Phil Spector

Phillip Harvey Spector (born Harvey Phillip Spector, December 26, 1939) is an American record producer, musician, and songwriter who developed the Wall of Sound, a music production formula he described as a Wagnerian approach to rock and roll. Spector was dubbed the "First Tycoon of Teen" by writer Tom Wolfe[1] and is acknowledged as one of the most influential figures in pop music history.[2] After the 1970s, Spector mostly retired from public life. In 2009, he was convicted of second-degree murder and has remained incarcerated since.[3]

Phil Spector
Spector in 2000
Background information
Birth nameHarvey Phillip Spector
Also known asPhil Harvey
Born (1939-12-26) December 26, 1939
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
OriginLos Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1958–2009
Associated acts

Born in the Bronx, Spector began his career in 1958 as co-founder, guitarist, and vocalist of the Teddy Bears, penning their US number-one single "To Know Him Is to Love Him". In 1960, he co-founded Philles Records, and at the age of 21, became the youngest ever US label owner to that point.[4] Over the next several years, he wrote, co-wrote, or produced records for acts such as the Ronettes and the Crystals, and later, John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles. He often employed what would become known as "the Wrecking Crew" as his de facto house band while collaborating with arranger Jack Nitzsche, engineer Larry Levine, and various Brill Building songwriters. Spector's other chart-topping singles include "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (co-written and produced for the Righteous Brothers, 1964), "The Long and Winding Road" (produced for the Beatles, 1970), and "My Sweet Lord" (produced for Harrison, 1970).

Spector is considered the first auteur among musical artists for the unprecedented freedom and control he had over every phase of the recording process. Additionally, he helped engender the idea of the studio as an instrument,[5] the integration of pop art aesthetics into music (art pop),[6] and the art rock genre.[7] His honors include the 1973 Grammy Award for Album of the Year for co-producing Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh (1971), a 1989 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a 1997 induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[8] In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Spector number 63 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".[9] According to BMI, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" is the song that received the most US airplay in the 20th century.[10]

By the mid-1970s, Spector had produced eighteen US Top 10 singles for various artists, but following work with Leonard Cohen, Dion DiMucci, and the Ramones, he remained largely inactive and affected by personal struggles.[11] In 2003, the actress Lana Clarkson was found dead from a bullet wound in Spector's home. He maintained to authorities and the media that she had accidentally shot herself. From 2007 to 2009, he was the subject of two trials, the second of which ended in a guilty verdict. He is serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life and will be eligible for parole in 2025.[12][13]



Harvey Phillip Spector was born on December 26, 1939[14][15][16][17][nb 1] to Benjamin and Bertha Spector, a first-generation immigrant Jewish family in the Bronx, New York City.[20][21][22] His father was an ironworker from Ukraine with the surname Spekter, which he later anglicized to Spector.[23] Spector's father died by suicide on April 20, 1949.[24] In 1953, his mother moved the family to Los Angeles where she found work as a seamstress.

1954–1959: Teenage performer and lyricist

Having learned to play guitar, Spector performed "Rock Island Line" in a talent show at Fairfax High School, where he was a student.[25] While at Fairfax, he joined a loose-knit community of aspiring musicians, including Lou Adler, Bruce Johnston, Steve Douglas, and Sandy Nelson, the last of whom played drums on Spector's first record release, "To Know Him Is to Love Him".[26]

With three friends from high school, Marshall Leib, Sandy Nelson, and Annette Kleinbard, Spector formed a group, the Teddy Bears. During this period, record producer Stan Ross—co-owner of Gold Star Studios in Hollywood—began to tutor Spector in record production and exerted a major influence on Spector's production style. In 1958, the Teddy Bears recorded the Spector-penned "Don't You Worry My Little Pet", which helped them secure a deal with Era Records.

