Legendary music producer-turned-murderer Phil Spector has died of COVID-19 complications at the age of 81, according to the California Department of Corrections.
Before being convicted in 2009 of murdering American Barbarian Queen actress and fashion model Lana Clarkson in 2003, Spector was a prolific producer, working with the Beatles on some of their most famous hits, including “Let It Be,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Get Back,” and John Lennon’s solo blockbuster “Imagine.” He also produced the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
The Bronx-born musician was credited with developing what is known as the Wall of Sound technique that merged overdubbed vocal harmonies, sound effects, and orchestral arrangements. It became a standard in the industry and was used widely by Bruce Springsteen and Brian Wilson. Spector called the technique “Little symphonies for the kids.”
John Lennon once called Spector “the greatest record producer ever.”
Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in 2009 in a sensational trial that first ended in mistrial after a 10-2 hung jury in 2007. His driver testified that he heard a gunshot an hour after dropping the Spector and Clarkson off at the producer’s castle-shaped mansion after they left the House of Blues nightclub in Los Angeles together on Feb. 2, 2003.
The driver told investigators he heard a gunshot and Spector left the house with the gun, saying, “I think I just shot her.” He later called Clarkson’s death an “accidental suicide after she kissed the gun.”
Spector later settled a civil suit with Clarkson’s mother, but the terms of settlement were not released.
Spector married Veronica Bennett in 1968, after which the singer changed her name to Ronnie Spector. The marriage lasted just six years, but was a veritable nightmare prison for Ronnie, according to her tell-all memoir called Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, or My Life as a Fabulous Ronette.
In the book, she described her husband’s spiral into madness, suffering from bi-polar disorder that led him to extol a tyrannical control over her, which included keeping a glass coffin in the mansion basement where he threatened he would keep her if she cheated on him. So paranoid was he of her potential infidelity that he took all her shoes away from her so she could not go outside. On the rare occasions when she did leave the house, she was forced to drive around with a life-size blow-up doll in his likeness.
During their short marriage, they adopted a son named Donte, who was also a victim of Spector’s violent outbursts and was kept locked in his bedroom with a chamber pot instead of a toilet. Spector later adopted twin boys without asking Ronnie.
The Ronettes later split up but in 2003, they sued Spector for withholding royalties and won a $3-million settlement. In 2007, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison in 2009 for Clarkson’s death, where he contracted COVID-19 four weeks ago. He was hospitalized and was returned to prison last week but on Saturday was readmitted to the hospital, where he died from complications.