Phil Spector

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Phil Spector
Phil Spector.jpg
Phil Spector in 1965
Background information
Birth name Harvey Phillip Spector
Also known as Phil Harvey
Born (1939-12-26) December 26, 1939 (age 76)
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s) Record producer, songwriter, session musician
Instruments Guitar, piano, vocals
Years active 1958–1966, 1969–1981, 2002–2009
Labels Philles, A&M, Apple, Warner Spector, Phil Spector International, ABKCO, Sony Legacy
Associated acts

Phillip Harvey Spector[1][2] (born Harvey Phillip Spector,[3][4] December 26, 1939) is an American record producer, musician, and songwriter who developed the Wall of Sound, a popular music production formula he described as "a Wagnerian approach to rock and roll." From 1960 to 1965, Spector produced more than twenty-five Top 40 singles for various artists, but following sporadic work in the 1970s, he remained largely inactive. In the 2000s, Spector became the subject of two trials for murder and a second-degree conviction. He is serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life and will be 88 years old before becoming eligible for parole.[5]

Spector began his career in 1958 as the producer and co-founder of the Teddy Bears, performing on guitar and vocals. At the height of his career, he was a pioneer of the 1960s girl-group sound, writing, co-writing, or producing for artists such as the Ronettes and the Crystals and, later, the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Dion DiMucci, and the Ramones. Spector is often called the first auteur among musical artists for acting not only as a producer, but also the creative director, writing or choosing the material, supervising the arrangements, conducting the vocalists and session musicians, and masterminding all phases of the recording process. He helped pave the way for art rock and various aesthetically oriented music genres, with numerous artists later citing his work as a major influence.

The 1965 song "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", produced and co-written by Spector for the Righteous Brothers, is listed by BMI as the song with the most US airplay in the 20th century.[6] For co-producing George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh (1971), Spector earned the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. In 1989, Spector was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as a nonperformer. In 1997, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[7] Rolling Stone magazine ranked him #63 on their 2004 list of the "Greatest Artists of All Time".[8][9] In their list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time", they included the Spector-produced Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes (1964),[10] A Christmas Gift for You (1963),[11] and Back to Mono (1991).[12] In 2008, The Washington Times named Spector the second greatest record producer in music history.[13]


Spector was born on December 26, 1939,[1][4][14] to a lower-middle-class Jewish family in the Bronx, New York City.[15][16] His grandfather was an immigrant from Russia (now Ukraine) with the surname Spekter, which he anglicized to Spector after immigrating.[17] Spector's father, Ben, committed suicide on April 20, 1949.[18] In 1953, his mother moved the family to Los Angeles.

Recording career[edit]

1954–59: Teenage performer and lyricist[edit]

Having learned to play guitar, Spector performed "Rock Island Line" in a talent show at Fairfax High School, where he was a student.[19] While at Fairfax, he joined a loose-knit community of aspiring musicians, including Lou Adler, Bruce Johnston, Steve Douglas, and Sandy Nelson, the last of whom played drums on Spector's first record release, "To Know Him Is to Love Him".[20]

With three friends from high school, Marshall Leib, Sandy Nelson, and Annette Kleinbard, Spector formed a group, the Teddy Bears. During this period, record producer Stan Ross — co-owner of Gold Star Studios in Hollywood — began to tutor Spector in record production and exerted a major influence on Spector's production style. In 1958, the Teddy Bears recorded the Spector-penned "Don't You Worry My Little Pet", which helped them secure a deal with Era Records. At their next session, they recorded another song Spector had written—this one inspired by the epitaph on Spector's father's tombstone. Released on Era's subsidiary label, Dore Records, "To Know Him Is to Love Him" reached number one on Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on December 1, 1958,[21] selling over a million copies by year's end. It was the seventh number-one single on the newly formed chart. Following the success of their debut, the group signed with Imperial Records. Their next single, "I Don't Need You Anymore", reached number 91. They released several more recordings, including an album, The Teddy Bears Sing!, but failed to reach the top 100 in US sales. The group disbanded in 1959.[21]

