As reported by Rolling Stone, music producer Phil Spector has died. Spector had been in prison since 2009 following his conviction for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, with California’s Department Of Corrections And Rehabilitation confirming his death “of natural causes” yesterday afternoon. He was 80.
During his career as a producer, Spector became famous for developing the “Wall Of Sound” technique with his “Wrecking Crew” of studio musicians that essentially boosted everything happening in the studio to make a fuller sound that would sound more dramatic through the average speaker. The production technique earned Spector multiple top 10 hits in the ‘60s, perhaps most famously “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, and it made him a superstar producer and highly influential figure in rock music.
A backlash started to form around the Wall Of Sound by the end of the decade, though, with some critics suggesting that the technique was too over-the-top and bloated. Still, Spector had worked with John Lennon in the past and was tapped to complete production on The Beatles’ final studio album, Let It Be, resulting in a record with a lot of Spector’s usual bombast that didn’t sit well with Paul McCartney (he later spearheaded the release of an alternative cut called Let It Be… Naked without Spector’s contributions). Around this same time, as public perception of Spector’s work had begun to dip and rumors began to spread about him threatening people with a gun during recording sessions, he married Ronnie Bennett of the Ronettes—with Rolling Stone saying that she later referred to Spector as an “abusive husband prone to eccentric if not outright insane behavior.”
In the ‘90s, after Spector had largely retired from music, the Ronettes took Spector to court for unpaid royalties, with him eventually being ordered to pay $2.6 million. In 2003, he was arrested for the murder of Lana Clarkson, an actress who had appeared in Fast Times At Ridgemont High and Amazon Women On The Moon. Clarkson had been found with a gunshot wound in her mouth at Spector’s mansion, with Spector—who was seen by a witness leaving the home with a gun—claiming that it was both a suicide and an accident. He initially went on trial in 2007, with a judge declaring a mistrial over a hung jury, and he was retried and convicted in 2009.