Phil Spector

  • Share
  • Read Later
Lawrence K. Ho / Reuters

Music producer Phil Spector is surrounded by his defense team during closing arguments at his retrial murder case in Los Angeles

A year and a half after Phil Spector's first murder case ended in a mistrial, the record producer was found guilty on April 13 of the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson. Through months of testimony (and a seemingly never-ending parade of bizarre hairdos and wigs), Spector has maintained his innocence. On May 29 he was sentenced to 19 years in prison. It's only the latest in a lifetime full of spectacular achievements and mind-swimmingly bizarre events.

Fast Facts:

• Invented the Wall of Sound, a early-'60s production technique exemplified by songs such as "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by the Righteous Brothers, considered the most-played recording of the 20th century. The name said it all: a Spector "wall" featured large numbers of musicians and instruments, layered upon one another to produce a freight train of instrumentation, melody and noise. (Read about India's own Wall of Sound.)

• Worked with artists from Ike and Tina Turner ("River Deep–Mountain High") to the Ramones (End of the Century) to Leonard Cohen (Death of a Ladies' Man) and the Beatles — both as a group (Let It Be) and individually (John Lennon's "Instant Karma" and "Imagine," George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord").

• Born in the Bronx in 1940, to parents whom he later claimed had been first cousins. Spector's father committed suicide when his son was 12. In 1958, when he was 17, Spector formed a band called the Teddy Bears. Their first hit was a B-side called "To Know Him Is to Love Him" (taken from the inscription on Spector's father's tombstone).

• In the early '60s, worked for Atlantic Records (and for himself) as a producer, songwriter and occasional session musician (he played guitar on the Drifters' "On Broadway"). In 1966, the Ike and Tina Turner song "River Deep–Mountain High" did not hit the Top 40 in the U.S., leading a wounded Spector to begin his on-again, off-again retreat from the world.

• Married Ronnie Spector, lead singer of the Ronettes, with whom he reportedly had a very unhealthy relationship. According to an in-depth 2003 Vanity Fair article, he would often have her call while touring and leave the phone off the hook so that he could fall asleep listening to her breathe. His jealousy was epic. Spector made his estate into a fortress — barbed wire, electric fences — kept a glass-topped coffin in the basement for Ronnie ("so I can keep an eye on her after she's dead") and forced her to take a Phil Spector mannequin with her when she left the house. They eventually divorced. (See pictures of the Ronettes' induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)

• Was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

• In November 2003, Paul McCartney released Let It Be ... Naked, which stripped much of Spector's Wall of Sound embellishments from the Beatles' final album, originally released in 1970. (See pictures of the Beatles' final performance.)

• On Feb. 3, 2003, onetime B-movie actress Lana Clarkson was shot to death in Spector's 33-room estate, which he dubbed "the Castle." The pair had met for the first time earlier that night at L.A.'s House of Blues, where she had been working. Over the decades, Spector had built up a reputation for being loose with guns, having pointed them at John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, one of the Ramones and several romantic interests.

Quotes By:

• "She kissed the gun. I have no idea why — I never knew her, never even saw her before that night. I have no idea who she was or what her agenda was ... There is no case. She killed herself."
— on the murder of Lana Clarkson. He went on to refer to the Los Angeles district attorney's case as "anatomy of a frame-up" (Esquire, July 2003)

• "I think I killed somebody."
— as overheard by Spector's driver, the night of Clarkson's murder (New York Times, Sept. 27, 2007)

• "The actions of the Hitler-like district attorney and his storm-trooping henchmen to seek an indictment against me and censor all means of getting my evidence and the truth out are reprehensible, unconscionable and despicable."
— in September 2004, after a grand jury indicted him for murder (Dateline NBC, Sept. 12, 2007)

• "Since I'm one of those people who are not happy unless they are not happy, it's comforting to know that mental health doesn't always mean being happy. If it did, nobody would qualify."
— when asked "What I've Learned" (Esquire, May 22, 1999)

• "I'd do a Dylan opera with him. I'd produce him. You see, he's never been produced. He's always gone into the studio on the strength of his lyrics ... There is no reason why Dylan can't be recorded in a very certain way and a very beautiful way where you can just sit back and say 'Wow' about everything — not just him and the song — just everything."
— on wanting to work with Bob Dylan (Rolling Stone, Nov. 1, 1969)

• "The whole thing about Kennedy scared them very, very much. They really thought it would be possible for somebody to be there and want to kill them, because they were just very shocked. The assassination really dented them tremendously — their image of America."
— on accompanying the Beatles on their first trip to America (Rolling Stone, Nov. 1, 1969)

• "I would say I'm probably relatively insane, to an extent."
— in 2003, in an interview published in the London Daily Telegraph shortly before Lana Clarkson was murdered (, Feb. 3, 2006)

• "You don't tell Shakespeare what plays to write or how to write them. You don't tell Mozart what operas to write or how to write them. And you certainly don't tell Phil Spector what songs to write or how to write them, or what records to produce or how to produce them."
— in an statement following the removal of all his work on Celine Dion's 1996 album Falling into You (Vanity Fair, June 2003)

Quotes About:

• "Every baroque period has a flowering genius who rises up as the most glorious expression of its style of life ... He is the first boy to become a millionaire within America's teenage netherworld."
— Tom Wolfe, in his piece on Spector, "The First Tycoon of Teen" (The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, 1965)

• "He was so upset over his hair! When we had dinner, everything was really dim, because he had bad hair. Toupees. Boy oh boy — it got so hard to do anything because of his hair. If he couldn't get his hair right, he'd say, 'I don't feel good.' "
— Ronnie Spector, lead singer of the Ronettes and Spector's former wife, on his obsession with his hair, which later took form in a series of increasingly odd wigs (New York Post, March 7, 2007)

• "For Spector, the song and the recording were one thing, and they existed in his brain. When he went into the studio, it came out of him, like Minerva coming out of Jupiter's head. Every instrument had its role to play, and it was all prefigured."
— Jerry Wexler, Atlantic Records producer who worked with Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, among others, on Spector's greatness as a producer (Rolling Stone, April 21, 2005)

• "Phil, if you're going to kill me, kill me. But don't f___ with me ears. I need them."
— John Lennon, after Spector shot one of his many pistols into the ceiling of a studio bathroom after having tied up a drunken, raving Lennon (Vanity Fair, June 2003)

• "People call me a genius. Well, Phil Spector is a genius."
— Bob Dylan, during a concert (Vanity Fair, June 2003)

See TIME's Pictures of the Week.

Cast your vote for the TIME 100.