At their next session, they recorded another song Spector had written—this one inspired by the epitaph on Spector's father's tombstone. Released on Era's subsidiary label, Dore Records, "To Know Him Is to Love Him" reached number one on Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on December 1, 1958,[27] selling over a million copies by year's end. It was the seventh number-one single on the newly formed chart. Following the success of their debut, the group signed with Imperial Records. Their next single, "I Don't Need You Anymore", reached number 91. They released several more recordings, including an album, The Teddy Bears Sing!, but failed to reach the top 100 in US sales. The group disbanded in 1959.[27]

1959–1969: Early success as a record producer

After the split, Spector's career quickly moved from performing and songwriting to production. While recording the Teddy Bears's album, he had met Lester Sill, a former promotion man who was a mentor to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. His next project, the Spectors Three, was undertaken under the aegis of Sill and his partner, Lee Hazlewood. In 1960, Sill arranged for Spector to work as an apprentice to Leiber and Stoller in New York. Ronnie Crawford would become Spector's first true recording artist and project as producer. Spector quickly learned how to use a studio. He co-wrote the Ben E. King Top 10 hit "Spanish Harlem" with Jerry Leiber and also worked as a session musician, most notably playing the guitar solo on the Drifters' song "On Broadway". His own productions during this time, while less conspicuous, included releases by LaVern Baker, Ruth Brown, and Billy Storm, as well as the Top Notes' original version of "Twist and Shout".[28]

Leiber and Stoller recommended Spector to produce Ray Peterson's "Corrina, Corrina", which reached number 9 in January 1961. Later, he produced another major hit for Curtis Lee, "Pretty Little Angel Eyes", which made it to number 7. Returning to Hollywood, Spector agreed to produce one of Lester Sill's acts. After both Liberty Records and Capitol Records turned down the master of "Be My Boy" by the Paris Sisters, Sill formed a new label, Gregmark Records, with Lee Hazlewood, and released it. It reached only number 56, but the follow-up, "I Love How You Love Me", was a hit, reaching number 5.

In late 1961, Spector formed a new record company with Lester Sill, who by this time had ended his business partnership with Hazlewood. Philles Records combined the names of its two founders. Through Hill and Range Publishers, Spector found three groups he wanted to produce: the Ducanes, the Creations, and the Crystals. The first two signed with other companies, but Spector managed to secure the Crystals for his new label. Their first single, "There's No Other (Like My Baby)" was a success, hitting number 20. Their next release, "Uptown", made it to number 13.

Spector continued to work freelance with other artists. In 1962, he produced "Second Hand Love" by Connie Francis, which reached #7. In the early 1960s, he briefly worked with Atlantic Records' R&B artists Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker. Ahmet Ertegün of Atlantic paired Spector with future Broadway star Jean DuShon for "Talk to Me", the B-side of which was "Tired of Trying", written by DuShon.

Spector briefly took a job as head of A&R for Liberty Records. It was while working at Liberty that he heard a song written by Gene Pitney, for whom he had produced a number 41 hit, "Every Breath I Take", a year earlier. "He's a Rebel" was due to be released on Liberty by Vikki Carr, but Spector rushed into Gold Star Studios and recorded a cover version using Darlene Love and the Blossoms on lead vocals. The record was released on Philles, attributed to the Crystals, and quickly rose to the top of the charts.

By the time "He's a Rebel" went to number 1, Lester Sill was out of the company, and Spector had Philles all to himself. He created a new act, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, featuring Darlene Love, Fanita James (a member of the Blossoms), and Bobby Sheen, a singer he had worked with at Liberty. The group had hits with "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" (number 8), "Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Heart" (number 38), and "Not Too Young to Get Married" (number 63). Spector also released solo material by Darlene Love in 1963. In the same year, he released "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes, which went to number 2.

The first time Spector put the same amount of effort into an LP as he did into 45s was when he utilized the full Philles roster and the Wrecking Crew to make what he felt would become a hit for the 1963 Christmas season. A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records was released a few days after the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963. [29]

On September 28, 1963, the Ronettes appeared at the Cow Palace, near San Francisco. Also on the bill were the Righteous Brothers. Spector, who was conducting the band for all the acts, was so impressed with Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield that he bought their contract from Moonglow Records and signed them to Philles. In early 1965, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" became the label's second number 1 single. Three more major hits with the duo followed: "Just Once in My Life" (number 9), "Unchained Melody" (number 4, originally the B-side of "Hung on You") and "Ebb Tide" (number 5). Despite having hits, he lost interest in producing the Righteous Brothers and sold their contract and all their master recordings to Verve Records. However, the sound of the Righteous Brothers' singles was so distinctive that the act chose to replicate it after leaving Spector, notching a second number 1 hit in 1966 with the Bill Medley–produced "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration".

