Phil Spector, Famed Music Producer and Convicted Murderer, Dies at 81.

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Phil Spector died yesterday. Almost from birth, he had a growing list of personal problems and issues. A damaged man unlikely to succeed, he was surely a failure.
Yet he will cast both a dark shadow and a legend of genius for as long as people listen to rock and roll. He had a great ear and a talent for bringing together the best artists, writers, engineers, arrangers and musicians of the day.

Below is the New York Times obituary.

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Mr. Spector with the Ronettes in 1963 at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, where he perfected the wall of sound.Credit...Ray Avery/Redferns, via Getty Images

Phil Spector, Famed Music Producer and Convicted Murderer, Dies at 81
Known for creating the ‘Wall of Sound,’ he scored hits with the Crystals, the Ronettes and the Righteous Brothers and was one of the most influential figures in popular music.
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Since 2009, Phil Spector had been serving a prison sentence for the murder of Lana Clarkson, a nightclub hostess he took home after a night of drinking in 2003.Credit...Pool Photo Al Seib/Getty Images
By William Grimes

  • Jan. 17, 2021Updated 5:51 p.m. ET
Phil Spector, one of the most influential and successful record producers in rock ’n’ roll, who generated a string of hits in the early 1960s defined by the lavish instrumental treatment known as the wall of sound, but who was sentenced to prison for the murder of a woman at his home, died on Saturday. He was 81.

The cause was complications of Covid-19, his daughter, Nicole Audrey Spector, said. He was taken to San Joaquin General Hospital in French Camp, Calif., on Dec. 31 and intubated in January, she said.

Mr. Spector had been serving a prison sentence since 2009 for the murder of Lana Clarkson, a nightclub hostess whom he had taken to his home after a night of drinking in 2003. The Los Angeles police found her slumped in a chair in the foyer, dead from a single bullet wound to the head.

Mr. Spector scored his first No. 1 hit when he was still in his teens. With the Teddy Bears, a group he formed with two school friends, he recorded the dreamy ballad “To Know Him Is to Love Him.” Released in August 1958, it sold more than a million records after the group appeared on the popular TV show “American Bandstand,” with Mr. Spector playing guitar and singing backup.

After learning the ropes as a record producer, Mr. Spector, the central figure in Tom Wolfe’s 1965 essay “The First Tycoon of Teen,” became a one-man hit factory. Between 1960 and 1965 he placed 24 records in the Top 40, many of them classics.

His 13 Top 10 singles included some of the quintessential “girl group” songs of the era: “He’s a Rebel,” “Uptown,” “Then He Kissed Me” and “Da Doo Ron Ron”by the Crystals, and “Be My Baby” and “Walking in the Rain” by the Ronettes.

For the Righteous Brothers he produced “Unchained Melody” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” a No. 1 hit that became the 20th century’s most-played song on radio and television, according to BMI.

Mr. Spector single-handedly created the image of the record producer as auteur, a creative force equal to or even greater than his artists, with an instantly identifiable aural brand.

“There were songwriter-producers before him, but no one did the whole thing like Phil,” the songwriter and producer Jerry Leiber told Rolling Stone in 2005. Mr. Leiber, who died in 2011, and Mr. Spector served a brief but crucial apprenticeship together at Atlantic Records.

Mr. Spector’s signature was the wall of sound, perfected at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, where he worked with the engineer Larry Levine, the arranger Jack Nitzsche and a team of musicians nicknamed the Wrecking Crew by Hal Blaine, one of their regular drummers.


“He added a drama to music that I don’t think existed before him,” the record producer Jimmy Iovine told Rolling Stone in 1990. “Making dark records and pop records are separate things. When you can combine the two worlds, you’ve achieved greatness. He not only achieved it, he basically invented it.”

Harvey Philip Spector was born on Dec. 26, 1939, to a lower-middle-class family in the Bronx. His father, Benjamin, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, was a union ironworker who committed suicide when Harvey was 8. (Mr. Spector hated his first name and went by Phil, adding an “l” to “Philip” as well.) The epitaph on his father’s tombstone, “To Know Him Was to Love Him,” found its way into Mr. Spector’s first hit.

