Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 10/10/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/10/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>George Martin


AS PRODUCER AND ARRANGER FOR THE Beatles, George Martin had a hand in crafting some of pop music's most enduring tunes. Now, as producer of The Glory of Gershwin tribute album, the 68-year-old Martin has tackled the works of pianist George Gershwin and his lyricist brother, Ira. "There are so many Gershwin songs that I love," says Martin, who lives in his native London with his wife of 28 years, Judy Lockhart-Smith. "When I was 16, I had a band and used to play Gershwin numbers. He's always been one of my idols."

When ace harmonica player and Glory organizer Larry Adler asked him to produce, Martin couldn't resist. But even Martin's experience as a behind-the-scenes Beatle didn't quite prepare him for the challenge of updating Gershwin classics with 15 such diverse talents and personalities as Sinéad O'Connor, Meat Loaf and Peter Gabriel. For example, Cher, who sings "It Ain't Necessarily So," initially felt jittery about recording with a live orchestra—something she had never done in her long career. "She asked, 'What are they doing here?' " Martin recalls. "I told her if she didn't like what the band did she could change it. But she got into the swing and started enjoying it."

Martin himself is definitely still in the swing of things. Last March he picked up a Grammy—his fourth—for producing the Broadway cast recording of Tommy; his third book, The Summer of Love: The Making of Sgt. Pepper, is due out later this year. And while a few big names remain on his wish list, Martin says he's not greedy: "A few slipped through the net. The Beach Boys. Dylan. Streisand. But I've had more than my share of great people."

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