Jailed Wall of Sound producer Phil Spector dies of COVID after relapsing four weeks after diagnosis and 12 years into 19-year sentence for shooting dead hostess at his LA mansion

By Marlene Lenthang For Dailymail.com

Revolutionary and controversial music producer Phil Spector has died from COVID-19 related complications at the age of 81. Spector was diagnosed with COVID four weeks ago and was transferred from his prison cell at California Health Care Facility in Stockton, where he was serving a 19 years-to-life sentence for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson, to a hospital. He recovered enough to return to jail but he relapsed and struggled with breathing and returned to a hospital where he died Saturday, as per TMZ. The California Department of Corrections confirmed his passing and he was pronounced dead of natural causes at 6.35pm Saturday. A medical examiner will determine his exact cause of death. 

Music producer Phil Spector died Satruday from COVID-19 related complications at the age of 81. Pictured in court in February 2004 in California

Music producer Phil Spector died Satruday from COVID-19 related complications at the age of 81. Pictured in court in February 2004 in California 

Spector was diagnosed with COVID four weeks ago and was transferred from his prison cell at California Health Care Facility, where he was serving a 19 years-to-life sentence for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson, to a hospital. He recovered enough to return to jail but he relapsed and struggled with breathing and returned to a hospital where he died Saturday. Spector pictured in Los Angeles court in May 2005

Spector was diagnosed with COVID four weeks ago and was transferred from his prison cell at California Health Care Facility, where he was serving a 19 years-to-life sentence for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson, to a hospital. He recovered enough to return to jail but he relapsed and struggled with breathing and returned to a hospital where he died Saturday. Spector pictured in Los Angeles court in May 2005. The famed musician, born in the Bronx of New York City, developed the Wall of Sound a technique of that has a roaring effect, dubbed the ‘Wagnerian approach to rock ‘n’ roll,’ that was popular in the ’60s.  This was the first time the recording studio was used as an instrument itself. It works by having reverberating instruments and large ensembles play in unison to create a fuller, richer tone and nearly drown out vocals. Spector was the rare self-conscious artist in rock’s early years and cultivated an image of mystery and power with his dark shades and impassive expression. Tom Wolfe declared him the ‘first tycoon of teen.’ Bruce Springsteen and Brian Wilson openly replicated his grandiose recording techniques and wide-eyed romanticism, and John Lennon called him ‘the greatest record producer ever.’

Spector pictured in this mugshot dated November 19, 2019

Spector pictured in this mugshot dated November 19, 2019

Though musically he was often praised as a genius, he suffered from depression, drug and alcohol dependency and admitted to battling personal demons. In his last interview before going to jail he said: ‘I have devils inside that fight me. And I’m my own worst enemy.’ As his career progressed so did rumors about his use of guns before he was convicted of murder.  Spector was eight years old when his father killed himself and his mother moved their family to Los Angeles. He attended Fairfax High in 1954, where alumni included songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who would play an important role in his early career, according to Variety. He wrote, co-wrote and produced acts for the likes of the Ronettes, the Crystals, and Ike & Tina Turner.   He started his career by producing his first hit ‘To Know Him is To Love Him’ for his vocal trio the Teddy Bears when he was still in high school. It went to the top of the Billboard 100 in 1958. From there his career skyrocketed and he produced hits including ‘Be My Baby’ by the Ronnettes and ‘He’s a Rebel’ by The Crystals. In 1970 he produced the Beatles’ album Let It Be and several solo records for John Lennon and George Harrison.

Ronnie Spector and Phil were married from 1968 to 1974. He worked with her and her vocal trio The Ronettes. Pictured together recording in Los Angeles, California at Gold Star Studios in 1963. Together they adopted three children. But she divorced him after six years, claiming in a memoir that he held her prisoner in their mansion, where she said he kept a gold coffin in the basement and told her he would kill her and put her in it if she ever tried to leave him

Ronnie Spector and Phil were married from 1968 to 1974. He worked with her and her vocal trio The Ronettes. Pictured together recording in Los Angeles, California at Gold Star Studios in 1963. Together they adopted three children. But she divorced him after six years, claiming in a memoir that he held her prisoner in their mansion, where she said he kept a gold coffin in the basement and told her he would kill her and put her in it if she ever tried to leave him

Ronnie shared this tribute following his death saying: 'As I said many times while he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband...I still smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and always will. The music will be forever'+21

Ronnie shared this tribute following his death saying: ‘As I said many times while he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband…I still smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and always will. The music will be forever’

Spector pictured with Rachelle Short, his wife, in 2003. Six months before his first murder trial began, Spector married Rachelle Short, a 26-year-old singer and actress who accompanied him to court every day. He filed for divorce in 2016