His mother, Bertha, moved him and his sister, Shirley, to Los Angeles, where Bertha Spector worked as a seamstress and later a bookkeeper. After graduating from Fairfax High, he studied to be a court stenographer at Los Angeles City College.

After the Teddy Bears disbanded in 1959, Mr. Spector turned to producing and found a mentor in Lester Sill, who had helped Mr. Leiber and his partner, Mike Stoller, get started in the music business. Mr. Sill arranged for Mr. Spector to work with the two men at Atlantic Records, where their use of strings and heavy instrumentation became part of his repertoire.

While at Atlantic he played on sessions for the Coasters, LaVern Baker, and the Drifters. (He provided the guitar solo on the Drifters’ hit “On Broadway.”) He also helped write and produce Ben E. King’s hit “Spanish Harlem.”

He also produced two hit records on other labels, “Corinna, Corinna,” by Ray Peterson, and “Pretty Little Angel Eyes,” by Curtis Lee, a bland love song that he souped up by inserting the Halos, a Bronx doo-wop group, as backup.

Returning to Los Angeles, Mr. Spector worked with the Paris Sisters, a local trio, producing “I Love How You Love Me,” a feathery, echo-laden ballad with silky strings that rose to No. 5 on the charts.

Mr. Spector struck gold when he began working with the Crystals, a New York group that he signed to Philles Records, a label that he and the record executive Lester Sill created in 1961, fusing their first names. Mr. Spector bought out Mr. Sill a year later.

After “There’s No Other (Like My Baby)” and “Uptown” reached the Top 20, Mr. Spector was keen to have the Crystals record the Gene Pitney composition “He’s a Rebel” immediately. To speed things along, he enlisted the Blossoms, a well-known Los Angeles backup group, and recorded them under the Crystals name, with Darlene Wright (whose last name he changed to Love) on lead. The record became Philles’s first No. 1 hit.

With the Righteous Brothers, the wall of sound assumed towering heights, but Mr. Spector surpassed himself when he put Tina Turner in the studio in 1966 to record “River Deep, Mountain High,” which employed 21 musicians and an equal number of backup vocalists.

The record rose to the upper reaches of the British charts but flopped in the United States. Dismayed, Mr. Spector withdrew from the music business for several years and entered a decades-long decline marked by erratic behavior, often involving his extensive handgun collection, and heavy drinking.

An affair with the lead singer of the Ronettes, Veronica Bennett, known as Ronnie, led to the breakup of his marriage. His turbulent marriage to Ms. Bennett, chronicled in her 1990 memoir “Be My Baby,” ended in divorce.

“I loved him madly, and gave my heart and soul to him,” she said in a Facebook post on Sunday. “Unfortunately Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio. Darkness set in, many lives were damaged.”

From time to time Mr. Spector showed the magic touch. In 1969, working for A&M records, he coaxed a hit out of Sonny Charles and the Checkmates, an obscure Las Vegas lounge act, with “Black Pearl,” a socially conscious song in praise of Black women.

The breakup of the Beatles in 1970 gave him a brief second life. Allen Klein, their manager, asked him to deal with the unfinished recordings the group had made at Apple’s studios in London the previous January. The resulting album, “Let It Be,” led to a series of collaborations with Mr. Lennon and George Harrison.


For Mr. Lennon, he produced “Imagine” and, in part, “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” and “Rock ’n’ Roll.” He worked with Mr. Harrison on the album “All Things Must Pass” and “The Concert for Bangladesh,” a live triple album of the two charity concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York organized by Mr. Harrison in 1971 to aid refugees from the Bangladesh-Pakistan war.

“Let It Be” received mixed reviews and was thoroughly repudiated by Paul McCartney, who hated the lush choirs and heavy orchestration, especially on “The Long and Winding Road.” At his instigation, Apple Records produced a de-Spectorized version of the record, released in 2003 as “Let It Be . . . Naked.”

In the late 1970s, in recording sessions marked by more than the usual chaos, Mr. Spector produced the Ramones’ album “End of the Century” and Leonard Cohen’s “Death of a Ladies’ Man.” Neither album was successful.