1960–66: Early success as a record producer[edit]

After the split, Spector's career quickly moved from performing and songwriting to production. While recording the Teddy Bears' album, Spector had met Lester Sill, a former promotion man who was a mentor to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. His next project, the Spectors Three, was undertaken under the aegis of Sill and his partner, Lee Hazlewood. In 1960, Sill arranged for Spector to work as an apprentice to Leiber and Stoller in New York. Ronnie Crawford would become Spector’s first true recording artist and project as producer. Spector quickly learned how to use a studio. He co-wrote the Ben E. King Top 10 hit "Spanish Harlem" with Jerry Leiber and also worked as a session musician, most notably playing the guitar solo on the Drifters' song, "On Broadway". His own productions during this time, while less conspicuous, included releases by LaVern Baker, Ruth Brown, and Billy Storm, as well as the Top Notes' original version of "Twist and Shout".[citation needed]

Leiber and Stoller recommended Spector to produce Ray Peterson's Corrina, Corrina, which reached number 9 in January 1961. Later, he produced another major hit for Curtis Lee, "Pretty Little Angel Eyes", which made it to number 7. Returning to Hollywood, Spector agreed to produce one of Lester Sill's acts. After both Liberty Records and Capitol Records turned down the master of "Be My Boy" by the Paris Sisters, Sill formed a new label, Gregmark Records, with Lee Hazlewood, and released it. It reached only number 56, but the follow-up, "I Love How You Love Me", was a hit, reaching number 5.[citation needed]

In late 1961, Spector formed a new record company with Lester Sill, who by this time had ended his business partnership with Hazlewood. Philles Records combined the names of its two founders. Through Hill and Range Publishers, Spector found three groups he wanted to produce: the Ducanes, the Creations, and the Crystals. The first two signed with other companies, but Spector managed to secure the Crystals for his new label. Their first single, "There's No Other (Like My Baby)" was a success, hitting number 20. Their next release, "Uptown", made it to number 13.

Spector continued to work freelance with other artists. In 1962, he produced "Second Hand Love" by Connie Francis, which reached #7. In the early 1960s, he briefly worked with Atlantic Records' R&B artists Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker. Ahmet Ertegün of Atlantic paired Spector with future Broadway star Jean DuShon for "Talk to Me", the B-side of which was "Tired of Trying", written by DuShon.[citation needed]

Spector briefly took a job as head of A&R for Liberty Records. It was while working at Liberty that he heard a song written by Gene Pitney, for whom he had produced a number 41 hit, "Every Breath I Take", a year earlier. "He's a Rebel" was due to be released on Liberty by Vikki Carr, but Spector rushed into Gold Star Studios and recorded a cover version using Darlene Love and the Blossoms on lead vocals. The record was released on Philles, attributed to the Crystals, and quickly rose to the top of the charts.

Although predominantly a singles label, Philles released a few albums, one of which is the perennial seller A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records from 1963.
In August 1963, Spector produced and was given writing credit to "Be My Baby". The single would go on to become acknowledged by some as the greatest pop record ever made.[22]

Problems playing this file? See media help.

By the time "He's a Rebel" went to number 1, Lester Sill was out of the company, and Spector had Philles all to himself. He created a new act, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, featuring Darlene Love, Fanita James (a member of the Blossoms), and Bobby Sheen, a singer he had worked with at Liberty. The group had hits with "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" (number 8), "Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts?" (number 38), and "Not Too Young To Get Married" (number 63). Spector also released solo material by Darlene Love in 1963. In the same year, he released "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes, which went to number 2.

The first time Spector put the same amount of effort into an LP as he did into 45s was when he utilized the full Philles roster and the Wrecking Crew to make what he felt would become a hit for the 1963 Christmas season. A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records arrived in stores on November 22, 1963 — the day of the assassination of President Kennedy.

