Phil Spector, Music Producer and Convicted Murderer, Dead at 81 From COVID-19 Complications

Acclaimed music producer and convicted murderer Phil Spector passed away on Saturday, sources close to him told TMZ. Spector reportedly died from complications with COVID-19 after being transferred from prison to a secure hospital facility. He was 81 years old.

Sources familiar with Spector's situation told TMZ that he was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus 4 weeks ago. He reportedly went to the hospital and actually seemed to recover for a time, at which point he was moved back to his prison cell. However, last week, the insiders said, Spector's COVID-19 symptoms relapsed, and he was rushed to the hospital on Saturday with difficulty breathing. He passed away the same day.

Spector's musical accomplishments became eclipsed by his crimes in the last two decades. On Feb. 3, 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was killed by gunfire in Spector's mansion in Alhambra, California. The evidence against Spector was strong, but he remained free on an exorbitant bail until May of 2009, at which point he was sentenced to 19 years in the California state prison system.

In the decades before the murder, Spector was an icon of American popular music. He worked with some of the most influential performers of multiple decades, from Ike and Tina Turner to The Beatles and many more. He slowed his pace in the 1980s and 1990s, but surprisingly, in the years it took for his murder trial to be conducted, he saw something of a comeback through musicians like Amy Winehouse.

However, Spector may be best-remembered not for the specific songs he produced or the musicians he worked with but for his innovations in the arts of recording and sound design. He is credited with creating the "Wall of Sound," a production technique still used to this day in recordings and radio broadcasts.

However, Spector's legacy was marred by controversy and violent accusations long before he was convicted of murder. He was married twice in the 1960s, adopting three sons with his second wife, Veronica Bennett — also known as Ronnie Spector. In her memoir, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts and Madness, Bennett claimed that Spector had kept her imprisoned in his California mansion and abused her psychologically for years. She said that she had to physically escape in 1972 with outside help, and even then, she ran out of the house barefoot.

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Two of Spector and Bennett's sons, Gary and Donté, later told reporters that they were subjected to psychological and physical abuse, detailing some sadistic scenes from inside the mansion in an interview with The Mail. Spector would have a string of girlfriends, one of whom he had two biological children. He also remarried shortly before going to prison, then divorced from inside the prison walls.

Spector's health was already in question at the time of his murder trial, with his lawyers arguing that he had undiagnosed Parkinson's disease. Reports from prison officials later indicated that his health continued to deteriorate during his time behind bars. Four children and three ex-wives survive Spector.