Phil Spector was a music producer who paved the way for modern teen culture. He had a precocious sense of how to create baroque pop constructions that would thrill a new monied class of teenagers.
He had a string of hit singles. But his life and career was also rife with bizarre behavior. He had relationships with mentors who he reneged on, collaborators who he double-crossed, and office staff who he treated in a disgraceful manner.
1. Lester Sill
Sill was one of the many record producers who helped to shape Spector’s sound. He had a long history with Duane Eddy and was a co-owner of Jamie Records, a label that released the Righteous Brothers’ “Rebel Rouser.”
He was also the head of Colpix, the first of several labels operated by Screen Gems, which would eventually become Columbia Music. During the late 60s, he was a consultant to Don Kirshner, president of Screen Gems and Columbia.
2. Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller are one of the most famous songwriting duos in the history of popular music. Their songs have shaped and revolutionized pop, rock and roll and R&B music.
The pair had a major impact on American music, and have been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. They also received several Grammy Awards for their work.
3. David Geffen
In a business career that has shown uncanny assessment of musical talent and sharp business maneuvers, Geffen has proven one of the most important figures in the music industry over the past 30 years. He guided the careers of many famous artists, including Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Laura Nyro; Jackson Browne and the Eagles.
Born in Brooklyn, NY on February 21, 1943, Geffen began his music career as an agent in the mailroom of William Morris Agency. He later became a manager of top talent and launched Geffen Records in 1980. This label launched a roster of superstars, including Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana and Cher.
4. The Teddy Bears
Among Spector’s many talents was his ability to produce some of the best-known music in history. He was famous for his work with the Beatles, The Beach Boys and others.
The Teddy Bears were one of his first vocal groups. It was made up of Spector, lead singer Annette Kleinbard, Marshall Leib and Harvey Goldstein.
The group’s single, “To Know Him Is to Love Him” was a huge hit in 1958. It stayed in the top 10 for 23 weeks and was a number-one hit in several countries.
5. The Righteous Brothers
The Righteous Brothers, led by singers Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, got their big break in the late 1960s thanks to Phil Spector. Their 1965 hit, “Unchained Melody,” and its follow-up, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,” were both produced by Spector and earned them an estimated $100 million in royalties over the years.
He also produced The Beatles’ Let It Be and John Lennon’s most notable solo works including “Imagine.” And he created a unique way of producing music called the Wall of Sound. He died in 2021, aged 81.
6. The Crystals
The Crystals had a string of hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Spector helped them create their unique sound with his Wall of Sound technique.
They also worked with songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Their 1963 hit, “Uptown,” had an ethnic flavor with flamenco guitar and castanets.
It was a big step away from their previous R&B style. After their success, Alston was dropped from the group and replaced by Dolores Brooks.
Despite their success, they began to feel that Spector was ignoring them and withholding royalty money they were owed. They even threatened to leave the label.
7. Lana Clarkson
Lana Clarkson was a Hollywood actress who got her start in the 1970s and 1980s with roles in Three’s Company, The Jeffersons, Riptide and Knight Rider. She also appeared in several films, including Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Deathstalker.
In 2003, she was working as a hostess at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip when she met Phil Spector. They had a brief meeting and then went to Spector’s house, Pyrenees Castle, where she was found dead with a single gunshot wound to her mouth.
Spector was initially tried for her murder in 2007 and his trial ended in a mistrial. However, he was eventually convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 19 years in prison.
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