September 28, 1963, the Ronettes appeared at the Cow Palace, near San Francisco. Also on the bill were the Righteous Brothers. Spector, who was conducting the band for all the acts, was so impressed with Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield that he bought their contract from Moonglow Records and signed them to Philles. In early 1965, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", became the label's second number 1 single. Three more major hits with the group followed: "Just Once in My Life" (number 9), "Unchained Melody" (number 4, originally the B side of "Hung on You") and "Ebb Tide" (number 5). Despite having hits, he lost interest in producing the Righteous Brothers and sold their contract and all their master recordings to Verve Records. However, the sound of the Righteous Brothers' singles was so distinctive that the act chose to replicate it after leaving Spector, notching a second number 1 hit in 1966 with the Bill Medley–produced "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration".[citation needed]

The recording of "Unchained Melody", credited on some releases as a Spector production although Medley has consistently said he produced it originally as an album track,[23] had a second wave of popularity 25 years after its initial release, when it was featured prominently in the 1990 hit movie Ghost. A re-release of the single re-charted on the Billboard Hot 100, and went to number one on the Adult Contemporary charts. This also put Spector back on the U.S. Top 40 charts for the first time since his last appearance in 1971 with John Lennon's "Imagine", although he did have UK top 40 hits in the interim with the Ramones.[citation needed]

Spector's final signing to Philles was the husband-and-wife team of Ike and Tina Turner in 1966. Spector considered their recording of "River Deep – Mountain High", to be his best work,[24] but it failed to go any higher than number 88 in the United States. The single, which was essentially a solo Tina Turner record, was more successful in Britain, reaching number 3. Spector subsequently lost enthusiasm for his label and the recording industry. Already something of a recluse, he withdrew temporarily from the public eye, marrying Veronica "Ronnie" Bennett, lead singer of the Ronettes, in 1968. In 1967, Spector emerged briefly for a cameo as himself in an episode of I Dream of Jeannie and as a drug dealer in the film Easy Rider (1969).[25]

1969–76: Comeback and near-fatal accident[edit]

In 1969, Spector made a brief return to the music business by signing a production deal with A&M Records. A Ronettes single, "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered" flopped, but Spector returned to the Hot 100 with "Black Pearl", by Sonny Charles and the Checkmates, Ltd., which reached number 13. In 1970, Allen Klein, manager of the Beatles, brought Spector to England. While producing John Lennon's hit solo single "Instant Karma!", which went to number 3, Spector was invited by Lennon and George Harrison to take on the task of turning the Beatles' abandoned Get Back recording sessions into a usable album. He went to work using many of his production techniques, making significant changes to the arrangements and sound of some songs.[citation needed]

The resulting album, Let It Be, was a massive commercial success and topped the US and UK charts. The album also yielded the number 1 US singles "The Long and Winding Road" and "Let It Be," the latter a UK number 2 released two months ahead of the album; "Get Back", an international number 1, was issued in 1969, right after the original Get Back sessions. His overdubbing of "The Long and Winding Road" infuriated its composer, Paul McCartney, especially since the work was allegedly completed without his knowledge and without any opportunity for him to assess the results. In 2003, McCartney spearheaded the release of Let It Be... Naked, which stripped the songs of Spector's input.[citation needed]

Lennon and George Harrison were satisfied with the results, and Let It Be led to Spector co-producing albums with both ex-Beatles. For Harrison's multiplatinum album All Things Must Pass (number 1, 1970), Spector provided a cathedral-like sonic ambience, complete with ornate orchestrations and gospel-like choirs. The LP yielded two major hits: "My Sweet Lord" (number 1) and "What Is Life" (number 10). That same year, Spector co-produced John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band (number 6) album. In 1971, Spector was named director of A&R for Apple Records. He held the post for only a year, but during that time he co-produced the single "Power to the People" with John Lennon (number 11), as well as Lennon's chart-topping album, Imagine. The album's title track hit number 3. With Harrison, Spector co-produced Harrison's "Bangla-Desh" (number 23) and wife Ronnie Spector's "Try Some, Buy Some" (number 77). That same year Spector recorded the music for the number 1 triple album The Concert For Bangladesh. The album later won the "Album of the Year" award at the 1972 Grammys. Despite being recorded live, Spector used up to 44 microphones simultaneously to create his trademark Wall of Sound.[citation needed]

Lennon retained Spector for the 1971 Christmas single "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" and the poorly reviewed 1972 album, Some Time In New York City (number 48). Similar to the unusual pattern of success that Spector's A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records experienced, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" also stalled in sales upon its initial release, only later to become a fixture on radio station playlists during the holiday season. In 1973, Spector participated in the recording sessions for what would be Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album (number 6).