Spector pictured with Rachelle Short, his wife, in 2003. Six months before his first murder trial began, Spector married Rachelle Short, a 26-year-old singer and actress who accompanied him to court every day. He filed for divorce in 2016

Spector pictured center with Beatles member George Harrison (right) listening to a master of his first solo album recording, which Spector produced, above in October 1970

Spector pictured center with Beatles member George Harrison (right) listening to a master of his first solo album recording, which Spector produced, above in October 1970

By the 70s he had produced 18 US Top 10 singles for various artists including Leonard Cohen, and the Ramones. Some of his top songs include ‘The Long and Winding Road’ by the Beatles in 1970 and ‘My Sweet Lord’ by George Harrison in 1970. Spector’s life took a darkening path in the late 70s onward. As a freelancer he produced Leonard Cohen’s 1977 album ‘Death of a Ladies’ man’ and during sessions he reportedly drew out a gun and pointed it at Cohen’s chest and said ‘I love you Leonard’ to which he replied, ‘I hope so, Phil.’ His last major production was The Ramones’ 1980 album ‘End of the Century.’

Spector pictured seated with The Ronettes in the 1960s

Spector pictured seated with The Ronettes in the 1960s

Phil Spector (in sunglasses) pictured with the Rolling Stones

Phil Spector (in sunglasses) pictured with the Rolling Stones Spector also had a memorable film role, a cameo as a drug dealer in the 1969 film 'Easy Rider'

Spector also had a memorable film role, a cameo as a drug dealer in the 1969 film ‘Easy Rider’ 

Spector pictured with his pop trio The Teddy Bears on their first album cover in 1959. Pictured with bandmates Mashall Lieb (left) and Anette Kleinbard (center)

Spector pictured with his pop trio The Teddy Bears on their first album cover in 1959. Pictured with bandmates Mashall Lieb (left) and Anette Kleinbard (center)

Rumors emerged that the band was held hostage in the studio by Spector with a gun during recording sessions.  Three decades later the band’s drummer Marky Ramone said: ‘The guns were there but he had a license to carry. We could have left at any time.’  Spector did little work after the early 80s and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. In 2009, after three decades in semi-retirement, he was convicted of Clarkson’s murder.

Phil Spector

Lana Clarkson

Lana Clarkson suffered a single gun-shot to the mouth and her teeth were found scattered over the carpet. Spector said he death was an accident but he was eventually found guilty of her murder in 2009

Where the murder took place: Clarkson was found dead in Phil Spector's hill top mansion called the 'Pyrenees Castle'. The Southern France -styled gated chateau sits on two-and-a-half acres of land in Alhambra, California

Where the murder took place: Clarkson was found dead in Phil Spector’s hill top mansion called the ‘Pyrenees Castle’. The Southern France -styled gated chateau sits on two-and-a-half acres of land in Alhambra, California

In 2003 actress Lana Clarkson was killed at Spector’s mansion in Alhambra, California.  On February 3, 2003 she had been working as a hostess at Sunset Strip’s House of Blues in West Hollywood when Spector urged her to accompany him home.  Then shortly after their arrival, a chauffeur reported Spector came out of the house holding a gun, blood on his hands, and told him, ‘I think I killed somebody’. The 40-year-old actress who starred in the cult film ‘Barbarian Queen’ was found dead, slumped in a chair suffering a single gunshot wound to the mouth with her broken teeth scattered across the carpet. Spector told Esquire Magazine in July 2003 that her death was an ‘accidental suicide’ and she ‘kissed the gun.’ In an emergency call from Spector’s home, the music virtuoso can be heard saying ‘I think I killed someone’. 

Spector and his attorney, Roger Rosen, right, leave Los Angeles Superior Court for a break during the start of jury selection in Spectors' murder trial on March 19, 2007

Spector and his attorney, Roger Rosen, right, leave Los Angeles Superior Court for a break during the start of jury selection in Spectors’ murder trial on March 19, 2007

An HBO docudrama has been made on the Clarkson case with Al Pacino starring as Spector

An HBO docudrama has been made on the Clarkson case with Al Pacino starring as Spector

According to witnesses Lana Clarkson (left and right) had agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to accompany Spector home from the Sunset Strip's House of Blues in West Hollywood, where she worked.

Shortly after their arrival to his home in the pre-dawn hours of Febuary 3, 2003, a chauffeur reported Spector came out of the house holding a gun, blood on his hands, and told him, 'I think I killed somebody.'

Lana Clarkson pictured above.

