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Phil Spector Biography

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Harvey Phillip Spector (born December 26, 1940) is an American record producer of the 1960s and 1970s. Arguably the most distinctive producer in popular music, he is the originator of the "Wall of Sound" production technique. Spector first rose to prominence as one of the pioneers of the 1960s girl group sound. Later he worked with varied artists, including The Beatles and the Ramones. In 2003 Spector returned to the public eye when he was indicted for murder.

Phil Spector was born into a lower-middle class Jewish family in The Bronx, New York. In 2003, he would reveal in an interview with The Daily Telegraph journalist Mick Brown that his parents were first cousins. "I don't know, genetically, whether or not that had something to do with what I am or who I became," he said. His father Ben committed suicide because of family indebtedness in 1949.

Spector became involved in music when his family moved to Los Angeles, California in 1953. At 16, he performed Lonnie Donegan's "Rock Island Line" at a talent show at Fairfax High School. While there at Fairfax, he joined a loosely knit community of young aspirants, including Lou Adler, Bruce Johnson, and Sandy Nelson, the last of whom played drums on Spector's first record release, "To Know Him Is to Love Him."

Many producers attempted to emulate the Wall of Sound, while Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys—a fellow adherent of mono recording—considered Spector his main competition. Bruce Springsteen emulated the Wall of Sound technique in his recording of "Born to Run". Shoegazing, a brief musical movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was heavily influenced by the Wall of Sound. For his contributions to the music industry, Spector was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. Much of Phil's early musical influences was Latin music in general and Latin percussion in particular. This is heralded in many of his hit songs: shakers, guiros (gourds) and maracas in "Be My Baby" and the son montuno in "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" heard clearly in the song's bridge. Phil would visit Spanish Harlem clubs and schools to hone his listening and practical skills. He'd ask his pre-teen coffee boy from "El Barrio", Roberto Tirado, to borrow his parent's best Puerto Rican and Spanish LPs in order to listen to these at odd times. Unknowingly, Phil instilled some of his musical influence on little Roberto as he also became enmeshed in the music field later as an adult. But the Latin influence is keenly perceptible in most, if not all, of Spector's recordings. Session bassist Carole Kaye plays the haunting son montuno in "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" while the same repeating refrain is played on harpsichord by keyboardist Larry Knechtel.

Spector has descended into many conflicts with the artists, songwriters, and promoters that he worked with. Stories include his discharging a firearm while in the studio with John Lennon during the recording of his cover album Rock 'n' Roll and placing a loaded pistol at Leonard Cohen's head during the sessions for Death of a Ladies' Man (1977). Dee Dee Ramone also reported that Spector threatened his bandmates during their recording sessions with the Ramones, going so far as to make Dee Dee play bass at gunpoint.

Shortly after Lester Sill's departure from Philles Records, Spector wrote, and had The Crystals record, a single entitled "(Let's Dance) The Screw". Six minutes long and completely lacking Spector's customary Wall of Sound production techniques, "The Screw" was neither releasable (by 1963 music industry standards) nor intended for general release. Indeed, only a handful of copies of the single were pressed, one of which Spector had delivered to Sill as a parting shot at his former partner. (Legend has it that the recording of "The Screw" served a second purpose: to cheat Sill out of royalties due him from sales of the next Philles recording. However, this claim has never been verified.) [1]

Phil and Ronnie Spector divorced in 1974. In 2000, Ronnie Spector successfully sued him for over $2 million for breach of contract over unpaid royalties to the Ronettes.

On February 3, 2003, Spector was arrested for murder after the body of 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson of Los Angeles was found at his faux-castle mansion (called Pyrenees Castle) in Alhambra, California. Police responded to a 9-1-1 phone call from one of Spector's neighbors and discovered Clarkson, who had been shot and was pronounced dead at the scene. On November 20, 2003, Spector was indicted for Clarkson's murder.

Four weeks prior to the death of Clarkson, Spector had admitted in an interview with the British Daily Telegraph that he suffers from bipolar disorder and that he considered himself "relatively insane". In September 2004 he was ordered to stand trial in Los Angeles.

On October 28, 2005, a judge ruled that potentially damning statements Spector allegedly made to police may be used against him at trial. Spector's lawyers had sought to suppress an apparent statement made by Spector after Clarkson was found dead. Spector allegedly said, "I didn't mean to shoot her." His lawyer argued that comments attributed to the music producer should be thrown out because he was suffering from prescription-drug withdrawal symptoms at the time. The judge has also ruled that transcripts from a deposition taken of Spector several months before Clarkson's death may also be introduced by the prosecution at trial.

So far Spector has gone through three attorneys. Defense attorney Robert Shapiro represented Spector at his arraignment and early pretrial hearings, and arranged for his release on bail. He was later replaced by Leslie Abramson and Marcia Morrissey. They, in turn, were later replaced by Bruce Cutler, the former lawyer of John Gotti. Spector is also involved in a civil suit against Shapiro, who refused to return his $1 million retainer.

Phil Spector, currently free on $1 million bail, had been scheduled to stand trial on April 24, 2006. It was announced April 25, 2006 that due to scheduling conflicts, the judge involved has postponed the date of the trial until January 16, 2007. Spector additionally faces a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Lana Clarkson's mother, Donna Clarkson, but it won't go ahead until after the criminal trial proceedings.
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