For as long as the Beatles have been in the spotlight, there has been talk of a fifth Beatle among fans, critics, and even the Fab Four themselves. Everyone who has been dubbed with this very unofficial, but nonetheless important, title lent the band some kind of support or motivation, and was essential to helping them become the legends they are today.
Though there are many who have been considered for the position, the question remains: Who was the fifth Beatle? There is a strong case for every stand-in drummer, record producer, and childhood friend who contributed to the Beatles' narrative. While some played their part from when the band formed in 1960 to their rooftop performance in 1969, there are also those who made their mark after only a short time with George, John, Paul, and Ringo.
Dozens of people have laid claim to the title of the fifth Beatle, but very few are actually deserving of it.
- 196 VOTES
While Brian Epstein may have been responsible for the band's image, George Martin was behind the Beatles' one-of-a-kind sound, which is said to have transformed the trajectory of popular music. He was a classically trained composer working as a producer for Parlophone Records, and by 1962, he was running the label and looking to sign a rock band. The Beatles, who were seeking their big break, entered the scene, and Martin felt they had a chance even though he didn't like their music very much:
They had this wonderful charisma. They made you feel good to be with them. And I thought their music was rubbish.
He eventually came to love, and greatly influence, their songs. As their closest collaborator and one of their only producers, he penned many orchestral arrangements, created new ways to generate more experimental sounds, and even played on some tracks himself.
After Martin perished in 2016, Paul McCartney said:
If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George. From the day that he gave The Beatles our first recording contract, to the last time I saw him, he was the most generous, intelligent and musical person I've ever had the pleasure to know.
- Age: Dec. at 90 (1926-2016)
- Birthplace: England, London, HM Prison Holloway
- 278 VOTES
Billy Preston was just 15 and a touring member of Little Richard's band when he met the Beatles in 1962. Little Richard's band is even credited with influencing the Beatles' widely popular sound. Preston and the boys wouldn't meet again until 1969, when the Beatles were recording what would be their final album, Let It Be. During those tumultuous sessions, George Harrison quit and walked out, eventually bringing Preston back to the studio with him to ease tensions.
Preston's musicianship was so well respected that John Lennon wanted to make him a full-fledged band member. He played the keyboard on "Get Back," which ranked at No. 1 on the British charts. And though the Beatles occasionally had stand-in musicians throughout their career, Preston was the only one to be equally credited as "the Beatles with Billy Preston." He also played with the group during their final performance on a London rooftop.
- Age: Dec. at 59 (1946-2006)
- Birthplace: Texas, USA, Houston
- 366 VOTES
The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein first spotted them at Liverpool’s Cavern Club in 1961, and it was love at first sight:
I was immediately struck by their music... and their sense of humor on stage... and even afterward, when I met them, I was struck again by their personal charm, and it was there that it all started.
He signed them in 1962 and changed their rough and tumble, leather-clad image to that of a squeaky clean group in sharp suits and matching haircuts. Ringo Starr joined the band, and within a year the Beatles were at the top of the charts.
Epstein made the boys household names, but as they achieved global success, he fell prey to the excesses of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. He began taking pills, and after a steep downhill slope, he unexpectedly perished on August 27, 1967, from an accidental OD.
The Beatles struggled to recover from the loss, and they broke up just three years later.
- Age: Dec. at 32 (1934-1967)
- Birthplace: Liverpool, United Kingdom
- Photo: Stuart Sutcliffe - The Lost Beatle / Stanza Media444 VOTES
Stuart Sutcliffe met John Lennon at art school, and the two became fast friends. Sutcliffe wasn’t much of a musician, but Lennon was still able to convince him to buy a bass and join the group in Hamburg. Soon after the band’s arrival, Sutcliffe met photographer Astrid Kirchherr and they fell in love. In 1961, he quit the Beatles to paint and live full-time with Kirchherr in Germany.
His happiness was short-lived, however. After a series of increasingly severe headaches, he sufferd a brain hemorrhage on April 10, 1962, at just 21 years old. John Lennon, who was devastated by the loss of his friend, said, "I looked up to Stu. I depended on him to tell me the truth. Stu would tell me if something was good and I’d believe him."
- Age: Dec. at 21 (1940-1962)
- Birthplace: Edinburgh, United Kingdom