On February 3, 2003 she had been working as a hostess at Sunset Strip’s House of Blues in West Hollywood when Spector urged her to accompany him home. Then shortly after their arrival, a chauffeur reported Spector came out of the house holding a gun, blood on his hands, and told him, ‘I think I killed somebody’. In both of his trials – the first ending in a mistrial – jurors were taken to examine the murder scene. Spector was eventually convicted of her murder in 2009. He was supposed to be eligible for parole in 2024.  An HBO docudrama has been made on the Clarkson case with Al Pacino starring as Spector. 

Spector has been married three times. He was first married to Annette Merar in 1963.  Then he was married Ronnie Spector, who fronted the girl group the Ronettes, from 1968 to 1974. The couple adopted three children. However, she divorced him after six years, claiming in a memoir that he held her prisoner in their mansion, where she said he kept a gold coffin in the basement and told her he would kill her and put her in it if she ever tried to leave him. Ronnie shared this tribute following his death saying: ‘As I said many times while he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband…I still smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and always will. The music will be forever.’ In 1982 Spector dated Janis Lynn Zavala and the couple had twins, Nicole and Phillip Jr. The boy died at age 10 of leukemia. Six months before his first murder trial began, Spector married Rachelle Short, a 26-year-old singer and actress who accompanied him to court every day. He filed for divorce in 2016.  He is survived by his wife Rachelle, and his three children adopted during his marriage to Ronnie Spector and a daughter by his ex-girlfriend Janis Zavala.   In an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2003 he admitted to battling with inner demons. ‘I’m probably relatively insane. I’m my own worst enemy,’ he said. Phil Spector: How the musical genius skyrocketed to fame in his youth, became a prolific producer, and ended up jailed for murder . Phil Spector, the eccentric and revolutionary music producer who transformed rock music with his Wall of Sound method and who later was convicted of murder, has died. He was 81.

Spector had been hailed as a visionary for channeling Wagnerian ambition into the three-minute song, creating the ‘Wall of Sound’ that merged spirited vocal harmonies with lavish orchestral arrangements to produce such pop monuments as ‘Da Doo Ron Ron,’ ‘Be My Baby’ and ‘He’s a Rebel.’ The secret to his sound: an overdubbed onslaught of instruments, vocals and sound effects that changed the way pop records were recorded. He called the result, ‘Little symphonies for the kids.’ By his mid-20s his ‘little symphonies’ had resulted in nearly two dozen hit singles and made him a millionaire. ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,’ the operatic Righteous Brothers ballad which topped the charts in 1965, has been tabulated as the song most played on radio and television – counting the many cover versions – in the 20th century. But thanks in part to the arrival of the Beatles, his chart success would soon fade. When ‘River Deep-Mountain High,’ an aptly-named 1966 release that featured Tina Turner, failed to catch on, Spector shut down his record label and withdrew from the business for three years. He would go on to produce the Beatles and Lennon among others, but he was now serving the artists, instead of the other way around. In 1969, Spector was called in to salvage the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ album, a troubled ‘back to basics’ production marked by dissension within the band. Although Lennon praised Spector´s work, bandmate Paul McCartney was enraged, especially when Spector added strings and a choir to McCartney’s ‘The Long and Winding Road.’

Record producer Phil Spector is seen in this 1989 file photo

Record producer Phil Spector is seen in this 1989 file photo

Years later, McCartney would oversee a remastered ‘Let it Be,’ removing Spector´s contributions. A documentary of the making of Lennon’s 1971 ‘Imagine’ album showed the ex-Beatle clearly in charge, prodding Spector over a backing vocal, a line none of Spector´s early artists would have dared cross. Spector worked on George Harrison’s acclaimed post-Beatles triple album, ‘All Things Must Pass,’ co-produced Lennon’s ‘Imagine,’ and the less successful ‘Some Time in New York City,’ which included Spector’s picture over a caption that read, ‘To Know Him is to Love Him.’ Spector also had a memorable film role, a cameo as a drug dealer in ‘Easy Rider.’ The producer himself was played by Al Pacino in a 2013 HBO movie.

The volume, and violence, of Spector’s music reflected a dark side he could barely contain even at his peak. He was imperious, temperamental and dangerous, remembered bitterly by Darlene Love, Ronnie Spector and others who worked with him. Years of stories of his waving guns at recording artists in the studio and threatening women would come back to haunt him after Clarkson´s death. According to witnesses she had agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to accompany him home from the Sunset Strip´s House of Blues in West Hollywood, where she worked Shortly after their arrival in Alhambra in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 3, 2003, a chauffeur reported Spector came out of the house holding a gun, blood on his hands, and told him, ‘I think I killed somebody.’

