During the last week, two crucial figures of twentieth-century culture died. George Martin, the patrician producer of Beatles records, and former first lady Nancy Reagan may seem as similar as chalk and cheese. Perhaps his most famous production featured the line "I'd love to turn you on." Her most famous quote, on the other hand, remains "Just say no to drugs." Her husband led America. He produced America. Still, despite their widely different paths, they held uncommonly similar roles that had inestimable impacts.
Martin adored music from an early age; he was a classically trained oboist who fantasized about becoming the next Rachmaninoff. After a rough childhood, Nancy Davis chose an acting career. Rather than fantasize about being the next Barbara Stanwyck, she wished for the perfect husband. In 1952, the same year Martin enjoyed his first hit ("Mock Mozart" by Peter Ustinov), Nancy Davis married her dream man.
In early 1967, when George Martin was in Abbey Road Studios, handing out his scores for the wigged-out climax of "A Day in the Life," Nancy, California's new First Lady, might have been in Sacramento, shaking a newspaper in her fist for taking her to task for calling the governor's mansion "a firetrap." (The Reagans would last four months before moving out for plusher digs.) The cultural revolution Martin was abetting by producing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band was not her cup of tea. But with her at his back, Ronald would soon enough launch one of his own.
The composer Aaron Copland said, "If you want to know about the Sixties, play the music of the Beatles." Likewise, if you want to understand the eighties, play the speeches of the Reagans. The 1980s were the Reagan Eighties, just as the Beatles were the face of their decade. In that crucial respect, Martin and Nancy might actually have had a lot to discuss over dinner.
As the guiding hand and steadying force behind respective cultural juggernauts, he and she had an incalculable affect on human history through their closeness with leaders on the world stage. The so-called Reagan Revolution could not really have occurred without Nancy's presence. He needed her, called her Mommy. The Beatles needed Martin, too, both to serve as an authority figure and to make their musical ideas reality in the studio.
Despite their differences, Martin and Nancy shared a similar notion toward the unique and powerful roles they played. They were there to support, to bring out the best from their famous charges.