During this period, Spector formed another subsidiary label, Phi-Dan Records, partly created to keep promoter Danny Davis occupied. The label released singles by artist including artist including Betty Willis, the Lovelites, and the Ikettes. None of the recordings on Phi-Dan were produced by Spector.[30]

The recording of "Unchained Melody", credited on some releases as a Spector production although Medley has consistently said he produced it originally as an album track,[31] had a second wave of popularity 25 years after its initial release, when it was featured prominently in the 1990 hit movie Ghost. A re-release of the single re-charted on the Billboard Hot 100, and went to number one on the Adult Contemporary charts. This also put Spector back on the U.S. Top 40 charts for the first time since his last appearance in 1971 with John Lennon's "Imagine", though he did have UK top 40 hits in the interim with the Ramones.

Spector's final signing to Philles was the husband-and-wife team of Ike and Tina Turner in 1966. Spector considered their recording of River Deep – Mountain High his best work,[32] but it failed to go any higher than number 88 in the United States. The single, which actually featured Tina but not Ike, was more successful in Britain, reaching number 3. Spector subsequently lost enthusiasm for his label and the recording industry. Already something of a recluse, he withdrew temporarily from the public eye, marrying Veronica "Ronnie" Bennett, lead singer of the Ronettes, in 1968. In 1967, Spector emerged briefly for a cameo as himself in an episode of I Dream of Jeannie and as a drug dealer in the film Easy Rider (1969).[33]

1970s: Comeback and Beatles collaborations

In 1969, Spector made a brief return to the music business by signing a production deal with A&M Records. A Ronettes single, "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered" flopped, but Spector returned to the Hot 100 with "Black Pearl", by Sonny Charles and the Checkmates, Ltd., which reached number 13. In 1970, Allen Klein, manager of the Beatles, brought Spector to England. While producing John Lennon's hit solo single "Instant Karma!", which went to number 3, Spector was invited by Lennon and George Harrison to take on the task of turning the Beatles' abandoned Get Back recording sessions into a usable album. He went to work, using many of his production techniques, making significant changes to the arrangements and sound of some songs.[34]

The resulting album, Let It Be, was a massive commercial success and topped the US and UK charts. The album also yielded the number 1 US singles "The Long and Winding Road" and "Let It Be", the latter a UK number 2 released two months ahead of the album; "Get Back", an international number 1, was issued in 1969, right after the original Get Back sessions. Spector's overdubbing of "The Long and Winding Road" infuriated its composer, Paul McCartney, especially since the work was allegedly completed without his knowledge and without any opportunity for him to assess the results.[34]

Lennon and George Harrison were satisfied with the results, and Let It Be led to Spector co-producing albums with both ex-Beatles. For Harrison's multiplatinum album All Things Must Pass (number 1, 1970), Spector provided a cathedral-like sonic ambience, complete with ornate orchestrations and gospel-like choirs. The LP yielded two major hits: "My Sweet Lord" (number 1) and "What Is Life" (number 10). That same year, Spector co-produced John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band (number 6) album. In 1971, Spector was named director of A&R for Apple Records. He held the post for only a year, but during that time he co-produced the single "Power to the People" with John Lennon (number 11), as well as Lennon's chart-topping album, Imagine. The album's title track hit number 3. With Harrison, Spector co-produced Harrison's "Bangla Desh" (number 23) and wife Ronnie Spector's "Try Some, Buy Some" (number 77). That same year Spector recorded the music for the number 1 triple album The Concert For Bangladesh. The album later won the "Album of the Year" award at the 1972 Grammys. Despite being recorded live, Spector used up to 44 microphones simultaneously to create his trademark Wall of Sound.

Lennon retained Spector for the 1971 Christmas single "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" and the poorly reviewed 1972 album, Some Time In New York City (number 48). Similar to the unusual pattern of success that Spector's A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records experienced, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" also stalled in sales upon its initial release, only later to become a fixture on radio station playlists around Christmas. In 1973, Spector participated in the recording sessions for what would be Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album (number 6).

