Phil Spector: What Was the Record Producer Convicted Of?

Phil Spector
Phil Spector's mugshot. (Photo Credits: Handout | Getty Images)
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Disclaimer: The article contains mention of murder. Reader discretion is advised.

Phil Spector was a popular American record producer and convicted murderer who died in January 2021. Even though his influence on 20th-century pop and rock music is influential to this day, the death of actress Lana Clarkson at his hands will forever be infamous.

According to BBC News, Phil Spector’s life was ravaged by drugs and alcohol. Reports suggest that during the 1960s and 70s, his career was basking in glory. Between 1961 and 65, he produced 20 top 40 hits. Furthermore, he worked with famous names such as the Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen. Unfortunately, due to his addiction, he became inactive in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s.

Phil Spector met Lana Clarkson on February 3, 2003, at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. Clarkson had made a name for herself in showbiz during the 80s by starring in films such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Scarface. Furthermore, she even appeared in popular shows like The Jeffersons, Three’s Company, Knight Rider, and Who’s the Boss?. When Phil met her, she was 40 years old and worked as a hostess at the House of Blues.

According to Oxygen True Crime, Phil invited Lana to his mansion, the Pyrenees Castle, in Alhambra, California. His driver drove them there, and when the duo entered the house, he waited for them.

Sometime after this, Spector called his driver and informed him that he had committed murder. He told his driver, “I think I killed somebody,”. After learning this horrific information, the driver dialed 911. According to him, Spector was carrying a gun when he left his home.

For his actions, the court convicted Phil Spector of second-degree murder and sentenced him to 19 years to life in prison.

Phil Spector claimed that Lana Clarkson took her own life

When officials showed up at Phil Spector’s mansion, they found Lana Clarkson’s lifeless body on a chair. Furthermore, she had a single gunshot to the mouth. In addition, she had her purse with her when she died.

Even though he confessed to killing Lana to his driver, he told the police that Clarkson took her own life. Reports suggest that he told a police officer, “I don’t know where she got the gun from, but she started waving it around.” In a conversation with Esquire Magazine in July 2023, he stated that Clarkson kissed the gun before pulling the trigger. He stated, “I have no idea why. I never knew her, never even saw her before that night.

He further stated that he was unaware of who Clarkson was. He said, “I have no idea who she was or what her agenda was. I was not drunk. I wasn’t drunk at all. There is no case. She killed herself … It’s ‘Anatomy of a Frame-Up.’ I didn’t do anything wrong. … If they had a case, I’d be sitting in jail right now.”

The first trial for Lana Clarkson’s murder took place in 2007, which was declared a mistrial after it ended in a hung jury. But the court found him guilty in a second trial in 2009. Spector’s defense team continuously stated that Clarkson was frustrated over her rocky career and decided to end things. However, prosecutors stated that Spector killed his guest after she rejected his advances and attempted to leave his mansion. They said that Spector shoved a gun in Clarkson’s mouth and pulled the trigger, which resulted in her death.

Interestingly, five other women accused the record producer of threatening them with guns. Reports suggest that he had two firearms-related convictions, even before killing Clarkson.

How old was Phil Spector at the time of his death?

At the time of his death, Phil Spector was 81 years old. According to The New York Times, his daughter, Audrey Spector, revealed that her father died from Covid 19 complications. Spector tried to appeal his prison sentence several times, but he was never successful in doing so. Interestingly, he would have been eligible for parole in 2024.

Phil Spector has married thrice. His first wife was Annette Merar, second, Ronnie Bennett, and third, Rachelle Short. After his passing, Ronnie Bennett expressed her grief by posting a message for her dead ex-husband. The post read, “It’s a sad day for music and a sad day for me. When I was working with Phil Spector, watching him create in the recording studio, I knew I was working with the very best. He was in complete control, directing everyone. So much to love about those days. Meeting him and falling in love was like a fairytale.”

The post further read, “The magical music we were able to make together, was inspired by our love. I loved him madly, and gave my heart and soul to him. As I said many times while he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband. Unfortunately, Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio. Darkness set in, many lives were damaged. I still smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and always will. The music will be forever.”

Phil Spector tied the knot with Ronnie Bennett in 1968 and had their divorce in 1974. Bennett was an American singer who was best known for being a part of the Ronettes. She died on January 12, 2022, at the age of 78, due to cancer.

Phil Spector developed a production style called the “Wall of Sound”

One of Phil Spector’s most popular creations is the “Wall of Sound”, a production style that implemented tone colors and a dense orchestral sound. According to Variety, some of his most influential songs were as follows:

  • “End of the Century” – Ramones (1980)

  • “Death of a Ladies Man” – Leonard Cohen (1977)

  • “Born to Be with You” – Dion (1975)

  • “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” – John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band (1970)

  • “All Things Must Pass” – George Harrison (1970)

  • “Let It Be” – The Beatles (1970)

  • “Black Pearl” – Sonny Charles and the Checkmates, Ltd. (1969)

  • “River Deep – Mountain High” – Ike & Tina Turner (1966)

  • “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” – The Righteous Brothers (1965)

  • “A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records” – Various Artists (1963)

  • “He’s a Rebel” – The Crystals (1962)

  • “Why Do Lovers (Break Each Other’s Heart)” – Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans (1962)

  • “Be My Baby” – The Ronettes (1963)

  • “Spanish Harlem” – Ben E. King (1960)

  • “To Know Him is To Love Him” – The Teddy Bears (1958)

Phil Spector was born to Benjamin and Bertha Spector on December 26, 1939. According to BBC News, his father killed himself when Phil was a little boy.

Spector is a 2022 documentary on Phil Spector’s life and it is available to stream on Apple TV.

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