Pioneering pop producer Phil Spector has died aged 81, while serving a prison sentence for murder.
The news was confirmed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, who stated he had died “of natural causes at 6.35pm on Saturday, January 16, 2021, at an outside hospital”. Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life for the murder of Lana Clarkson in 2003.
Spector was still a teenager when his band The Teddy Bears scored a No. 1 hit in 1958 with the self-penned “To Know Him Is to Love Him”. He then restyled himself as a pop svengali, writing and producing a string of hits for the likes of The Crystals, The Ronettes and Ike & Tina Turner, employing his influential ‘wall of sound’ techniques.
After a few years away from the music industry, Spector was hired – controversially – to complete The Beatles’ Let It Be, before working on John Lennon and George Harrison’s subsequent solo albums.
Spector went on to produce sporadically for artists including Leonard Cohen and Ramones, but they took exception to his unpredictable and controlling methods, reportedly bringing guns to the studio to threaten musicians. In 1990, ex-wife Ronnie Spector published a memoir detailing a litany of abusive behaviour towards her.
When Lana Clarkson was found dead of a single gunshot wound at Spector’s California home in 2003, he claimed her death was “accidental suicide”. But Spector was convicted of second degree murder six years later after a retrial.
“It’s a sad day for music and a sad day for me,” wrote Ronnie Spector on Instagram. “The magical music we were able to make together, was inspired by our love. I loved him madly, and gave my heart and soul to him.
“As I said many times while he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband. Unfortunately Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio. Darkness set in, many lives were damaged.
“I still smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and always will. The music will be forever.”