Phil Spector, the famed music producer and songwriter who was later convicted of murder, has died, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirmed. He was 81.
Officials said Spector died of natural causes Saturday at an outside hospital.
Back in 2003, Spector was convicted of shooting and killing actress Lana Clarkson at his mansion in Alhambra, California. In 2009, he was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison.
Dubbed “The First Tycoon of Teen,” Spector became famous for his pioneering and legendary “Wall of Sound” production method that helped shape pop music in the 1960s and remains influential to this day.
Born in The Bronx, New York, Spector first found success as a member of the pop-vocal group The Teddy Bears, who scored a #1 hit in 1958 with “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” which he wrote.
He soon began developing his skills as a record producer, and in 1961 he co-founded the Philles Records label. Spector began producing recordings for a series of popular artists, including Darlene Love and the all-female vocal groups The Crystals and The Ronettes, the latter of which was fronted by Phil’s future wife Ronnie Spector.
Among the memorable hits Spector produced were The Crystals’ 1962 chart-topper “He’s a Rebel” and 1963 smashes “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Then He Kissed Me,” and The Ronettes’ 1963 singles “Be My Baby” and “Baby, I Love You.”
Spector also produced one of the most beloved holiday albums of all time, 1963’s A Christmas Gift for You, which featured many now-classic renditions of holiday tunes recorded by four acts on the Philles label: The Ronettes, The Crystals, Love and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans.
In 1966, Spector produced and co-wrote The Righteous Brothers‘ enduring chart-topper “You’ve Lost that Loving Feelin."” That same year, Phil produced and co-wrote Ike & Tina Tunrer‘s “River Deep — Mountain High.”
His later album-production credits include The Beatles‘ Let It Be, George Harrison‘s All Things Must Pass, John Lennon‘s Imagine and Rock ‘n’ Roll, Leonard Cohen‘s Death of a Ladies’ Man and The Ramones‘ End of the Century.
Outside of his successful career in the music business, Spector apparently had a volatile personal life. He married Ronnie Spector in 1968, but the couple divorced in 1974. In her 1990 memoir, Be My Baby, Ronnie claimed that Phil was psychologically abusive and that he sabotaged her career by not allowing her to perform. Over the years, many artists accused Phil of erratic behavior, including multiple occasions where he threatened people with guns.
By Andrea Tuccillo, Andrea Dresdale and Matt Friedlander
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