He would later tell friends Clarkson had shot herself. The case was fraught with mystery, and it took authorities a year to file charges. In the meantime, Spector remained free on $1 million bail. When he was finally indicted for murder, he lashed out at authorities, angrily telling reporters: ‘The actions of the Hitler-like DA and his storm trooper henchmen are reprehensible, unconscionable and despicable.’ As a defendant, his eccentricity took center stage. He would arrive in court for pretrial hearings in theatrical outfits, usually featuring high-heeled boots, frock coats and wildly styled wigs. He arrived at one hearing in a chauffeur-driven stretch Hummer. Once the 2007 trial began, however, he toned down his attire. It ended in a 10-2 deadlock leaning toward conviction. His defense had argued that the actress, despondent about her fading career, shot herself through the mouth. A retrial got underway in October 2008.

Spector pictured lounging in a recording studio in 1970

Spector pictured lounging in a recording studio in 1970

Harvey Phillip Spector, in his mid-60s when he was charged with murder, had been born on Dec. 26, 1939, in New York City’s borough of the Bronx. Bernard Spector, his father, was an ironworker. His mother, Bertha, was a seamstress. In 1947, Spector´s father committed suicide because of family indebtedness, an event that would shape his son´s life in many ways. Four years later, Spector´s mother moved the family to Los Angeles, where Phil attended Fairfax High School, located in a largely Jewish neighborhood on the edge of Hollywood. For decades the school has been a source of future musical talent. At Fairfax, Spector performed in talent shows and formed a group called the Teddy Bears with friends. He was reserved and insecure, but his musical abilities were obvious. He had perfect pitch and easily learned to play several instruments. He was just 17 when his group recorded its first hit single, a romantic ballad written and produced by Spector that would become a pop classic: ‘To Know Him is to Love Him, was inspired by the inscription on his father’s tombstone. A short, skinny kid with big dreams and growing demons, Spector went on to attend the University of California, Los Angeles for a year before dropping out to return to New York. He briefly considered becoming a French interpreter at the United Nations before falling in with the musicians at New York’s celebrated Brill Building. The Broadway edifice was then at the heart of popular music´s Tin Pan Alley, where writers, composers, singers and musicians turned out hit songs. He began working with star composers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who had met at Fairfax High a few years before Spector arrived. Ultimately, he found his niche in producing. During this period he also co-wrote the hit song, ‘Spanish Harlem, with Ben E. King, and played lead guitar on the Drifters’ ‘On Broadway.’

Spector pictured in a mugshot in October 2013

Spector pictured in a mugshot in October 2013

‘I had come back to New York from California where there were all these green lawns and trees, and there was just this poverty and decay in Harlem,’ he would recall later. ‘The song was an expression of hope and faith in the young people of Harlem … that there would be better times ahead.’ For a time he had his own production company, Philles Records, with partner Lester Silles, where he developed his signature sound. He assembled such respected studio musicians as arranger Jack Nitzsche, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, pianist Leon Russell and drummer Hal Blaine, and gave early breaks to Glen Campbell, Sonny Bono and Bono’s future wife, Cher. In the early 1960s, he had hit after hit and one notable flop: the album ‘A Christmas Gift to You,’ released, tragically, on Nov. 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated, the worst possible time for such a joyous record. ‘A Christmas Gif’ featuring the Ronettes singing ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and Love’s version of ‘White Christmas,’ is now considered a classic and a perennial radio favorite during the holiday season. Spector’s domestic life, along with his career, eventually came apart. After his first marriage, to Annette Merar, broke up, Ronettes leader singer Ronnie Bennett became his girlfriend and muse. He married her in 1968 and they adopted three children. But she divorced him after six years, claiming in a memoir that he held her prisoner in their mansion, where she said he kept a gold coffin in the basement and told her he would kill her and put her in it if she ever tried to leave him. When the Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, Spector sent along his congratulations. But in an acceptance speech by his ex-wife, she never mentioned him while thanking numerous other people.