He established the Warner-Spector label with Warner Bros. Records, which undertook new Spector-produced recordings with Cher, Darlene Love, Danny Potter, and Jerri Bo Keno. in addition to several reissues. A similar relationship with Britain's Polydor Records led to the formation of the Phil Spector International label in 1975. When the Cher and Keno singles (the latter's recordings were only issued in Germany) foundered on the charts, Spector released Dion DiMucci's Born to Be with You to little commercial fanfare in 1975; largely produced and recorded by Spector in 1974, it was subsequently disowned by the singer. In the 1990s and 2000s, the album enjoyed a resurgence among the indie rock cognoscenti.[35] The majority of Spector's classic Philles recordings had been out of print in the U.S. since the original label's demise, although Spector had released several Philles Records compilations in Britain. Finally, he released an American compilation of his Philles recordings in 1977, which put most of the better-known Spector hits back into circulation after many years.

1974–1980: Near-fatal accident, Cohen, and the Ramones

As the 1970s progressed, Spector became increasingly reclusive. The most probable and significant reason for his withdrawal, according to biographer Dave Thompson, was that in 1974 he was seriously injured when he was thrown through the windshield of his car in a crash in Hollywood. According to a contemporary report published in the New Musical Express, Spector was almost killed, and it was only because the attending police officer detected a faint pulse that Spector was not declared dead at the scene. He was admitted to the UCLA Medical Center on the night of March 31, 1974, suffering serious head injuries that required several hours of surgery, with over 300 stitches to his face and more than 400 to the back of his head.[36] His head injuries, Thompson suggests, were the reason that Spector began his habit of wearing outlandish wigs in later years.[37]

Spector began to reemerge later in the decade, producing and co-writing a controversial 1977 album by Leonard Cohen, entitled Death of a Ladies' Man. This angered many devout Cohen fans who preferred his stark acoustic sound to the orchestral and choral wall of sound that the album contains. The recording was fraught with difficulty. After Cohen had laid down practice vocal tracks, Spector mixed the album in studio sessions, rather than allowing Cohen to take a role in the mixing, as Cohen had previously done.[36] Cohen remarked that the end result is "grotesque", but also "semi-virtuous"—for many years, he included a reworked version of the track "Memories" in live concerts. Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg also participated in the background vocals on "Don't Go Home with Your Hard-On", which is the second time Spector indirectly "produced" Dylan—the first being Dylan's live recordings on The Concert for Bangladesh. [38]

Spector also produced the much-publicized Ramones album End of the Century in 1979. As with his work with Leonard Cohen, End of the Century received criticism from Ramones fans who were angered over its radio-friendly sound. However, it contains some of the best known and most successful Ramones singles, such as "Rock 'n' Roll High School", "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" and their cover of a previously released Spector song for the Ronettes, "Baby, I Love You."[39] Guitarist Johnny Ramone later commented on working with Spector on the recording of the album, "It really worked when he got to a slower song like 'Danny Says'—the production really worked tremendously. For the harder stuff, it didn't work as well."[40]

Rumors circulated for years that Spector had threatened members of the Ramones with a gun during the sessions. Dee Dee Ramone claimed that Spector once pulled a gun on him when he tried to leave a session.[41] Drummer Marky Ramone recalled in 2008, "They [guns] were there but he had a license to carry. He never held us hostage. We could have left at any time".[42][43]

1981–2003: Inactivity

Spector remained inactive throughout most of the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. He attempted to work with Céline Dion on her album Falling into You but fell out with her production team.[44] His most recent released project was Silence Is Easy by Starsailor, in 2003. He was originally supposed to produce the entire album, but was fired owing to personal and creative differences. One of the two Spector-produced songs on the album, the title track, was a UK top 10 single (the other single being "White Dove").[45]

2003–present: Murder conviction

On February 3, 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was killed in Spector's mansion (the Pyrenees Castle) in Alhambra, California. Her body was found slumped in a chair with a single gunshot wound to her mouth with broken teeth scattered over the carpet.[46] Spector told Esquire in July 2003 that Clarkson's death was an "accidental suicide" and that she "kissed the gun".[47] The emergency call from Spector's home, made by Spector's driver, Adriano de Souza, quotes Spector as saying, "I think I've killed someone".[47] De Souza added that he saw Spector come out of the back door of the house with a gun in his hand.[47]

Spector remained free on $1 million bail while awaiting trial, which began on March 19, 2007. Presiding Judge Larry Paul Fidler allowed the proceedings in Los Angeles Superior Court to be televised.[48] On September 26, 2007, Fidler declared a mistrial because of a hung jury (ten to two for conviction).[49][50]