As the 1970s progressed, Spector became increasingly reclusive. The most probable and significant reason for his withdrawal, as revealed by biographer Dave Thompson,[citation needed] was that in 1974 he was seriously injured when he was thrown through the windshield of his car in a crash in Hollywood. According to a contemporary report published in the New Musical Express,[citation needed] Spector was almost killed, and it was only because the attending police officer detected a faint pulse that Spector was not declared dead at the scene. He was admitted to the UCLA Medical Center on the night of March 31, 1974, suffering serious head injuries that required several hours of surgery, with over 300 stitches to his face and more than 400 to the back of his head.[26] His head injuries, Thompson suggests, were the reason that Spector began his habit of wearing outlandish wigs in later years.[27]

The 1974 accident took place shortly after he had established the Warner-Spector label with Warner Bros. Records, which undertook new Spector-produced recordings with Cher ("A Woman's Story" / "Baby, I Love You" [1974]; "A Love Like Yours (Don't Come Knockin' Every Day)" / "(Just Enough to Keep Me) Hangin' On" [1975], with Harry Nilsson), Darlene Love ("Lord, If You're a Woman" / "Stumble and Fall" [1977]), Danny Potter, and Jerri Bo Keno ("Here It Comes (And Here I Go)" / "I Don't Know Why" [1975]) in addition to several reissues. A similar relationship with Britain's Polydor Records led to the formation of the Phil Spector International label in 1975. When the Cher and Keno singles (the latter's recordings were only issued in Germany) foundered on the charts, Spector released Dion DiMucci's Born to Be with You to little commercial fanfare in 1975; largely produced and recorded by Spector in 1974, it was subsequently disowned by the singer before enjoying a resurgence among the indie rock cognoscenti of the late 1990s and early 2000s.[28] The majority of Spector's classic Philles recordings had been out of print in the U.S. since the original label's demise, although Spector had released several Philles Records compilations in Britain. Finally, he released an American compilation of his Philles recordings in 1977, which put most of the better-known Spector hits back into circulation after many years.[citation needed]

1977–80: Death of a Ladies' Man and End of the Century[edit]

Spector began to reemerge in the late 1970s, producing and co-writing a controversial 1977 album by Leonard Cohen, entitled Death of a Ladies' Man. The album angered many devout Cohen fans who preferred his stark acoustic sound to the orchestral and choral wall of sound that the album contains. The recording of the album was fraught with difficulty. After Cohen had laid down practice vocal tracks, Spector mixed the album in studio sessions, rather than allowing Cohen to take a role in the mixing, as Cohen had previously done.[26] Cohen has remarked that the end result is "grotesque", but also "semi-virtuous"; he still includes a reworked version of the track "Memories" in live concerts. Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg also participated in the background vocals on "Don't Go Home with Your Hard-On", which is the second time Spector indirectly "produced" Dylan—the first being Dylan's live recordings on The Concert for Bangladesh.[citation needed][29]

Spector also produced the much-publicized Ramones album End of the Century in 1979. As with his work with Leonard Cohen, End of the Century received criticism from Ramones fans who were angered over its radio-friendly sound. However, it contains some of the best known and most successful Ramones singles, such as "Rock 'n' Roll High School", "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" and their cover of a previously released Spector song for the Ronettes, "Baby, I Love You."[30] Guitarist Johnny Ramone later commented on working with Spector on the recording of the album, "It really worked when he got to a slower song like 'Danny Says'—the production really worked tremendously. For the harder stuff, it didn't work as well."[31]

