of the most recorded songs ever” with Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and many others offering their versions of it. Lead vocals: Paul McCartney.
— “Michelle” (1965): Some English speakers got their first taste of the French language with this tender love tune. Lead vocals: Paul McCartney.
— “In My Life” (1965): A confessional coming-of-age song brightened by the warm harmonies of Lennon and McCartney. Martin composed and performed the harpsichord interlude himself. Lead vocals: John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
— “Strawberry Fields Forever” (1967): An iconic if more complex Beatles with strings and horns. Two versions were recorded, and Martin was tasked with blending the two at John Lennon’s request — no easy feat with analog tapes. Lead vocals: John Lennon.
— “With a Little Help From My Friends” (1967): Casually sung by drummer Ringo Starr on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
— “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (1967): Said to have been inspired by a drawing by John Lennon’s then-young son Julian of a classmate. Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970 the images were inspired by Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Lead vocals: John Lennon.
— “All You Need Is Love” (1967): Perhaps the defining song of the Summer of Love. Martin introduced it with La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, and added a fragment of Glenn Miller’s classic “In the Mood.” He also played piano. Lead vocals: John Lennon.
— “Hey Jude” (1968): “Take a sad song and make it better,” a universal message that struck a chord. With little notice, Martin found 40 musicians for the final recording, short of the 100 Paul McCartney requested. At over seven minutes long and recorded on experimental eight-track studio equipment, it was an unlikely hit for the Beatles’ new Apple label. Lead vocals: Paul McCartney.
— “Here Comes The Sun” (1969): George Harrison’s song of hope. Light vocal creation that he is quoted as saying was written during a long British winter at the home of Eric Clapton. Lead vocals: George Harrison.
— “Let It Be” (1970): The Beatles’ final single before breaking up, produced by Martin. The song became the title track on the Beatles’ last album, produced by Phil Spector. The lyrics’ references to “times of trouble” and “comfort” had quick universal appeal in turbulent times, including among the Beatles, becoming something of a hymn. Lead vocals: Paul McCartney.
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