Spector produced singer-songwriter Hargo's track "Crying for John Lennon", which originally appears on Hargo's 2006 album In Your Eyes,[51] but on a visit to Spector's mansion for an interview for the John Lennon tribute movie Strawberry Fields, Hargo played Spector the song and asked him to produce it. Spector and former Paul McCartney drummer Graham Ward produced it in the classic Wall of Sound style on nights after his first murder trial.[52]

In December 2007, the song "B Boy Baby" by Mutya Buena and Amy Winehouse featured melodic and lyrical passages heavily influenced by the Ronettes song "Be My Baby". As a result, Spector was given a songwriting credit on the single. The sections from "Be My Baby" are sung by Winehouse, not directly sampled from the mono single.[53] Winehouse referenced her admiration of Spector's work and often performed Spector's first hit song, "To Know Him Is to Love Him".[54] That same month, Spector attended the funeral of Ike Turner. In his eulogy, Spector criticized Tina Turner's autobiography as a "badly written" book that "demonized and vilified Ike" and Oprah Winfrey for promoting the book. Spector commented that "Ike made Tina the jewel she was. When I went to see Ike play at the Cinegrill in the 90s ... there were at least five Tina Turners on the stage performing that night, any one of them could have been Tina Turner."[55]

In mid-April 2008, BBC Two broadcast a special entitled Phil Spector: The Agony and the Ecstasy, by Vikram Jayanti. It consists of Spector's first screen interview—breaking a long period of media silence. During the conversation, images from the murder court case are juxtaposed with live appearances of his tracks on television programs from the 1960s and 1970s, along with subtitles giving critical interpretation of some of his song production values. While he does not directly try to clear his name, the court case proceedings shown try to give further explanation of the facts surrounding the murder charges leveled against him. He also speaks about the musical instincts that led him to create some of his most enduring hit records, from "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" to "River Deep, Mountain High", as well as Let It Be, along with criticisms he feels he has had to deal with throughout his life.[56]

The retrial of Spector for murder in the second degree began on October 20, 2008,[57] with Judge Fidler again presiding; this time it was not televised. Spector was once again represented by attorney Jennifer Lee Barringer.[58] The case went to the jury on March 26, 2009, and 18 days later, on April 13, the jury returned a guilty verdict.[59][60] Additionally, Spector was found guilty of using a firearm in the commission of a crime, which added four years to the sentence.[61] He was immediately taken into custody and, on May 29, 2009, was sentenced to 19 years to life in the California state prison system.[12]


Spector's early musical influences included Latin music in general, and Latin percussion in particular.[62] This is perceptible in many if not all of Spector's recordings, from the percussion in many of his hit songs: shakers, güiros (gourds) and maracas in "Be My Baby" and the son montuno in "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" (heard clearly in the song's bridge, played by session bassist Carol Kaye, while the same repeating refrain is played on harpsichord by Larry Knechtel).

Spector's trademark during his recording career was the so-called Wall of Sound, a production technique yielding a dense, layered effect that reproduced well on AM radio and jukeboxes. To attain this signature sound, Spector gathered large groups of musicians (playing some instruments not generally used for ensemble playing, such as electric and acoustic guitars) playing orchestrated parts—often doubling and tripling many instruments playing in unison—for a fuller sound. Spector himself called his technique "a Wagnerian approach to rock & roll: little symphonies for the kids".[63]

While Spector directed the overall sound of his recordings, he took a relatively hands-off approach to working with the musicians themselves (usually a core group that became known as the Wrecking Crew, including session players such as Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Steve Douglas, Carol Kaye, Roy Caton, Glen Campbell, and Leon Russell), delegating arrangement duties to Jack Nitzsche and having Sonny Bono oversee the performances, viewing these two as his "lieutenants".[64] Spector frequently used songs from songwriters employed at the Brill Building (Trio Music) and at 1650 Broadway (Aldon Music), such as the teams of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Gerry Goffin and Carole King. He often worked with the songwriters, receiving co-credit and publishing royalties for compositions.[65]

Despite the trend towards multichannel recording, Spector was vehemently opposed to stereo releases, claiming that it took control of the record's sound away from the producer in favor of the listener.[66] Spector was more concerned with the overall collage of sound than with the recording fidelity or timbral quality. Sometimes a pair of strings or horns would be double-tracked multiple times to sound like an entire string or horn section. But in the final product the background sometimes could not be distinguished as either horns or strings. Spector also greatly preferred singles to albums, describing LPs as "two hits and ten pieces of junk", reflecting both his commercial methods and those of many other producers at the time.[67]