Rumors circulated for years that Spector had threatened members of the Ramones with a gun during the sessions. Drummer Marky Ramone recalled in 2008, "They [guns] were there but he had a license to carry. He never held us hostage. We could have left at any time".[32][33]


Spector remained inactive throughout most of the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. He attempted to work with Céline Dion on her album Falling into You but was unable to do so. His most recent released project was Silence Is Easy by Starsailor, in 2003. He was originally supposed to produce the entire album, but was fired owing to personal and creative differences. One of the two Spector-produced songs on the album, the title track, was a UK top 10 single (the other single being "White Dove").[34]

Spector produced singer-songwriter Hargo's track "Crying for John Lennon", which originally appears on Hargo's 2006 album In Your Eyes,[35] but on a visit to Spector's mansion for an interview for the John Lennon tribute movie Strawberry Fields, Hargo played Spector the song and asked him to produce it. Spector and former Paul McCartney drummer Graham Ward produced it in the classic Wall of Sound style on nights after his first murder trial.[36]

In December 2007, the song "B Boy Baby" by Mutya Buena and Amy Winehouse featured melodic and lyrical passages heavily influenced by the Ronettes song "Be My Baby". As a result, Spector was given a songwriting credit on the single. The sections from "Be My Baby" are sung by Winehouse, not directly sampled from the mono single.[37] Winehouse referenced her admiration of Spector's work and often performed Spector's first hit song, "To Know Him Is to Love Him".[38]

Also in December 2007, Spector attended the funeral of Ike Turner, whose former wife, Tina Turner, he produced in 1966 (only Tina was recorded, but the record label still read "Ike and Tina Turner"). While delivering a eulogy, Spector lashed out at Tina and stated that "Ike made Tina the jewel she was. When I went to see Ike play at the Cinegrill in the 90s...there were at least five Tina Turners on the stage performing that night, any one of them could have been Tina Turner." Spector lashed out at Oprah Winfrey for promoting Tina Turner's autobiography, which "demonized and vilified Ike."[39]

In mid-April 2008, BBC 2 broadcast a special entitled Phil Spector: The Agony and the Ecstasy. It consists of Spector's first screen interview—breaking a long period of media silence. During the conversation, images from the murder court case are juxtaposed with live appearances of his tracks on television programs from the 1960s and 1970s, along with subtitles giving critical interpretation of some of his song production values. While he does not directly try to clear his name, the court case proceedings shown try to give further explanation of the facts surrounding the murder charges leveled against him. He also speaks about the musical instincts that led him to create some of his most enduring hit records, from "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" to "River Deep, Mountain High", as well as the Beatles album Let It Be, along with criticisms he feels he has had to deal with throughout his life.[40]


See also: Wall of Sound

Spector's early musical influences included Latin music in general, and Latin percussion in particular.[citation needed] This is perceptible in many if not all of Spector's recordings, from the percussion in many of his hit songs: shakers, güiros (gourds) and maracas in "Be My Baby" and the son montuno in "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" (heard clearly in the song's bridge, played by session bassist Carol Kaye, while the same repeating refrain is played on harpsichord by Larry Knechtel). Spector would visit Spanish Harlem clubs and schools to hone his listening and practical skills.[citation needed]

Spector's trademark during his recording career was the so-called Wall of Sound, a production technique yielding a dense, layered effect that reproduced well on AM radio and jukeboxes. To attain this signature sound, Spector gathered large groups of musicians (playing some instruments not generally used for ensemble playing, such as electric and acoustic guitars) playing orchestrated parts—often doubling and tripling many instruments playing in unison—for a fuller sound. Spector himself called his technique "a Wagnerian approach to rock & roll: little symphonies for the kids".[citation needed]