Darlene Love also feuded with him, accusing Spector of failing to credit her for her vocals on ‘He’s a Rebel’ and other songs, but she did praise him when inducted into the Hall. Spector himself became a Hall member in 1989. As his marriages deteriorated, recording artists also began to quit working with Spector and musical styles passed him by. He preferred singles to albums, calling the latter, ‘Two hits and 10 pieces of junk.’ He initially refused to record his music in multichannel stereo, claiming the process damaged the sound. A Spector box set retrospective was called ‘Back to Mono.’ By the mid-1970s, Spector had largely retreated from the music business. He would emerge occasionally to work on special projects, including Leonard Cohen’s album, ‘Death of a Ladies’ Man’ and The Ramones’ ‘End of the Century.’ Both were marred by reports of Spector’s instability. In 1973, Lennon worked on an album of rock n roll oldies with Spector, only to have Spector disappear with the tapes. The finished work, ‘Rock n Roll,” didn’t come out until 1975. In 1982 Spector married Janis Lynn Zavala and the couple had twins, Nicole and Phillip Jr. The boy died at age 10 of leukemia. Six months before his first murder trial began, Spector married Rachelle Short, a 26-year-old singer and actress who accompanied him to court every day. He filed for divorce in 2016. In a 2005 court deposition, he testified that he had been on medication for manic depression for eight years. ‘No sleep, depression, mood changes, mood swings, hard to live with, hard to concentrate, just hard – a hard time getting through life. I’ve been called a genius and I think a genius is not there all the time and has borderline insanity.’


The gun-mad pop genius who died a killer in jail: Phil Spector, who has succumbed to Covid aged 81, was the iconic producer behind some of the greatest hits ever. But he was also a terrifying and deranged monster…

By Christopher Stevens for Daily Mail

Phil Spector created the greatest pop music ever recorded. Hear his songs once and their dense, immense sound, layered with countless harmonies, is unforgettable – Be My Baby by The Ronettes or River Deep, Mountain High by Ike and Tina Turner. Of all the giant hits throughout the Sixties produced by Spector, with his hallmark ‘Wall of Sound’, perhaps the finest is You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ by the Righteous Brothers.

Spector, who died yesterday aged 81 from complications linked to a Covid infection, has been acknowledged in the music business for six decades as a genuine genius. Yet for almost as long, he has been regarded as the most hated man in pop: a thug, a bullying control freak, an alcoholic, a gun nut, a monster… and a murderer. When he died, he was serving a jail sentence of 19 years to life for the killing of an actress at his California home.

Phil Spector (pictured in 1978) , who died yesterday aged 81 from complications linked to a Covid infection, created the greatest pop music ever recorded

Phil Spector (pictured in 1978) , who died aged 81 from complications linked to a Covid infection, created the greatest pop music ever recorded

Spector claimed Lana Clarkson was playfully kissing the barrel of his revolver when it was accidentally discharged, in 2003. A pathologist found bruising on the 40-year-old’s tongue, indicating the weapon was forced into her mouth.  After a murder hearing ended in a mistrial in 2007, Spector was found guilty two years later of second degree murder, the US term for manslaughter. Few who knew the producer were surprised. He had a reputation for gunplay in the recording studio, threatening musicians and stars at pistol point if they failed to obey his instructions to the note. Songwriter Leonard Cohen, who recorded with Spector in 1977, said that during one late-night session, an argument about the phrasing of a line became so acrimonious that the producer marched out of his booth and held a gun to Cohen’s head until he performed it to his liking. That wasn’t the only time the Canadian singer and poet found himself a heartbeat away from being shot. 

Phil Spector seated in the courtroom on March 23 2009, the last day of the prosecution rebuttal in the case of People v Phil Spector

Phil Spector seated in the courtroom on March 23 2009, the last day of the prosecution rebuttal in the case of People v Phil Spector

On another night, Spector weaved across the studio with a pistol in one hand and a bottle of red wine in the other. He flung an arm across Cohen’s shoulder, pulled him tight and shoved the gun barrel against his neck. ‘I love you, Leonard,’ he said. ‘I hope you do,’ Cohen replied. Cohen was not the only one unnerved by the svengali’s habit of pointing weapons at anyone who displeased him, included John Lennon and The Ramones.

Lennon was recording his 1975 covers album Rock ‘n’ Roll when Spector pulled his revolver from its hip holster and fired a shot inches from the ex-Beatle’s head, into the control room ceiling. A shaken Lennon snapped: ‘Phil, if you’re going to kill me, kill me. But don’t fuck with my ears. I need them.’ Punk bass player Dee Dee Ramone tried to leave the studio after a 12-hour session during which Spector refused to record anything but one chord, played endlessly. The producer aimed his revolver at the bassist’s chest – then deftly stripped and reassembled the gun without ever breaking eye contact. It sometimes seemed that Spector had pulled a gun on every leading artiste in the business. 