Legacy and influence

Spector is often called the first auteur among musical artists[68][5] for acting not only as a producer, but also the creative director, writing or choosing the material, supervising the arrangements, conducting the vocalists and session musicians, and masterminding all phases of the recording process.[69] He helped pave the way for art rock,[7] and helped inspire the emergence of aesthetically oriented genres such as dream pop,[70] shoegaze,[5] and noise.[71] Among his famous girl groups were the Ronettes and the Crystals; later he worked with artists including Ike and Tina Turner, John Lennon and the Ramones with similar acclaim. He produced the Beatles' album Let It Be (1970), and Concert for Bangladesh (1971) by former Beatle George Harrison.[72] Later artists spanning many decades and genres have since cited Spector's work as a major influence.

His influence has been claimed by contemporary performers such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys,[73] and the Velvet Underground[74] alongside latter-day record producers such as Brian Eno and Tony Visconti.[75][76] Alternative rock performers Cocteau Twins,[77] My Bloody Valentine,[73] and the Jesus and Mary Chain[73] have all cited Spector as an influence. Shoegazing, a British musical movement in the late 1980s to mid-1990s, was heavily influenced by the Wall of Sound. Jason Pierce of Spiritualized has cited Spector as a major influence on his Let It Come Down album. Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream and the Jesus and Mary Chain has enthused about Spector, with the song "Just Like Honey" opening with an homage of the famous "Be My Baby" drum intro.[78]

Many have tried to emulate Spector's methods, and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys—a fellow adherent of mono recording—considered Spector his main competition as a studio artist. In the 1960s, Wilson thought of Spector as "... the single most influential producer. He's timeless. He makes a milestone whenever he goes into the studio."[79] Wilson's fascination with Spector's work has persisted for decades, with many different references to Spector and his work scattered around Wilson's songs with the Beach Boys and even his solo career. Of Spector-related productions, Wilson has been involved with covers of "Be My Baby", "Chapel of Love", "Just Once in My Life", "There's No Other (Like My Baby)", "Then He Kissed Me", "Talk to Me", "Why Don't They Let Us Fall in Love", "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "I Can Hear Music", and "This Could Be the Night".[80]

Johnny Franz's mid-1960s productions for Dusty Springfield and the Walker Brothers also employed a layered, symphonic "Wall of Sound" arrangement-and-recording style, heavily influenced by the Spector sound. Another example is the Forum, a studio project of Les Baxter, which produced a minor hit in 1967 with "River Is Wide". Sonny Bono, a former associate of Spector's, developed a jangly, guitar-laden variation on the Spector sound, which is heard mainly in mid-1960s productions for his then-wife Cher, notably "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)".

Bruce Springsteen emulated the Wall of Sound technique in his recording of "Born to Run".[81] In 1973, British band Wizzard, led by Roy Wood, had three Spector-influenced hits with "See My Baby Jive", "Angel Fingers" and "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday", the latter becoming a perennial Christmas hit.[81] Other contemporaries influenced by Spector include George Morton, Sonny & Cher, the Rolling Stones, the Four Tops, Mark Wirtz, the Lovin' Spoonful, and the Beatles.[81] Swedish pop group ABBA cited Spector as an influence, and used similar Wall of Sound techniques in their early songs, including "Ring Ring", "Waterloo", and "Dancing Queen". "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth", from Meat Loaf's 1977 Bat Out of Hell album is another example of the Wall of Sound technique. Jim Steinman and Todd Rundgren were inspired by Phil Spector's methods. The Knack recorded a tribute to Spector's Wall of Sound style with "The Feeling I Get" from their 1980 ...But the Little Girls Understand album.

The Los Angeles-based new wave band Wall of Voodoo takes their name from Spector's Wall of Sound.

Spector's influence is also felt in other areas of the world, especially Japan. City pop musicians Eiichi Ohtaki and Tatsuro Yamashita have both had numerous hit records heavily influenced by Spector and the Wall of Sound. Titular Shibuya-kei group Pizzicato Five also exuded the Wall of Sound in their early albums and singles.

