Phillip Spector: Record Producer Dies Aged 81

American record producer, and convicted murderer, Phillip Spector, died Saturday, January 16, aged 81, at the California Health Care Facility state prison in Stockton, California. The cause of death was stated to be complications resulting from Covid-19. He had been serving a 19-year sentence for a 2009 murder conviction. His tumultuous life resulted in tragedy as well as game-changing records. 

The Wall Of Sound

Harvey Phillip Spector was born on December 26, 1939, to a lower-middle-class family in the Bronx. His father, Benjamin, was a union ironworker who committed suicide when Phillip was 8. The epitaph on his father’s tombstone, “To Know Him Was to Love Him,” found its way into Spector’s first hit.

From 1960 – 1965, Phillip Spector placed 24 records in the Top 40, many of them classics. His 13 Top 10 singles included some of the quintessential “girl group” songs of the era: “He’s a Rebel,” “Uptown,” “Then He Kissed Me” and “Da Doo Ron Ron” by the Crystals, and “Be My Baby” and “Walking in the Rain” by the Ronettes.

Phillip Spector produced ‘Unchained Melody’ for the Righteous Brothers, and also ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’. The latter was a No. 1 hit that became the 20th century’s most-played song on radio and television. 

Phillip Spector’s signature was the wall of sound, perfected at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles. “They start simply and they end with a dynamic force, meaning and purpose. It’s in the mind, I dreamed it up. It’s like art movies.”, Phillip Spector said regarding the technique. Spector surpassed himself when he put Tina Turner in the studio in 1966 to record ‘River Deep, Mountain High’, which employed 21 musicians and an equal number of backup vocalists.

A Tumultuous End And A Murder

Following the failure of ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ among U.S. charts, Phillip Spector withdrew from the music business for several years. He entered a decades-long decline marked by erratic behaviour, often involving his extensive handgun collection, and heavy drinking. 

In the early hours of February 3rd, 2003, Phillip Spector, after drinking heavily, drove to his home in Alhambra, California with Lana Clarkson, a struggling actress he had just met at the House of Blues, where she worked as a hostess. His chauffeur later claimed he heard a loud sound like a pop. The police found Lana Clarkson’s body slumped over a chair after being fatally shot with a single bullet. 

After news of his death, Phillip Spector’s ex-wife Ronnie Spector said: “I loved him madly and gave my heart and soul to him,”. “Unfortunately Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio. Darkness set in, many lives were damaged.”

By: Aatira Kakroo