Phil Spector: who was Ronnie Spector’s husband and The Ronettes producer, who did he murder - when did he die?

When he was young, Spector worked on songs including ‘Be My Baby’

The Ronettes singer was known for such 1960s hits as ‘Be My Baby’, ‘Baby I Love You’ and ‘Walking In The Rain’, and died on 12 January after a brief battle with cancer, her family said.

She was married to pop producer Phil Spector between the years of 1968 and 1972, and once described him as “a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband”.

But who was Phil Spector, and was he a murderer?

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who was Phil Spector?

Phil Spector was born in The Bronx, New York.

While most sources give Spector’s birth year as 1940, it was listed as 1939 in court documents following his arrest, and his lawyer subsequently confirmed that date to The Associated Press.

In high school, Spector picked up guitar and piano and began writing songs with a classmate.

He formed a band, the Teddy Bears, with a third friend, and they had a Top 10 hit with ‘To Know Him Is to Love Him’ when he was just 17 years old.

By the time he was 21, Spector was a millionaire.

Phil Spector poses for his mugshot photo at North Kern State Prison in Delano, California in 2009 (Photo: CDCR via Getty Images)
Phil Spector poses for his mugshot photo at North Kern State Prison in Delano, California in 2009 (Photo: CDCR via Getty Images)
Phil Spector poses for his mugshot photo at North Kern State Prison in Delano, California in 2009 (Photo: CDCR via Getty Images)

In the early 60s, he worked with artists including Ben E King, Gene Pitney and the Paris Sisters, and worked on hits including ‘Then He Kissed Me’, ‘Be My Baby’ and ‘Unchained Melody’.

When Ike and Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep, Mountain High’, was a commercial failure, Spector closed down his record label, Philles Records.

He was increasingly out of the public eye, but went on to produce The Beatles’ final album ‘Let it Be’, released in 1970; he also worked with John Lennon on ‘Imagine’ and produced George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’.

After 23 years, Spector came out of retirement in 2003 to work with UK band Starsailor on their album, ‘Silence Is Easy’.

But he brought with him a reputation for eccentric recording habits and a fascination with guns.

Was he a murderer?

In 2003, Spector was accused of killing actress Lana Clarkson.

The 40-year-old, known for starring in films including Barbarian Queen, died of a gunshot fired into her mouth while she was in Spector’s mansion on the outskirts of Los Angeles in 2003.

After a trial in 2009, he was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 19 years to life.

In a magazine interview, Spector had claimed she had “kissed the gun” before pulling the trigger herself, however the jury unanimously agreed he had murdered the actress.

Ronnie Spector, whose music he produced when she was in The Ronettes, claimed in a memoir that he would keep her prisoner in his mansion and threatened to kill her.

Writing on Instagram after his death, she said: “Unfortunately Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio. Darkness set in, many lives were damaged.”

Following Spector’s death, Blondie guitarist Chris Stein tweeted: “When we went to Phil Spector’s house in the 70s he came to the door holding a bottle of diet Manischewitz wine in one hand and a presumably loaded 45 automatic in the other. Long story.

“I thought he was nuts.”

How did he die?

Spector died of natural causes in January 2021 while serving his prison sentence.

A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation statement said at the time: “California Health Care Facility inmate Phillip Spector was pronounced deceased of natural causes at 6.35pm on Saturday, January 16, 2021, at an outside hospital.”

Musician and actor Steven Van Zandt, best known as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, described Spector as “a genius irredeemably conflicted”.

He tweeted: “He was the ultimate example of the Art always being better than the Artist, having made some of the greatest records in history based on the salvation of love while remaining incapable of giving or receiving love his whole life.”

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