Mr. Spector was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. A boxed set of his recordings from 1958 to 1969, “Phil Spector: Back to Mono,” was released by Phil Spector Records in 1991.

In addition to his daughter Nicole, survivors include his partner, Janis Zavala.

In the early hours of Feb. 3, 2003, Mr. Spector, after drinking heavily, drove to his home in Alhambra, Calif., with Lana Clarkson, a struggling actress he had just met at the House of Blues, where she worked as a hostess. His chauffeur, waiting behind the house, later testified that he heard a popping sound, after which Mr. Spector emerged, a revolver in his hand, and said, “I think I killed somebody.”

The police found Ms. Clarkson’s slumped in a chair in the foyer, fatally shot in the mouth with a single bullet.

Mr. Spector was charged with second-degree murder. His defense argued that Ms. Clarkson, depressed about her failed acting career, had committed suicide.

A first trial, in 2007, ended in a hung jury. Mr. Spector was retried in 2009 and found guilty. He received a sentence of 19 years to life, which he was serving at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton. Because of his declining health, he had been moved from the California State Prison in Corcoran in 2014.

Marie Fazio and Lauren Wolfe contributed reporting.
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/17/arts/music/phil-spector-dead.html
 
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This has certainly drummed up a debate over how to cover someone who had a massive achievement in their career versus awfulness in their personal life.

Well I say debate it really shouldn't be worded the way the BBC worded it anyway.

Just imagine.. "Oscar Pistorius, famed Paralympic runner and convicted murderer.."
 

UKMikey

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This has certainly drummed up a debate over how to cover someone who had a massive achievement in their career versus awfulness in their personal life.

Well I say debate it really shouldn't be worded the way the BBC worded it anyway.

Just imagine.. "Oscar Pistorius, famed Paralympic runner and convicted murderer.."
No doubt "the BBC" agreed which is why they changed it. Is it fair to judge them on a seconds old placeholder headline?
 
39,374
Yes, because
  1. They weren't the only ones who framed the news in that fashion when the story broke yesterday morning.
  2. It was particularly funny notwithstanding the above.
 
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Dotini

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Throughout his troubled youth and professional career, Spector was under the care of a psychiatrist. He did not use drugs of any kind, but was prone to severe bouts of alcohol abuse. There is simply no getting around the fact that whatever the merits and legacy of Phil Spector's highly influential musical productions, he was a dwarfish and misshapen misfit with personal issues and life tragedies (including the loss of his son) he could only occasionally deal with.

Being Jewish and undersized in the physique department, Spector was subject to taunts and abuse at school. He retreated into the study of music, particularly classical and jazz, as a release and a refuge. He took guitar lessons from Barney Kessel, a top jazz guitarist who later became part of the "Wrecking Crew". Kessel was one of the few people Spector was close to.


Barney-Kessel-at-the-White-House-2.jpg


Barney Kessel with the Carter’s at the White House 1981
 
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Dotini

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One of his few redeeming qualities was the promotion (some would say exploitation) of females and blacks as top recording artists and choristers into a huge proportion of his productions.

 
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This has certainly drummed up a debate over how to cover someone who had a massive achievement in their career versus awfulness in their personal life.

Definitely. There's a place for that discussion and it probably isn't in the headline, I semi-defended it earlier in this thread but on reflection I wish I hadn't. We had similar discussions about Michael Jackson too, and I guess the problem is that it would be impossible to eradicate popular things of cultural significance from the place where we are today, and so they remain and continue to be judged on their artistic merit or ongoing popularity. What's really difficult for society is navigating the path to separating an artist's de-merits from the art.
 

Dotini

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Definitely. There's a place for that discussion and it probably isn't in the headline, I semi-defended it earlier in this thread but on reflection I wish I hadn't. We had similar discussions about Michael Jackson too, and I guess the problem is that it would be impossible to eradicate popular things of cultural significance from the place where we are today, and so they remain and continue to be judged on their artistic merit or ongoing popularity. What's really difficult for society is navigating the path to separating an artist's de-merits from the art.

