Music Producer, Convicted Killer Phil Spector Dies At 81
Music producer, songwriter and convicted killer Phil Spector died Saturday at 81.
“California Health Care Facility inmate Phillip Spector was pronounced deceased of natural causes at 6:35 p.m. on Saturday, January 16, 2021, at an outside hospital,” read a statement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “His official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office.”
"It’s a sad day for music and a sad day for me," wrote his ex-wife, Ronettes singer Ronnie Spector, on Facebook. "When I was working with Phil Spector, watching him create in the recording studio, I knew I was working with the very best. He was in complete control, directing everyone. So much to love about those days.
"Meeting him and falling in love was like a fairytale. 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."
She added: "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."
Ronnie Spector revealed in her 1990 memoir that Spector kept her imprisoned in their home and subjected her to psychological abuse. As a surprise Christmas gift to her, he adopted two boys.
"He never said, 'Ronnie, what do you think we should do? Should we adopt twins?' Nothing! Everything was a surprise, and no woman wants live children as a surprise,” she told People in 2018. Those boys, Donte and Gary, later revealed they were also imprisoned at home and forced to perform simulated sex acts with their father's girlfriend.
“For years, we were just caged animals to be let out for Dad's amusement," Donte Spector told the Mail on Sunday in 2003.
Spector crafted a string of hits for acts like the Ronettes, Ike & Tina Turner, Darlene Love, the Righteous Brothers and the Crystals and produced the 1980 Ramones album End of a Century as well as the Beatles’ 1970 album Let It Be and several solo recordings by John Lennon and George Harrison.
Spector also worked with two Canadian artists. He co-wrote and produced Leonard Cohen's 1977 collection Death of a Ladies' Man, which was slammed by critics and fans. After Spector was fired as producer on Céline Dion’s 1996 album Falling Into You, he told EW that the work of the other producers – including Canada’s David Foster, Dan Hill and Aldo Nova – was “contrived and repugnant or nothing more than Whitney Houston- and Mariah Carey-rejected, soundalike songs … produced by amateurs, students and bad clones of yours truly.”
Spector was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997.
"When we went to Phil Spector's house in the 70s he came to the door holding a bottle of diet Manischewitz wine in one hand and a presumably loaded 45 automatic in the other," tweeted Blondie's Chris Stein. "Long story. I thought he was nuts."
In April 2009, Spector was convicted of fatally shooting actress Lana Clarkson six years earlier. He was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison. He would have been eligible for parole in 2024.
Spector was married three times and had twins in 1982 with girlfriend Janis Zavala (one died of cancer in 1991).
Guitarist Stevie Van Zandt tweeted: “A genius irredeemably conflicted, he was the ultimate example of the Art always being better than the Artist, having made some of the greatest records in history based on the salvation of love while remaining incapable of giving or receiving love his whole life.”
This article has been updated since it was first published.
Listen to music from Phil Spector