Sir George Martin, the classically trained producer who helmed the Beatles recordings from their mop-top phase through their late musical masterworks, was honored Saturday night in Los Angeles.
Martin, 82, received a career award from The Recording Academy's Grammy Foundation, which provides education programs for future music professionals and works to preserve musical history.
Martin is the most successful record producer of all time, according to the academy, with more than 50 chart-topping hits and one-billion units sold. He also holds the record for the longest run of No. 1 pop-chart hits in history, spanning 36 years.
Martin, who has said he is hard of hearing, sprinted by reporters on the event's arrivals line. But son Giles Martin spoke on behalf of his father, with whom he remixed original recordings to create the soundtrack for "Love," the popular Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas production inspired by The Beatles' music.
Receiving the Recording Academy tribute "is a huge honor for him," Giles Martin told AP Television. "But he always said, 'They give me an honor for still being alive.' You know, because he's English, and we're very self-deprecating. But it's a huge honor for him. And his life has been the music industry."
Event attendees included John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono, who recalled her first time meeting Martin.
"I was very surprised," Ono said. "He was obviously from a classical background. And he had that sort of demeanor — of a person who was a very sophisticated gentleman, an English gentleman."
George Harrison's widow Olivia Harrison said it took a little time for her late husband to warm up to Martin, who first met in 1962.
"Well, I think, they were so young," she said. "And George, he always said that he was always like the adult in the room. And, you know, you look now, and there wasn't that much age difference. But, you know, they were just four scruffy guys. But he enabled them to manifest their music for what they heard in their heads."
And, clearly, John, Paul, George and Ringo remain important to Martin, who spent the bulk of his award-acceptance speech talking about The Fab Four.
"Yoko and Olivia are here tonight," Martin noted. "Paul and Ringo can't be here, because they're doing their own tour. They're workaholics. I can't understand why, but they are. I've been so lucky to work with so many wonderful people, and great talent all my life. ... I miss a lot of people. I miss so many people who have died on me. God knows I'm old enough. But younger people have left the scene, and I miss them, as you do, great people. John and George particularly."
The event also included a concert saluting Martin and the songs he helped make famous, with guest performers including songwriter Burt Bacharach, guitarist Jeff Beck and singer Tom Jones.