Friday, April 19, 2024

Phil Spector Dead: Rock and Roll Genius Was Also a Madman Who Was In Prison for 2003 Murder of Actress


Phil Spector, inventor of the Wall of Sound, rock and roll genius, is dead at age 81 after contracting COVID. Spector was serving a life sentence in prison for killing actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.

Spector can be remembered as a real genius, too, but also a mad man. His genius in music can’t be underestimated, but his personal life was a wreck. He was evil on many levels, not paying his performers who eventually chased him through the courts. Among his “victims” are also survivors like his ex wife Ronnie Bennett Spector, and Darlene Love, who proved that only the strong survive.

But Clarkson wasn’t so lucky. She went home with him on February 3, 2003, where he showed off his guns. In the process he killed Clarkson by putting a gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger. I wrote about the murder almost from the moment it was reported by the police. Here is that story. Clarkson was so lovely and naive, the pain from her death no doubt resonates with her family and friends to this day.

I met Phil Spector a few times over the years. Once was at the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction at the Waldorf. Another time was on my birthday at Elaine’s, in 1997, when he arrived with a table of armed body guards. He was also sporting a holster. Elaine Kaufman sent them all to a back table, and then sent me to talk to them. Phil was charming and remembered our previous meeting, but made sure — like an old West sheriff — to expose that holster.

He was the darling of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Jann Wenner — who idolized him — for his work on the Beatles “Let it Be” album, and for launching Ronnie and the Ronettes, Darlene Love under many group names, for producing Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High,” for creating the Wall of Sound galaxy of musicians that included Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Sonny and Cher, and famous side musicians like Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine and so on.

Over the 50 or 60 years since the Wall of Sound and the Wrecking Crew– that galaxy — came to be, it’s been often imitated, resurrected, and cited as an influence. Bruce Springsteen and Little Steven van Zandt are certainly two of its disciples, and there are so many more. After “Let it Be,” John Lennon stuck with Spector for many of his solo records. Lennon’s girlfriend, May Pang, has often recalled how Spector played with guns in the studio, once shooting holes in the ceiling. George Harrison also used Spector for his “All Things Must Pass” classic album set.

The Spector hits most known are the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” among hundreds. And there would be no Christmas without Spector’s “Christmas” album, a recording box of holiday confections. None of that can be erased. But neither can the total craziness, madness, and, yes, evil.

Here’s a great documentary, and a couple of clips:

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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