Spector had a habit of pointing weapons at anyone who displeased him, included John Lennon and The Ramones. Pictured: Phil Spector with John Lennon

Spector had a habit of pointing weapons at anyone who displeased him, included John Lennon and The Ramones. Pictured: Phil Spector with John Lennon

When Blondie’s Debbie Harry approached him about producing a comeback album for her, he took out a handgun, stuck it into the top of her boot and said: ‘Bang!’ After that, Harry said, she couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. Spector claimed his obsession with firearms began in his teens, after he was beaten up by a gang. The guns were for protection, he said. But that was far too simple an answer for a man of deep and complex insecurities, who wore two-inch heels to boost his 5’5” height and took medication for schizophrenia even though he had not been diagnosed with the illness. Days before the killing of Lana Clarkson, he gave his first interview for 25 years and blamed his mental instability on the fact that his parents were first cousins. ‘I would say I’m probably relatively insane, to an extent,’ he said. ‘I have a bipolar personality which is strange. I’m my own worst enemy.’ Born in New York on Boxing Day, 1940, he moved with his family to Los Angeles as a toddler. 

Phil Spector (sitting) with George Harrison and the Ronettes

Phil Spector (sitting) with George Harrison and the Ronettes

Tragedy struck when he was eight: his father Ben set off for work as usual one morning, but pulled off the road, fed a hosepipe from the exhaust to the driver’s window, and gassed himself to death. Ben’s gravestone bore the words: ‘To know him was to love him’. Lying in bed and grieving, the boy heard the line in his mind as the refrain of a song.  He formed a high school rock ‘n’ roll band, The Teddy Bears, and recorded it, landing his first No1 hit in 1958. The song became a cover favourite, recorded by artists from Nancy Sinatra and Emmylou Harris to The Beatles and Amy Winehouse. Spector sang harmonies on that original version, but he soon realised his talent was for shaping sounds, not making them.  After a brief career as a Tin Pan Alley songwriter (co-writing Spanish Harlem, a hit for Cliff Richard and Ben E King), he set up a record company to develop his distinctive, symphonic soundscape – a densely-packed tsunami of music, as if three orchestras and a choir were combining. Soon he was a phenomenon, the producer as star-maker, dubbed ‘the first tycoon of teen’ by journalist Tom Wolfe. He began with The Crystals, a gospel-influenced girl group with a string of hits: He’s A Rebel, Da Doo Ron Ron, Then He Kissed Me. Aged 22, he signed The Ronettes. Their lead singer was a statuesque woman with beehive hair and eyeliner like an Egyptian queen. Her name was Ronnie Bennett and Spector became obsessed with her.  They recorded Be My Baby, the song becoming mixed up with the producer’s all-consuming sexual passion for the singer. In bed, he kept leaping up every two minutes and 45 seconds, to put the single on again. Ronnie didn’t realise at first that Spector was already married, to Annette Merar. When she noticed women’s clothes at his home, he told her they belonged to his sister.

The Colt revolver found near Lana Clarkson's body is seen here in an evidence photo presented during the trial

The Colt revolver found near Lana Clarkson’s body is seen here in an evidence photo presented during the trial

He insisted on keeping their affair secret, which caused an embarrassing incident at a New York hotel when the house detective assumed Ronnie was a prostitute and tried to throw her out. A ferociously jealous man, Spector landed The Ronettes a gig as the support act on a Rolling Stones tour – then forced the band’s management to sign legal papers pledging that Mick Jagger and the other Stones would not fraternise or even speak with the girl band. Ronnie eventually married Spector in 1968 after divorcing his first wife – when his greatest success was already over – and his eccentricities were multiplying. His Wall of Sound reached its zenith with You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ and another Righteous Brothers classic, Unchained Melody (though pop historians argue over whether he really did produce that song, originally destined to be a B-side). When River Deep, Mountain High by the Turners flopped on its first release in 1966, an aggrieved Spector retreated to his Hollywood mansion, filling it with memorabilia. For most of the rest of his life, he favoured early-Sixties styles, including a velvet jacket and elevator boots. He wore toupees and, following a car accident that threw him through the windscreen and left his scalp scarred, a series of bizarre wigs fixed in place with extra-strong glue. At night, Ronnie said, the bedroom reeked of solvent.

