Harvey Phillip Spector (December 26, 1939 – January 16, 2021) was an American record producer, musician, and songwriter who developed the Wall of Sound, a music production formula he described as a Wagnerian approach to rock and roll. Spector is regarded to be among the most influential figures in pop music history and as the first auteur of the music industry for the unprecedented control he had over every phase of the recording process. After spending three decades in semi-retirement, in 2009, he was convicted for the 2003 murder of the actress Lana Clarkson. At the time of his death, he was serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life.
Born in the Bronx, Spector began his career in 1958 as co-founder, guitarist, and vocalist of the Teddy Bears, penning their US number-one single “To Know Him Is to Love Him”. In 1960, he co-founded Philles Records, and at the age of 21, became the youngest ever US label owner to that point. Throughout the 1960s, he wrote, co-wrote, or produced records for acts such as the Ronettes, the Crystals, and Ike & Tina Turner. He typically collaborated with arranger Jack Nitzsche, engineer Larry Levine, and a de facto house band that later became known as “the Wrecking Crew”. Spector initially retired from the music industry in 1966.
In 1969, Spector returned to his career and subsequently produced the Beatles’ album Let It Be (1970), as well as several solo records by the band’s John Lennon and George Harrison. By the mid-1970s, Spector had produced eighteen US Top 10 singles for various artists, but following work with Leonard Cohen, Dion DiMucci, and the Ramones, he remained largely inactive and affected by personal struggles. His chart-toppers included “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (co-written and produced for the Righteous Brothers, 1964), “The Long and Winding Road” (produced for the Beatles, 1970), and “My Sweet Lord” (produced for Harrison, 1970). According to BMI, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” is the song that received the most US airplay in the 20th century.
Dubbed the “First Tycoon of Teen”,Spector’s records helped engender the role of the studio as an instrument, the integration of pop art aesthetics into music (art pop), and the art rock genre. His multi-artist compilation album A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records (1963) is widely considered to be the finest Christmas record of all time. Spector’s honors include the 1973 Grammy Award for Album of the Year for co-producing Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh (1971), a 1989 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a 1997 induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Spector number 63 on their list of the greatest artists in history.
Spector died in prison on January 16, 2021 due to complications from COVID-19.