While Spector directed the overall sound of his recordings, he took a relatively hands-off approach to working with the musicians themselves[citation needed] (usually a core group that became known as the Wrecking Crew, including session players such as Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Steve Douglas, Carol Kaye, Roy Caton, Glen Campbell, and Leon Russell), delegating arrangement duties to Jack Nitzsche and having Sonny Bono oversee the performances, viewing these two as his "lieutenants".[citation needed] Spector frequently used songs from songwriters employed at the Brill Building (Trio Music) and at 1650 Broadway (Aldon Music), such as the teams of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Spector often worked with the songwriters, receiving co-credit and publishing royalties for compositions.[citation needed]

Despite the trend towards multichannel recording, Spector was vehemently opposed to stereo releases, claiming that it took control of the record's sound away from the producer in favor of the listener.[citation needed] Spector was more concerned with the overall collage of sound than with the recording fidelity or timbral quality.[citation needed] Sometimes a pair of strings or horns would be double-tracked multiple times to sound like an entire string or horn section. But in the final product the background sometimes could not be distinguished as either horns or strings. Spector also greatly preferred singles to albums, describing LPs as "two hits and ten pieces of junk", reflecting both his commercial methods and those of many other producers at the time.[citation needed]

Legacy and influence[edit]

Spector is often called the first auteur among musical artists[42][43] for acting not only as a producer, but also the creative director, writing or choosing the material, supervising the arrangements, conducting the vocalists and session musicians, and masterminding all phases of the recording process.[44] He helped pave the way for art rock,[45] and helped inspire the emergence of aesthetically oriented genres such as dream pop,[46] shoegaze,[43] and noise.[47] Among his famous girl groups were the Ronettes and the Crystals; later working with artists including Ike and Tina Turner, John Lennon and the Ramones with similar acclaim. He produced the Beatles' album Let It Be (1970), and Concert for Bangladesh (1971) by former Beatle George Harrison.[48] Later artists spanning many decades and genres have since cited Spector's work as a major influence.

His influence has been claimed by contemporary performers such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys,[49] and The Velvet Underground[50] alongside latter-day record producers such as Brian Eno and Tony Visconti.[51][52] Alternative rock performers Cocteau Twins,[53] My Bloody Valentine,[49] and The Jesus and Mary Chain.[49] have all cited Spector as an influence. Shoegazing, a British musical movement in the late 1980s to mid-1990s, was heavily influenced by the Wall of Sound. Jason Pierce of Spiritualized has cited Spector as a major influence on his Let It Come Down album.[citation needed] Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream and The Jesus and Mary Chain has enthused about Spector, with the song "Just Like Honey" opening with an homage of the famous "Be My Baby" drum intro.[citation needed]

Many have tried to emulate Spector's methods, and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys—a fellow adherent of mono recording—considered Spector his main competition as a studio artist. In the 1960s, Wilson thought of Spector as "…the single most influential producer. He's timeless. He makes a milestone whenever he goes into the studio."[54] Wilson's fascination with Spector's work has persisted for decades, with many different references to Spector and his work scattered around Wilson's songs with the Beach Boys and even his solo career. Of Spector-related productions, Wilson has been involved with covers of "Be My Baby", "Chapel of Love", "Just Once in My Life", "There's No Other (Like My Baby)", "Then He Kissed Me", "Talk to Me", "Why Don't They Let Us Fall in Love", "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "I Can Hear Music", and "This Could Be the Night".[55]

Johnny Franz's mid-1960s productions for Dusty Springfield and the Walker Brothers also employed a layered, symphonic "Wall of Sound" arrangement-and-recording style, heavily influenced by the Spector sound.[citation needed] Another example is the Forum, a studio project of Les Baxter, which produced a minor hit in 1967 with "River Is Wide". Sonny Bono, a former associate of Spector's, developed a jangly, guitar-laden variation on the Spector sound, which is heard mainly in mid-1960s productions for his then-wife Cher, notably "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)".