A big part of Spector's enduring artistic legacy arises from his production of the Ronettes recording of Be My Baby, one of the enduring, even expanding foundations of Spector's artistic merit and popularity. In 2017, Billboard named the song number 1 on their list of the "100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time".

"Be My Baby" is a song written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector. It was recorded on July 5, 1963 at Gold Star Studios Hollywood by American girl group the Ronettes and released as a single in August 1963 and later placed on their 1964 debut LP Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica. Ronnie Spector is the only Ronette to appear on the single; her future husband Phil produced their elaborately layered recording in what is now considered a quintessential example of his Wall of Sound production formula.

It is considered one of the best songs of the 1960s by NME, Time, and Pitchfork staff members.[1][2][3] In 1999, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[4] In 2004, the song was ranked 22 by Rolling Stone in its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and described as a "Rosetta stone for studio pioneers such as the Beatles and Brian Wilson," a notion supported by AllMusic who writes, "No less an authority than Brian Wilson has declared 'Be My Baby' the greatest pop record ever made—no arguments here."[5][6] In 2006, the Library of Congress honored the Ronettes' version by adding it to the United States National Recording Registry.[7] In 2017, Billboard named the song number 1 on their list of the "100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time".[8]

But Spector's obsession and subsequent incredibly abusive marriage with lead singer Veronica Bennet has a central place in his tragic legend.
She had a voice embodying both innocence and sexiness, a vibrato/tremolo that slashed through the Wall of Sound like a light saber. She had an on-stage look with a beehive hairdo and padded bra that gave every teenage boy a stiffy. After marriage, Spector cut her off from the world, kept shoeless and confined to his Dracula castle. No more recording, no more performing. Ronnie escaped this hell, but not before smoking, alcohol and drugs began to take a toll on her.

Ronnie Spector (Veronica Bennet)
RS5.JPG

His first marriage was to Veronica Bennet, daughter of an African-American–Cherokee mother and Irish-American father.
 

polysmut

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A big part of Spector's enduring artistic legacy arises from his production of the Ronettes recording of Be My Baby, one of the enduring, even expanding foundations of Spector's artistic merit and popularity. In 2017, Billboard named the song number 1 on their list of the "100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time".
It's one of my favourite pop songs. I first remember hearing it in the film Mean Streets.
 

Dotini

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It's one of my favourite pop songs. I first remember hearing it in the film Mean Streets.
It's one of my favorites, too. It was the opening number of the film Dirty Dancing. I've listened to dozens of covers on YouTube, but IMHO the original is unmatchable.
Instantly infectious and memorable, “Be My Baby” has been described as the “Record of the Century” and the “greatest pop record ever made.”
https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-recording-preservation-board/documents/BE MY BABY.pdf

The original recording has been altered in some instances to bring out the vocals or conversely the backing track. Below is an attempt to enhance the stereo imaging of what was recorded in mono to hear on that little AM radio in the center of your dashboard.

 
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BobK

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One of his few redeeming qualities was the promotion (some would say exploitation) of females and blacks as top recording artists and choristers into a huge proportion of his productions.



That piece (Black Pearl) is probably one of the best examples of Spector's trademark Wall of Sound.
 

Dotini

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I always thought that Veronica was the only Ronette who sang on the record? The wiki suggests so too, but I can't find a definitive answer.
Ronnie was indeed the only lead singer, per Mick Brown and other journalists. I think the Blossoms were on chorus, or maybe the Paris sisters, but it wasn't the other Ronettes. Cher I think played the castanets. Cher occasionally sang chorus at Gold Star with the Wrecking Crew in those days, but because her voice was so strong she was required to stand at the back or do percussion.
 
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Dotini

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Two great performances with reminiscences from Larry Levine and Stan Ross, Jeff Barry who co-wrote both songs. IMHO Phil Spector's greatest legacy. They are an eternal pleasure to both the ear and the soul.

The Crystals - Da Doo Ron Ron
The Ronettes - Be My Baby

 

Dotini

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Spector bio pt 3, the first hits in New York,



Collaboration with John Lennon, Beatles

 
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