Music producer Phil Spector dies while serving prison sentence

Phil Spector in Court
Phil Spector in Court

Music producer Phil Spector has died while he was serving a prison sentence for murder.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirmed he died of natural causes in hospital on Saturday.

A statement from the department said: "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.

"His official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office."

The department told the PA news agency Spector was born in December 1940 and died aged 80, however The Associated Press said court documents and the producer's lawyer gave his date of birth as 1939.

In 2009, Spector was sentenced to a minimum 19 years in prison for murdering the 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 in 2003.

Spector is famed for originating the "Wall Of Sound" production technique, layering instruments and arrangements to create a dense, echoing sound.

He is credited with redefining and revitalising rock 'n' roll during its early-60s slump.

Spector – who has been branded an eccentric, a recluse, an obsessive and a nightmare to work with – was a pioneer of the 1960s girl-group sound and racked up more than 25 US Top 40 hits between 1960 and 1965.

He went on to work with artists including Ike and Tina Turner, The Beatles, Cher and the Ramones.

In 1989, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The 1965 song You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin, which Spector co-wrote, is listed as the record with the most US airplay in the 20th century.

He produced the original version, which was performed by The Righteous Brothers.

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.

The song was inspired by the inscription on the gravestone of his father Benjamin, who took his own life in 1949.

Phil Spector in Court
Phil Spector in Court

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

In the early 60s, he worked with artists including Ben E King, Gene Pitney and the Paris Sisters.

He worked on hits including Da Doo Ron Ron, 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 he 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.

Spector divorced Veronica Bennett, a member of the Ronettes, in 1974, and in 2006 he married Rachelle Short, a 28-year-old former Playboy model and aspiring actress.

In 2017, a newly-taken mugshot of Spector in prison showed him completely free of the huge hair that was so striking during his trial.