Bruce Springsteen emulated the Wall of Sound technique in his recording of "Born to Run".[56] In 1973, British band Wizzard, led by Roy Wood, had three Spector-influenced hits with "See My Baby Jive", "Angel Fingers" and "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday", the latter becoming a perennial Christmas hit.[56] Other contemporaries influenced by Spector include George Morton, Sonny & Cher, the Rolling Stones, the Four Tops, Mark Wirtz, the Lovin' Spoonful, and the Beatles.[56] Swedish pop group ABBA cited Spector as an influence, and used similar Wall of Sound techniques in their early songs, including "Ring Ring", "Waterloo", and "Dancing Queen".[citation needed] "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth", from Meat Loaf's 1977 Bat Out of Hell album is another example of the Wall of Sound technique. Jim Steinman and Todd Rundgren were inspired by Phil Spector's methods.

The Los Angeles-based new wave band Wall of Voodoo takes their name from Spector's Wall of Sound.

Spector's influence is also felt in other areas of the world, especially Japan. City pop musicians Eiichi Ohtaki and Tatsuro Yamashita have both had numerous hit records heavily influenced by Spector and the Wall of Sound. Titular Shibuya-kei group Pizzicato Five also exuded the Wall of Sound in their early albums and singles.

In popular culture[edit]


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Grammy Awards US Album of the Year (The Concert for Bangladesh) 1971 *
Rolling Stone USA Greatest Artists of All Time 2004 63
Washington Times US Greatest Record Producers of All Time 2008 2

Spector is one of a handful of producers to have number one records in three consecutive decades (1950s, 60s and 70s). Others in this group include Quincy Jones (1960s, 70s and 80s), George Martin (1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s), Michael Omartian (1970s, 80s and 90s), and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (1980s, 90s, and 2000s).[60][61]

Murder conviction[edit]

On February 3, 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was found dead in Spector's mansion (the Pyrenees Castle) in Alhambra, California. Her body was found slumped in a chair with a single gunshot wound to her mouth with broken teeth scattered over the carpet.[62] Spector told Esquire Magazine in July 2003 that Clarkson's death was an "accidental suicide" and that she "kissed the gun".[63] The emergency call from Spector's home, made by Spector's driver, Adriano de Souza, quotes Spector as saying, "I think I've killed someone".[63] De Souza added that he saw Spector come out the back door of the house with a gun in his hand.[63][64]

According to the prosecution, Spector had previously pulled a gun on four women. In each case, he had been drinking and "was romantically interested in the woman, but grew angry after the woman spurned him." The prosecution alleged that on each occasion, he pointed a gun at the woman to prevent her from walking out.[65] The prosecution argued that the testimony of the other women was important to demonstrating a "common plan or scheme." The defense sought to prevent the women from providing such testimony. Though the law generally forbids the introduction of evidence showing a defendant's previous transgressions, the judge ruled the testimony "can be used to show lack of accident or mistake."[65]

Court trials[edit]

Phil Spector
Phil Spector, mugshot (2009).jpg
Criminal charge Homicide of Lana Clarkson
Criminal penalty 19 years to life
Criminal status In prison
Conviction(s) Murder in the second degree
Date apprehended
February 3, 2003
Imprisoned at California Health Care Facility, California State Prison (Stockton, California)

Spector remained free on $1 million bail while awaiting trial, which began on March 19, 2007. Presiding Judge Larry Paul Fidler allowed the proceedings in Los Angeles Superior Court to be televised.[66] At the start of the trial, the defense forensic expert Henry Lee was accused of hiding crucial evidence that the District Attorney's office claimed could prove Spector's guilt. On September 26, 2007, Judge Fidler declared a mistrial because of a hung jury (ten to two for conviction).[67][68][69] Before and during the first trial, Spector went through at least three sets of attorneys. Defense attorney Robert Shapiro represented Spector at the arraignment and early pretrial hearings and achieved his release on $1 million bail. Bruce Cutler represented him during the 2007 trial, but withdrew on August 27, 2007, claiming "a difference of opinion between Mr. Spector and me on strategy". Attorney Linda Kenney Baden then became lead lawyer for closing arguments.[70]

