With his “wall of sound” records, Spector, who changed music, collaborated with the Beatles, the Righteous Brothers, and Ike and Tina Turner.
He was convicted in 2009 of murdering Hollywood actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation of California has reported his death.
“California Health Care Facility inmate Phillip Spector 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,” it said.
Between 1961 and 1965, Spector produced 20 top 40 hits. His methods of production inspired significant musicians, including the Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen.
Ultimately, his life was blighted by drug and alcohol abuse, and during the 1980s and 1990s, he all but disappeared from the music scene.
In February 2003, Lana Clarkson, an actress, was found dead with a gunshot wound to her head at her home in Alhambra, California. Clarkson, who was known in the sword-and-sorcery genre for her work and appeared in films like the Barbarian Queen, had met Spector at a nightclub hours earlier.
When Clarkson “kissed the gun,” Spector denied the shooting occurred – but his trial heard from four women who claimed Spector had threatened them with weapons in the past when they had spurned his advances.
Spector was convicted of second-degree murder after an initial mistrial and granted a sentence of 19 years to life.
Harvey Phillip Spector was born to Russian-Jewish parents in New York in 1939. When Spector was a child, his father killed himself, and his mother moved her family to Los Angeles.
As a musician, he started his teens’ career, forming a band – the Teddy Bears – with three friends from high school. “To know him is to love him.”To know him is to love him.
On the Billboard Hot 100, the record went to number one, but the group split the following year.
In 1961, Spector founded his record label, Phillies. He produced high-profile girl groups, including Crystals and the Ronettes from the 1960s, including Be My Baby and Baby I Love You hits from 1963.
He has also worked on the hits You’ve Missed The Lovin ‘Feelin’ and Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers.
To offer a lush, orchestral sound, his signature production technique, the “Wall of Sound,” included layering many instruments, including strings, woodwind, and brass.
Spector worked with The Beatles on their last record, Let It Be, in the early 1970s and recorded the solo album Imagine by John Lennon.
The much-feted producer became reclusive and troubling reports of his behavior became common as the decade progressed. During sessions for his album Death of a Ladies’ Man, Spector has put a gun to singer Leonard Cohen’s head.
In her 1990 autobiography, Ronettes lead vocalist Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett, who became the second wife of Spector and divorced him in 1974, wrote that he subjected her to years of horrific violence. She said he was threatening to kill her, showing her body in a glass-topped coffin in her cellar.
“I can only say that when I left in the early ’70s, I knew that if I didn’t leave at that time, I was going to die there,” Ronnie wrote of that time.
Weeks before Lana Clarkson was shot dead, Spector gave The Telegraph, the British broadsheet, a rare interview.
“I would say I’m probably relatively insane, to an extent,” he told the paper, adding that he had “devils inside that fight me.”
In response to news of the death of the producer, Blondie guitarist Chris Stein tweeted: “When we went to the house of Phil Spector in the 70s, he came to the door holding a bottle of diet Manischewitz wine in one hand and an automatic 45 presumably loaded in the other. Long story. Long story.”
“I thought he was nuts.”