Beatles' widows honour producer George Martin

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The widows of former Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison led an all-star tribute on Saturday to Sir George Martin, the producer who moulded the Fab Four into the world’s most important pop music force.

Slideshow ( 10 images )

Martin, 82, received the Grammy Foundation Leadership Award, in recognition of his humanitarian and charitable efforts, during a dinner and concert featuring the likes of singer Tom Jones and rock guitarist Jeff Beck.

“Awards don’t come much better than this,” said Martin. “I’ve been so lucky to work with so many wonderful people, and great talent all my life...I miss so many people who have died on me.”

He was referring to Lennon, who was murdered in 1980 and Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001. Their respective widows, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, chaired the event at the University of Southern California. Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were also listed as event chairs -- a ceremonial title -- but were not present.

The performers have all worked with Martin, who remained busy producing artists after the Beatles broke up. Others on the bill included the band America, composer Burt Bacharach, pianist Dave Grusin, and singer Michael McDonald.

Martin produced jazz, comedy and classical albums before signing the Beatles in 1962. Although the youngsters were rough around the edges, he thought they might have commercial promise. As both mentor and collaborator, he produced nearly all the Beatles’ recordings.

Martin was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1996 and named by the Guinness World Records as the most successful producer ever, with more than 50 No. 1 hit records over five decades in the United States and Great Britain alone.

In 2006, he worked with his son Giles, to develop the Beatles-inspired Cirque du Soleil show “Love” in Las Vegas. The accompanying soundtrack album won two Grammys this year.

George Martin is currently working on the PBS series, “On Record: The Soundtrack Of Our Lives,” which will air in the fall 2010.