Phil Spector Dies of Natural Causes in Prison at Age 81

Rock Cellar Magazine StaffCategories:Latest News

Rock Cellar Magazine

Phil Spector, whose “Wall of Sound” method in the studio made waves in the 1960s and forever changed the rock music was recorded, has died at age 81, per reports Sunday morning. He passed from natural causes while in prison, where he had been since being convicted in 2009 for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson.

After that 2009 retrial, Spector had been sentenced to 19 years to life in prison.

His death was announced by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which stated in a press release:

STOCKTON – California Health Care Facility inmate Phillip Spector, 80, was pronounced deceased of natural causes at 6:35 p.m. on Saturday, January 16, 2021, at an outside hospital. His official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.

Spector was admitted from Los Angeles County on June 5, 2009, for second-degree murder. He had been sentenced to 19 years to life for the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson.

Before his incarceration, Spector was an influential record producer, musician and songwriter best known for developing a music production technique called the “wall of sound.”

Rolling Stone detailed Spector’s producing career in a lengthy obituary that touches on his working relationship with the Beatles, as well as some of the eccentricities that would come to exemplify him in the public eye:

But Spector’s productions were increasingly time-consuming and ambitious – some even said bloated. In 1966, the baroque pop epic he considered his masterpiece, Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep — Mountain High,” stalled at Number 88 in the U.S. (though it would hit Number Three in the U.K.) A resentful Spector secluded himself in his Hollywood mansion for two years, emerging only to appear briefly as a drug dealer in the classic counterculture film Easy Rider. In 1968, he married Ronnie Bennett; in her 1990 memoir, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, or My Life as a Fabulous Ronette, she depicted Spector as an abusive husband prone to eccentric if not outright insane behavior.

Spector returned to the music world in 1969. A new Ronettes single, “You Came, You Saw, You Conquered,” flopped, but that same year he also released Sonny Charles and the Checkmates’ “Black Pearl,” a Number 13 hit. Now securely back in the production saddle, Spector hooked up with the Beatles. He produced John Lennon’s solo hit “Instant Karma!” and was given the task of creating an album out of the group’s abandoned Get Back sessions. The result was the Beatles final studio album, Let It Be.


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