Lana Clarkson who was foundshot dead inside Phil Spector's house in LA

Lana Clarkson who was foundshot dead inside Phil Spector’s house in LA

Ronnie was forbidden to have friends. He kept her ‘as a beautiful object,’ said one friend. She couldn’t bear children, so he ordered her to wear a cushion under her dress and fake pregnancies, before adopting three babies including a pair of twins. Their nine-bedroom house, known as Pyrenees Castle, was surrounded by chain-link fences, with guard dogs roaming the grounds. On rare occasions when she was allowed out alone, she had to keep a mannequin dressed up as Spector on the passenger seat of her car – to deter rapists, he said. After a terrifying row in 1972, she announced she was going shopping with her mother. Instead she dashed to LA airport and took the first flight to New York. ‘I knew if I didn’t leave, I was going to die there,’ she said. Spector went on to marry again, briefly, in the Eighties. Despite his unhinged behaviour, many musicians regarded him as a mercurial genius. In 1968, John Lennon and George Harrison asked him to dust his magic brush over the disjointed Let It Be sessions – although Paul McCartney never did forgive Spector for over-dubbing a full orchestra on to his ballad, The Long And Winding Road. Stories of his strangeness became legend. One journalist, invited to his house, was shown into a blacked-out room by a servant and told to wait. The man sat in darkness for two hours, until he could stand it no longer and opened a curtain. The first chink of light revealed Spector in an armchair. He had been there, motionless and silent, the whole time. In 2003, he met an out-of-work actress at the House of Blues club in Hollywood and tried to befriend her, plying her with drink. She told him her name was Lana, that she was a Marilyn Monroe fan, that she was six feet tall, that she had a bit part in the Al Pacino movie, Scarface. They went back to his mansion. Previous visitors to the house later told the trial that Spector sometimes tried to prevent people from leaving by force, locking doors and waving guns. Exactly how Lana died will never be known, but Spector called a friend in panic and said: ‘I think I killed somebody.’ The first trial, at which the producer was represented by a ‘dream team’ of attorneys and forensics experts from the OJ Simpson trial, ended in deadlock, with the jury divided. During the hearing, Spector sported a huge Afro hairstyle. At the second, which lasted six months, he opted for a blond Beatle wig. The jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to a minimum of 19 years. Yet that was not the end of his bizarrely intertwined romances and musical career. In 2003, shortly after killing Miss Clarkson, he met a 22-year-old waitress and aspiring singer called Rachelle Short. He attempted to launch her as a star and, when that failed, made her his fourth wife in 2006. After he was jailed, she went on an alleged spending spree that included a private plane, an Aston Martin and a Ferrari, jewellery and properties. Spector filed for divorce in 2016 and agreed to put Pyrenees Castle up for sale at £4million, splitting the proceeds with his ex. Their divorce was finalised in 2019. The house where Lana Clarkson died is still on the market. Music’s 5’5” Mr Big and his array of wigs

Spector's headshot in 2009

And his mugshot in 2013

Hair today, gone tomorrow: Mugshots in 2009 and 2013 show the extent of  Spector’s hair loss

Spector's giant wig worn during his murder trial in 2005

The wig was toned down in 2007

Fuzz effect: Spector’s giant wig worn during his murder trial in 2005 was toned down in 2007

Spector also wore blond hairpieces inspired by the Fab Four during the trial

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Beatle mania: Spector also wore blond hairpieces inspired by the Fab Four during the trial


Who will get killer producer Phil Spector’s $50m fortune? Reclusive adopted children from his abusive marriage to Ronnie Spector and his writer daughter are in line for share of ‘the world’s most valuable song catalogue’

  • Music producer Phil Spector died from coronavirus complications last week
  • His four children, who he had with two wives, set to inherit $50million fortune
  • He contracted Covid-19 in prison, before going to hospital where he recovered
  • However, Spector relapsed and died on Saturday after returning to hospital 
  • He had been serving a 19 years-to-life sentence for the murder of Lana Clarkson 

By Sam Baker For Mailonline

Murderer Phil Spector’s four children are expected to be in line to receive shares of the killer’s fortune following his death in prison from coronavirus last week.

Spector, whose net worth is estimated to be around $50million thanks to royalties from hits including You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling was father to three adopted sons – Donte, and twins Gary and Lewis – with second wife singer Ronnie Spector. 

Ronnie has claimed that Phil adopted Gary and Lewis without her knowledge and surprised her with them as a ‘Christmas present’. 

And the twins, now in their fifties, have since accused the legendary producer of abusing them, and Donte claims he would lock them in their rooms like’ caged animals to be let out for Dad’s amusement’. 

Spector later had a twin son and a daughter with a woman called Janis Zavala. Their son Phillip Spector Jr died of leukemia in 1991 and their daughter Nicole is a 34-year-old writer and freelance journalist.   

The music producer had been serving a 19 years-to-life sentence for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 when he died of coronavirus after suffering breathing difficulties.

And his ex-wife Ronnie took to social media yesterday to pay a barbed tribute to Phil, describing him as ‘a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband’ after he abused her throughout their marriage from 1968-1974.

She has previously told how he kept her a prisoner in her own home – a Beverly Hills mansion surrounded by barbed wire and guard dogs – and even hid her shoes to prevent her from trying to run away. 

She said yesterday: ‘It’s a sad day for music and a sad day for me. When I was working with Phil Spector, watching him create in the recording studio, I knew I was working with the very best. 

