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Inside Phil Spector’s dark world of murder, guns, and abuse after music success

Few would argue against the fact that music producer Phil Spector had a tremendous impact on pop music history.

During the 1960s he wrote, co-wrote, and produced endless hits for the likes of The Ronettes, The Crystals, and Ike and Tina Turner.

His 1963 Christmas album A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records is still considered a classic, with tunes played every year for the festive season around the world.

Spector later went on to work on The Beatles ‘ seminal Let It Be album in 1970 and continued to produce hits for the likes of Leonard Cohen and The Ramones in the 1970s.

Known as the “Mad Genius of Rock and Roll” for his eccentric personality and style, he remained largely inactive from the 1980s onwards but his reputation was eventually destroyed when his darkest elements were exposed.

Producer Phil Spector attends the party for Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame Gala on January 17, 1990

Behind his huge success, Spector exhibited mental health issues, an obsession with firearms, and violent tendencies.

Throughout his life, Spector had been linked by medics with bipolar disorder and had also received medication consistent with schizophrenia, according to claims made to British journalist Mick Brown, reports ABC News.

In her 1990 memoir Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness, Spector’s second wife Veronica Bennett (better known as Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes) alleged that Spector had been abusive to her during their marriage.

Bennett claimed he had kept her imprisoned in his California mansion, tormented her psychologically, and sabotaged her music career.

Husband and wife R&B duo Ike Turner and Tina Turner with record producer Phil Spector while recording in Los Angeles, California at Gold Star Studios in 1966
Husband and wife R&B duo Ike Turner and Tina Turner with record producer Phil Spector while recording in Los Angeles, California at Gold Star Studios in 1966

The Ronettes, including Spector's second wife Veronica Bennett aka Ronnie Spector (left)
The Ronettes, including Spector’s second wife Veronica Bennett aka Ronnie Spector (left)

“I knew that if I didn’t leave, I was going to die there,” she later recalled.

The singer claimed she escaped the mansion barefoot in 1972 and subsequently surrendered future record earnings and custody of their three adopted sons, with her claiming he had threatened to kill her with a hit man if she did not comply.

According to The Mail, Phil Spector’s son Donte claimed in that he and his brothers had been abused by Phil Spector as children, with a “thin line between love and hate.”

Later, other women accused him of violence and death threats, including British pianist Devra Robitaille who said he once threatened her with a gun when she tried to leave his home.

Legendary record producer Phil Spector appears in Alhambra Superior Court for his arraignment on one count of murder 20 November, 2003 in Alhambra, California
Legendary record producer Phil Spector appears in Alhambra Superior Court for his arraignment on one count of murder 20 November, 2003 in Alhambra, California

Spector then apparently pulled out a gun and pressed it to her temple.

She claimed: “He started shouting at me something like, ‘If you leave, I’ll blow your f***ing brains out’.”

However, what would be the crime that sent him to prison would come in the noughties.

In 2003, 40-year-old actress Lana Jean Clarkson was found dead from a single gunshot wound to the mouth in Spector’s home in California.

He claimed that she had accidentally shot herself or took her own life, but prosecutors believed he had murdered her.

Music producer Phil Spector and one of his attorney Dennis Riordan (R) face judge Larry Paul Fidler in a Los Angeles courtroom on May 29, 2009, to hear his sentence for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson six years prior
Music producer Phil Spector and one of his attorney Dennis Riordan (R) face judge Larry Paul Fidler in a Los Angeles courtroom on May 29, 2009, to hear his sentence for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson six years prior

Spector was subsequently arrested and charged but posted a $1million bail to remain free before a trial in 2007 was declared to be a mistrial due to a hung jury.

Eventually, the case returned to court in 2008 as Spector was retried for murder in the second degree.

Unlike the first trial, this was not televised.

On April 13, 2009, Spector was found guilty of second degree murder and of using a firearm in the commission of a crime.

Phil Spector looks toward the back of the courtroom before the reading of the verdict in his murder retrial on April 13, 2209 at Los Angeles Superior Court
Phil Spector looks toward the back of the courtroom before the reading of the verdict in his murder retrial on April 13, 2209 at Los Angeles Superior Court. Spector was found guilty of second degree murder in the 2003 death of actress Lana Clarkson

He was sentenced to 19 years to life in the California prison system and was due to be eligible for parole in 2024.

Spector was estimated to have spent $50 million defending himself in the case.

In 2006, while awaiting bail and before the first trial, Spector had married 26-year-old third wife Rachelle Short, but later filed for divorce while serving his prison sentence in 2016, citing irreconcilable differences.

He was memorably seen in a mugshot in 2017 having lost his eccentric hairstyle and was bald, shown grinning and wearing hearing aids.

Inside Phil Spector's dark world of murder, guns, and abuse after music success

A statement revealed on January 17, 2021, that Spector had died at the age of 81.

It read: “California Health Care Facility inmate Phillip Spector was pronounced deceased of natural causes at 6:35 p.m. 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.”

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