Born December 25,1940, in Bronx, N.Y.; mother's name, Bertha; married Veronica Bennett (a singer), 1968 (divorced, 1974); children: Gary and Louis (twins), Donte, Nicole and Phillip (twins). Education: Attended University of California at Los Angeles. Addresses: Office --Phil Spector Records International, P.O. Box 69529, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Considered a rock-and-roll legend, Phil Spector is credited with revolutionizing the recording industry. From 1962 to 1965 he produced a number of rock classics and made stars of such groups as the Crystals, the Ronnettes, and the Righteous Brothers. His influence declined, however, with the "British invasion" of the mid-1960s. Ironically, the vanguard of that invasion--the Beatles--later helped to revive his career. Today, the reclusive and somewhat volatile Spector serves as president of his own record label.
Born in the Bronx, Spector moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was 12. He became interested in music (particularly rhythm and blues) while in high school and was influenced by the work of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who had produced a number of hits for Elvis Presley, the Coasters, and other performers. Spector eventually met the producers and became something of a regular at their studio. Spector wrote his first song, "To Know Him is to Love Him," in 1958. He recruited a local high school student to sing the female lead, sang the background harmonies himself, and named the duet the Teddy Bears. "To Know Him," which sold over one million records, was the Teddy Bears' only hit. In 1959 Spector recorded two singles under the name Spectors Three. Both records, however, failed to make the charts.
Three years later Spector founded Philles Records and began producing what Time' s Jay Cocks called "some of rock's greatest records." Spector-produced hits include "He's a Rebel," "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Then He Kissed Me," "Be My Baby," "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," and "River Deep-Mountain High." During this time he perfected his trademark "wall of sound," which was dubbed by Cocks as "vaulting arrangements and majestic delirium." In Out of His Head: The Sound of Phil Spector, Richard Williams noted that the producer used his singers "as tools, manipulating their every musical move with infinite care." It was, Williams continued, "'spontaneous' excitement through precise preplanning."
As British rock came into prominence in the mid-1960s, the Spector era drew to a close. Though semiretired, in 1970 he produced several tracks on the Beatles' Let It Be album; he worked with John Lennon on Imagine and with George Harrison on All Things Must Pass. He also produced A Concert for Bangladesh, as well as records by Cher, Dion, Leonard Cohen, Nilsson, and the Ramones.
Spector has been variously described as a mad genius, an eccentric, and a recluse. "In a recording studio, he throws tantrums as easily as other producers turn dials," wrote Cocks. "His excesses of style and manner are legend, and some call him mad." In a review of a documentary on Spector, the New Statesman' s Mary Harron commented: "He had one perfect moment in the early 60s, and never recovered. And maybe that was all he could have because, as Sonny Bono said, 'everything he did was perfect, but it was always that one wall of sound.' But what a sound."
by Denise Wiloch
Phil Spector's Career
Member of musical groups the Teddy Bears, 1958-59, and Spectors Three; producer with Atlantic Records, 1960-61; founder, Philles Records, 1962; currently president of Phil Spector Records International. Has produced records and albums for numerous artists, including Gene Pitney, Connie Francis, the Crystals, the Ronnettes, the Righteous Brothers, the Beatles, Ike and Tina Turner, John Lennon, George Harrison, Yoko Ono, Cher, and the Ramones. Composer of songs, including "To Know Him Is to Love Him," "Oh Why," and "I Really Do"; also composed, with others, "Spanish Harlem," "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Then He Kissed Me," "Be My Baby," "Chapel of Love," "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," "River Deep--Mountain High," and numerous other songs. Producer of televlsion documentary "A Giant Stands 5 Ft. 7 In." and of movie The Big T.N.T. Show. Appeared in films The T.A.M.I. Show and Easy Rider.
- Selective Works
- "To Know Him Is to Love Him" (single), Dore, 1958.
- The Teddy Bears Sing! Imperial, c. 1958.
- "I Really Do" (single), Trey, c. 1959.
- "My Heart Stood Still" (single), Trey, c. 1959.
November 20, 2003: Spector was formally charged with the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson at his home earlier this year. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, November 21, 2003.
September 27, 2004: Spector was indicted for murder in the shooting death of Lana Clarkson. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, September 29, 2004.
- Williams, Richard, Out of His Head: The Sound of Phil Spector, Outerbridge & Lazard, Inc., 1972.
- High Fidelity, June 1977.
- Interview, March 1980.
- Los Angeles Times, April 1, 1983; November 4, 1983.
- New Statesman, August 19, 1983.
- Newsweek, April 22, 1985.
- New York, July 18, 1977.
- New York Times, March 15, 1984.
- Time, March 10, 1980.