  • I Dream of Jeannie (1967) From: "Jeannie, the Hip Hippie" - Season 3, Episode 6. Jeannie decides she wants to be a pop star and enlists Phillip Spector for help. Though referred to by the characters as Phil Spector he is credited as Steve Davis.
  • Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970): The character of Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell is based upon Spector, though neither Meyer nor screenwriter Roger Ebert had met him.[82]
  • Phantom of the Paradise (1974): The villainous character Swan (played by Paul Williams) was supposedly inspired by Spector. A music producer and head of a record label, Swan was named "Spectre" in original drafts of the film's screenplay.[83]
  • What's Love Got to Do with It (1993): Spector is portrayed by Rob LaBelle.
  • Grace of My Heart (1996): The film contains many characters based upon 1960s musicians, writers and producers including the character Joel Milner played by John Turturro (based on Spector).[84]
  • Metalocalypse (2006–13): The character Dick Knubbler is a parody of Spector, based on profession, appearance and record of assault.
  • A Reasonable Man (2009): Harv Stevens is reportedly based on Spector. The film examines his relationship with John Lennon.[85]
  • Phil Spector (2013): Spector is portrayed by Al Pacino.
  • Love & Mercy (2014): Spector is portrayed by Jonathan Slavin.[86] However, his scene was cut from the theatrical release.


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Grammy Awards US Album of the Year (The Concert for Bangladesh) 1971 *
Rolling Stone USA Greatest Artists of All Time 2004 63
Washington Times US Greatest Record Producers of All Time 2008 2

Spector is one of a handful of producers to have number one records in three consecutive decades (1950s, 1960s and 1970s). Others in this group include Quincy Jones (1960s, 1970s and 1980s), George Martin (1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s), Michael Omartian (1970s, 1980s and 1990s), and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (1980s, 1990s, and 2000s).[88][89]

Personal life

Relationships and children

Spector's first marriage was in 1963 to Annette Merar, lead vocalist of the Spectors Three, a 1960s pop trio formed and produced by Spector. He named a record company after her, Annette Records.[90]

While still married to Merar, he began having an affair with Veronica Bennett, later known as Ronnie Spector.[91] Bennett was the lead singer of the girl group the Ronettes (another group Spector managed and produced). They married in 1968 and adopted a son, Donté Phillip Spector (born March 23, 1969). For Christmas present, Spector surprised her by adopting twins Louis Phillip Spector and Gary Phillip Spector (born May 12, 1966).[92] Bennett alleged in her 1990 memoir, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness, that Spector had imprisoned her in his California mansion and subjected her to years of psychological torment. According to Bennett, Spector sabotaged her career by forbidding her to perform, and she escaped from the mansion barefoot with the help of her mother in 1972.[93][92] In their 1974 divorce settlement, she forfeited all future record earnings and surrendered custody of their children. She alleged that this was because Spector threatened to hire a hit man to kill her.[94]

Spector's sons Gary and Donté both stated that their father kept them captive as children, and they were forced to simulate sex acts with his girlfriend.[95][96]

In the 1980s, Spector had twin children with then-girlfriend Janis Zavala: Nicole Audrey Spector and Phillip Spector, Jr. (born October 18, 1982). Phillip Jr. died of leukemia on December 25, 1991.[97]

On September 1, 2006, Spector, while on bail and awaiting trial, married his third wife Rachelle Short, who was 26 at the time. Spector filed for divorce in April 2016, claiming irreconcilable differences.[98]

Health and illness

In the first criminal trial for the Clarkson murder, defense expert Vincent DiMaio asserted that Spector may be suffering from Parkinson's disease, stating, "Look at Mr. Spector. He has Parkinson's features. He trembles."[99]

Department of Corrections photos from 2013 (released in September 2014) show evidence of a progressive deterioration in Spector's health, according to observers.[100][101] He has been an inmate at the California Health Care Facility (a prison hospital) in Stockton since October 2013.[102] In September 2014, it was reported that Spector had lost his ability to speak, owing to laryngeal papillomatosis.[102][103]




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  1. Some sources cite 1940 as his year of birth.[18] He was enumerated in the April 1940 US Census.[19]


Further reading

  • In pictures: Phil Spector. Los Angeles Times photo gallery of Phil Spector during the Clarkson trials and through the decades (May 29, 2009)
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