The retrial of Spector for murder in the second degree began on October 20, 2008,[71] with Judge Fidler again presiding; this time it was not televised. The case went to the jury on March 26, 2009, and nineteen days later, on April 13, the jury returned a guilty verdict.[72][73] Additionally, he was found guilty of using a firearm in the commission of a crime, which added four years to the sentence.[74] Spector was immediately taken into custody and was sentenced, on May 29, 2009, to 19 years to life in the California state prison system.[5]


The California Second District Court of Appeal affirmed Spector's conviction in May 2011 and denied his request for a rehearing of the appeal shortly thereafter.[75] On August 17, 2011, the California Supreme Court declined to review the court of appeal's decision to affirm his conviction.[76][77][78]

In December 2011, Spector's attorneys petitioned for review by the Supreme Court of the United States,[79] arguing that his constitutional due process rights were violated when prosecutors used the trial judge's comments about an expert’s testimony, effectively making the judge a witness for the prosecution. Spector's attorney Dennis Riordan argued the constitutional right to confront witnesses did not permit the prosecution to introduce at trial a videotape of statements made by the judge at a pretrial hearing that never were subjected to cross examination. In February 2012, the Supreme Court denied the petition.[80]

In June 2012, Spector's attorneys filed a Habeas Corpus appeal in Federal District Court, once again on grounds that the original trial judge “did numerous inappropriate things which caused [Spector] a denial of his due process".[81] In July 2013, Attorney Dennis Riordan filed a petition with a US Magistrate urging prompt action due to Spector's ill health. In June 2015, Federal Magistrate Judge Paul L. Abrams recommended denial of Spector's Habeas petition and dismissal of the appeal. The dismissal was so ordered the following month by District Judge S. James Otero, who also denied Spector’s request to certify the case for further appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.[82] In August 2015, Spector's lawyers filed another motion for a certificate of appealability to the Ninth Circuit.[83]

As of 2009, Spector is serving his sentence at the California Health Care Facility, California State Prison (Stockton, California).[84] He will be 88 years old before becoming eligible for parole.[5][85]

Film inspired by the case[edit]

Phil Spector, a 2013 HBO film written and directed by David Mamet and starring Al Pacino as Spector and Dame Helen Mirren, depicted a fictionalized account of the murder and trials.[86] The film drew criticism from Clarkson's family and friends, who charged that the suicide defense was given more merit than it deserved, and also from Spector's wife, who argued that Spector was portrayed as a "foul-mouthed megalomaniac" and a "minotaur".[87][88]

Personal life[edit]

Spector's first marriage was to Annette Merar, lead vocalist of the Spectors Three, a 1960s pop trio formed and produced by Spector. His second marriage was to Veronica Bennett, later known as Ronnie Spector.[89] Ronnie was the lead singer of the girl group, the Ronettes (another group Spector managed and produced). Their marriage lasted from 1968 to 1974. They adopted three children, Donté Phillip Spector (born March 23, 1969), Louis Phillip Spector, and Gary Phillip Spector (twins, both born May 12, 1966).

In the 1980s, Spector had twin children with then-girlfriend Janis Zavala: Nicole Audrey Spector and Phillip Spector, Jr. (born October 18, 1982). Phillip Jr. died of leukemia on December 25, 1991.[90]

On September 1, 2006, Spector married his third wife, Rachelle Short.[91][better source needed]

Health and illness[edit]

In the first criminal trial for the Clarkson murder, defense expert Vincent DiMaio asserted that Spector may be suffering from Parkinson's disease, stating, "Look at Mr. Spector. He has Parkinson's features. He trembles."[92]

Department of Corrections photos from 2013 (released in September 2014) show evidence of a progressive deterioration in Spector's health, according to observers.[93][94] He has been an inpatient in the California Health Care Facility in Stockton since October 2013.[95] In September 2014, it was reported that Spector had lost his ability to speak due to laryngeal papillomatosis.[95][96]


See also: Philles Records


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • In pictures: Phil Spector. Los Angeles Times photo gallery of Phil Spector during the Clarkson trials and through the decades (May 29, 2009)