Phil Spector's four children are expected to be in line to receive shares of the killer's $50million fortune following his death from coronavirus complications last week. Pictured: Spector's three adopted children Donte (right) and twins Gary and Louis (left)

In the 1980s Spector then began dating Janis Zavala with whom he had twins Nicole Audrey Spector (pictured) and Phillip Spector Jr who died of leukemia in 11991

Phil Spector’s four children are expected to be in line to receive shares of the killer’s $50million fortune following his death from coronavirus complications last week. Pictured: left Spector’s three adopted children Donte, and twins Gary and Louis (left). His daughter Nicole Audrey Spector is pictured right

Phil Spector (left) initially adopted three children with Ronnie Spector (right), who was the leader singer of the Ronettes, and who he was married to for six years

Phil Spector (left) initially adopted three children with Ronnie Spector (right), who was the leader singer of the Ronettes, and who he was married to for six yearsRonnie posted a barbed tribute to Spector on social media, calling him a 'brilliant producer, but a lousy husband'+13

Ronnie posted a barbed tribute to Spector on social media, calling him a ‘brilliant producer, but a lousy husband’

PHIL SPECTOR’S POP GENIUS SONGBOOK 

While the legendary producer’s fortune was down to a reported $50M at the time of his death, Spector was reported to still hold the publishing rights to some of pop music’s catchiest hits. 

While he never sold the rights to music written solo or with partners Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich before his death – anyone who comes to own the extensive catalogue would be in line for tens of millions of dollars of royalties a year. 

The jailed genius owned the rights or at least partial rights to 200 songs ranging from his chart-topper ‘To Know Him Is to Love Him’ – to his masterpiece – ‘River Deep Mountain High’ – sung by Tina Turner in 1966.

  • To Know Him Is To Love Him – The Teddy Bears – 1958
  • Be My Baby – The Ronettes – 1063
  • Da Doo Ron Ron – The Crystals – 1963
  • Then He Kissed Me – The Crystals – 1963
  • Chapel of Love – The Dixie Cups – 1964
  • You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – 1965 – The Righteous Brothers
  • Just Once In My Life – The Righteous Brothers – 1965
  • River Deep Mountain High – Ike And Tina Turner – 1966

Spector also famously produced ‘A Christmas Gift For You’ in 1963 which has become a staple of the Holiday Season and The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ album in 1970. 

Continuing to work with John Lennon and George Harrison – the producer also worked with 70s punk legends The Ramones.

‘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.’ 

Although Spector’s net worth at the time of his death was estimated to be around $50million, experts say this figure will be higher depending on how much he owns of ‘one of the most valuable song royalty catalogues in the world’. 

The royalties could be worth tens of millions of dollars a year because Spector still owned the rights or partial rights to hits including ‘River Deep Mountain High’ – sung by Tina Turner in 1966

Now, Spector’s four children, who he had across two of his three marriages, are set to inherit his vast fortune. 

The whereabouts of his three adopted sons with Ronnie is unknown, while Nicole is a journalist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and The Atlantic. 

The producer had a turbulent love live before he was convicted of murder in 2003.   

His first marriage was to Annette Merar who was a lead vocalist in the Spector’s Three which Phil created and produced in the 1960s.

However, during this marriage, he was having an affair with Veronica Bennett, later known as Ronnie Spector.

He divorced Merar in 1966 and married Ronnie two years later in 1968. 

Spector initially adopted three children with Ronnie, who was the leader singer of the Ronettes, and who he was married to for six years.

Ronnie has told how she and Phil adopted their son Donté Phillip Spector in 1970.

They met when Ronnie was working as a dancing girl with her sister and cousin, calling themselves the ‘Ronnettes’. 

Smitten Phil wrote the hit tune Be My Baby as a ‘love letter’ to her and the song – one of the first to feature Spector’s famous ‘wall of sound’ – went straight to the top of the charts and turned the Ronnettes into stars.

After they married, Phil exhibited increasingly bizarre behaviour.

He surprised her one Christmas by adopting twins Louis Phillip Spector and Gary Phillip Spector without telling her. 

‘We were in the car and all of a sudden we pull up to the mansion and there’s these twins running around – these blond-haired, blue-eyed twins,’ she told People.

‘I’m saying, “What’s this?” and he said, “Merry Christmas!”

‘No one wants live children as a surprise,’ Ronnie, said as she recalled the moment.

‘He never said, ‘Ronnie, what do you think we should do? Should we adopt twins? Everything was a surprise.’

Share Ronnie, pictured with her son Louis Spector, who claims he was abused by his father

Ronnie, pictured with her son Louis Spector, who claims he was abused by his father

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