Rock producer Phil Spector, who changed the sound of pop music in the 1960s and was convicted of the murder of a Hollywood actress, has died at the age 81.
Spector produced 20 top 40 hits between 1961 and 1965 and went on to work with The Beatles on Let It Be, as well as with artists such as Leonard Cohen, the Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner.
In a brief statement, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Spector died of natural causes at an outside hospital, and his official cause of death would be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.
He had been serving a 19-years-to-life sentence for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson.
Clarkson, 40, was killed by a shot to the mouth, fired from Spector’s gun, in the foyer of his mock castle home outside Los Angeles in February 2003.
The two met hours earlier at a Hollywood nightclub.
Spector known for gunplay before murder of actress
Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in a second trial, after his first trial ended in deadlock in 2007.
The case drew worldwide interest because of Spector’s fame as a rock music pioneer.
Prosecutors charged Spector with murder despite his assertions that Clarkson, the star of films such as Barbarian Queen and Amazon Women on the Moon, had shot herself for reasons he could not grasp.
He told Esquire magazine in an interview Clarkson had “kissed the gun” in a bizarre suicide.
Spector had a long-standing reputation for gunplay.
He carried a pistol and a biographer said he often placed it on the recording console as he worked.
He reportedly fired a shot in the studio during an acrimonious recording session with John Lennon.
Spector behind hits from the late 50s on
Born Harvey Phillip Spector on December 26, 1939, he grew up in New York City and formed the Teddy Bears with three high school friends.
They scored a hit single in 1958 with To Know Him Is to Love Him, but had little other chart success and disbanded the following year.
Spector shifted from performing to working behind the scenes at the dawn of the 1960s, producing several top 10 hits.
In 1961 Spector and promoter Lester Sill formed Philles Records, and in 1966 he signed Ike and Tina Turner and released what he considered one of his masterpieces — River Deep, Mountain High — but it reached only number 88 on the US charts.
For a time, Spector turned his back on the record business, marrying Ronettes singer Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett, who would later say he was abusive, possessive and made her a virtual captive in their home.
Spector returned to the industry in 1969, signing a production deal with A&M Records and working with Lennon on his hit single Instant Karma and with The Beatles on the Let It Be album.
Let it Be was considered a major comeback for Spector, but Paul McCartney was so unhappy with it that in 2003 he oversaw the release of “Let It Be … Naked,” which removed most of Spector’s work.
Spector returned to the studio in the mid-1970s to work on records by Cher and others but by the end of the decade he had become increasingly reclusive and worked rarely after that.