Influential Music Producer Phil Spector, whose ‘wall of sound’ fashioned some of the greatest rock hits of the 1960s and 1970s, has died of natural causes while serving a second-degree murder sentence in the California Health Care Facility, state prison authorities announced Sunday.
Spector, who was 81 years old, died of natural causes at 6:35 p.m. on Saturday at an outside hospital. His official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.
He was admitted to the state prison system from Los Angeles County on June 5, 2009, for second-degree murder in the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson.
Spector was serving a 19-years-to-life sentence.
Clarkson, star of “Barbarian Queen” and other B-movies, was found shot to death in the foyer of Spector’s mansion in the hills overlooking Alhambra, a modest suburban town on the edge of Los Angeles.
Until the actress’ death, which Spector maintained was an “accidental suicide,” few residents even knew the mansion belonged to the reclusive producer, who spent his remaining years in a prison hospital east of Stockton.
Decades before, Spector had been hailed as a visionary for channeling Wagnerian ambition into the three-minute song, creating the “Wall of Sound” that merged spirited vocal harmonies with lavish orchestral arrangements to produce such pop monuments as “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Be My Baby” and “He’s a Rebel.”
Spector produced hits for the Beatles, Tina Turner, Diana Ross and many more.
He was the rare self-conscious artist in rock’s early years and cultivated an image of mystery and power with his dark shades and impassive expression.
Tom Wolfe declared him the “first tycoon of teen.” Bruce Springsteen and Brian Wilson openly replicated his grandiose recording techniques and wide-eyed romanticism, and John Lennon called him “the greatest record producer ever.”
The secret to his sound: an overdubbed onslaught of instruments, vocals and sound effects that changed the way pop records were recorded. He called the result, “Little symphonies for the kids.”