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Phil Spector Dead: Controversial Music Producer Dies at 81

Phil Spector, the controversial music producer who was convicted of murder, died on Saturday, January 16. He was 81.

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The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirmed on Sunday, January 17, that Spector died “of natural causes” on Saturday while at “an outside hospital.” According to the release, “His official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.”

Phil Spector Dead: Controversial Music Producer Dies at 81
Phil Spector Ramey Photo/MEGA

The songwriter was born in New York in December 1939. His music career began in 1958 when he became the cofounder, guitarist and vocalist for the Teddy Bears. He cofounded Philles Records in 1960, becoming the youngest ever record label owner in the U.S. at the age of 21. He wrote and produced music for the Ronettes, Ike and Tina Turner and more iconic acts during the 1960s.

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After a brief retirement from 1966 to 1969, he produced The Beatles’ Let It Be album. He subsequently produced hit singles for a variety of artists, including the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” — which he cowrote — and The Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road.”

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and won a Grammy in 1972 for Album of the Year for coproducing George Harrison’s The Concert for Bangladesh.

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Spector was convicted of actress Lana Clarkson’s murder in April 2009, six years after her body was discovered in his California home in February 2003. He was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison the following month. He was serving his sentence at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton, California, and was eligible for parole in 2024.

The musician initially claimed that Clarkson died by suicide when she “kissed the gun” while drunk. In an interview with British journalist Mick Brown recorded five weeks before the murder, Spector alleged that he suffered from mental health issues. “I have a bipolar personality, that is strange,” he said. “I have devils inside that fight me. And I’m my own worst enemy.”

Spector married singer Annette Merar in 1963. He then wed Ronnie Spector (real name Veronica Bennett) in 1968, and the pair, who divorced in 1974, later adopted son Donte, 51, and twins Louis and Gary, 54. He welcomed twins Nicole, 38, and Phillip Jr. with girlfriend Janis Zavala in 1982. (Phillip Jr. died in December 1991 after battling leukemia.) Spector tied the knot with Rachelle Short in 2006 but filed for divorce in April 2016.

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