Phil Spector, Music Producer and Convicted Murderer, Dead at 81

Famed music producer Phil Spector has died at age 81 while serving a 19-year prison sentence for second-degree murder.

By Corinne Heller Jan 17, 2021 5:25 PMTags

Famed music producer Phil Spector has died while serving a 19-year prison sentence for murder. He was 81. 

Spector was pronounced deceased from natural causes on Saturday, Jan. 16, at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton, Calif., where he had been serving his sentence since 2013, four years after his conviction. His official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.

TMZ, which first reported the news of Spector's death, said that the producer died from COVID-19-related complications after being diagnosed with coronavirus a month ago. However, prison officials or reps for the producer have not confirmed the report.

In their statement, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation also included an updated mug shot of Spector, taken last November. In the photo, the producer, who often wore wigs in the years before his conviction, is bald and smiling.

In 2009, Spector was convicted of second-degree murder for the death of actress Lana Clarkson. He was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison and was eligible for a parole hearing in 2025.

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Clarkson died in 2003 at age 40 just hours after she met Spector at a Hollywood nightclub. Her body was found slumped over in a chair at his mansion in Alhambra, Calif. with a gunshot wound through the roof of her mouth that was fired from the producer's gun. Spector was found guilty of second-degree murder in a second trial after a first one deadlocked in 2007.


"Lana Clarkson was a warm, compassionate, kind, loving woman who would be 58 years old now," the actress' mother, Donna Clarkson, said in a statement to E! News. "Her energy, brightness and love of life have sustained her family since her murder 18 years ago in 2003."

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Born Harvey Philip Spector in the Bronx in New York City in 1939, the producer revolutionized rock and pop music in the 1960s with his layered "Wall of Sound" production technique.

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He produced music for legendary bands and artists such as The Beatles, The Ramones and Cher. He is also the man behind hits like The Righteous Brothers' "You Lost that Lovin' Feeling" "Unchained Melody," "You're My Soul and Inspiration" and The Ronettes' "Be My Baby."

Spector was married three times. His second wife, The Ronettes' lead singer Ronnie Spector, wrote on Facebook after news of his death was made public that "it's a sad day for music and a sad day for me."

"When I was working with Phil Spector, watching him create in the recording studio, I knew I was working with the very best," she said. "He was in complete control, directing everyone. So much to love about those days. Meeting him and falling in love was like a fairytale. The magical music we were able to make together, was inspired by our love. I loved him madly, and gave my heart and soul to him."

She continued, "As I said many times while he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband. Unfortunately Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio. Darkness set in, many lives were damaged. I still smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and always will. The music will be forever."

—Reporting by Spencer Lubitz