Neil Aspinall the 'Fifth Beatle' Has Died Today in New York City

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Mon, 03/24/2008 - 4:19pm.

Neil Aspinall, the man often described as the "Fifth Beatle" because of his role as confidant and mastermind of the Fab Four's business empire, has died, aged 66.

Sir Paul McCartney had visited Aspinall, a former schoolfriend who drove the Beatles' battered blue Commer van, shortly before his death from lung cancer.

For more than 40 years the bespectacled accountant advised the band, overseeing the often chaotic finances of their Apple holding company.

He also took part in many of the Beatles' pranks and sang backing vocals on Yellow Submarine. Taking on the role of guardian of the Beatles' business interests at Apple Corps in 1968, on the condition that he would do it "only until they found someone else", he quit the role only last year.

In a statement from Apple Corps, Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr described Aspinall as a "great man" who would be missed. Beatle widows Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison also put their name to the statement.

It read: "As a loyal friend, confidant and chief executive, Neil's trusting stewardship and guidance has left a far-reaching legacy for generations to come. All his friends and loved ones will greatly miss him but will always retain the fondest memories of a great man." He died in hospital in New York after a brief illness and is survived by his wife Suzy and five children.

Aspinall was expected to build a career as an accountant when he struck up a friendship with the young McCartney and George Harrison at the Liverpool Institute for Boys.

Aspinall once joked that they bonded over the illicit cigarettes smoked behind the school's air-raid shelters. "By the time we were ready to take the GCE exams, we'd added John Lennon to our "˜Mad Lad' gang," he said.

He drove their tour van for £1 an hour and was with The Beatles when they conquered America. He stood in for Harrison when the guitarist fell sick during the rehearsals for a television show.

Aspinall also contributed to some recordings, playing percussion on Magical Mystery Tour as well as singing on the Yellow Submarine chorus. John Lennon claimed they smoked marijuana in the lavatories at Buckingham Palace when they collected their MBEs in 1965.

Thirteen years ago, Aspinall was executive producer on the Beatles Anthology and was behind successes such as the compilation album One.

He challenged the Apple computer giant over image infringement rights. The band was awarded more than £13.5 million before the case was settled.

Aspinall had begun work on a licensing agreement to put the Beatles catalogue on iTunes before quitting, amid reports of disagreements with members of Apple music over a re-release programme.

Adam Sherwin - March 24, 2008 - posted at

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Mon, 03/24/2008 - 4:19pm.