The Good and The VERY Bad: The Death of Phil Spector

Phil Spector, who shaped many ’60s hits with his “Wall of Sound” production and whose dark side culminated in the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003, died Saturday at the age of 81 of COVID-related complications at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran, California.

As many of you know, Phil Spector was an incredibly problematic and complicated figure in music, but let’s get you caught up.

The Good:

  • Formed The Teddy Bears which released number-one hit “To Know Him Is to Love Him.”
  • Began in the production and recording business in 1960.
  • Cut the number-one hit “He’s a Rebel” with The Crystals in 1962.
  • Continued to produce music using his trademark “Wall of Sound” featuring large groups of musicians playing orchestrated parts.
  • Worked with the Beatles on “Let It Be” and John Lennon’s “Imagine."
  • Inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.


  • Spector’s mental health began to deteriorate in 1974 and he no longer produced many high profile albums. There are reports of him (particularly with he and John Lennon having a falling out), in which Phil regularly started brandishing a gun at studio sessions.
  • He had a car accident in 1974 with serious head injuries that required more than 300 stitches and reportedly led him to start wearing outlandish wigs.
  • Spector, while fading from the limelight, produced a handful of albums by Leonard Cohen and The Ramones. Both artists later claimed he had threatened them with bodily harm in the studio.
  • On February 3rd, 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was found shot dead in Spector's mansion in Alhambra, California. He claimed that the death was an "accidental suicide" and that she’d "kissed the gun.”
  • In September of 2007, the judge in the case declared a mistrial because of a hung jury -- which at the time was 10 to two for conviction.
  • He was convicted of second-degree murder in the re-trial in April 2009 and was sentenced to 19 years to life in the California state prison system.

After his death, his ex-wife Ronnie Spector said, quote, "He was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband." She's previously said he psychologically tormented her, imprisoned her inside his house, and threatened to kill her.

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