Influential metal and hard rock producer Martin Birch has died at the age of 71. No cause of death has been shared.
News of Birch’s passing came from Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale. “It is with a very heavy heart I’ve just had verified my very dear friend & producer Martin Birch has passed away,” he tweeted over the weekend.
He added, “Martin was a huge part of my life… helping me from the first time we met through until [Whitesnake’s 1984 album] Slide it in… My thoughts & prayers to his family, friends & fans.”
Tributes have rushed in from the many bands that Birch worked with throughout his lengthy career. The recording heavyweight contributed guitars to Fleetwood Mac’s 1973 LP Mystery to Me and produced their early albums alongside a lengthy selection of releases from Deep Purple, Jeff Beck, Skid Row and Blue Öyster Cult.
Birch’s role as the producer for Black Sabbath’s mid-1980s Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules albums was particularly pivotal as the group introduced Ronnie James Dio as the replacement vocalist for Ozzy Osbourne. He also produced nine consecutive albums from Iron Maiden, starting with their 1981 album Killers all the way through 1992’s Fear of the Dark—after which he retired at the age of 42.
“He was just absolutely brilliant,” Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris wrote in a eulogy on the band’s website. “He wasn’t just a producer, he was a hands-on engineer too, so he knew how to get a great sound. He was also fantastic at motivating people; he just had a knack of getting the best out of you. He was also a really nice man, great fun with a terrific sense of humour and that made him easy to work with. We all got along with him really well and the whole band is very saddened by today’s news.”
RIP, Martin Birch. Listen to Mystery to Me here: