Phil Spector Dead: Darlene Love Reflects on Controversial Producer After His Death

Darlene Love, the songstress behind a number of Phil Spector's hits, is rehashing some of her old memories involving the late record producer and convicted murderer. Spector died on Saturday of natural causes in a hospital, California state prison officials say. Love spoke with Variety about their tumultuous business relationship. "You know, the whole thing was like a bad marriage,” Darlene Love says. “It’s a marriage that was abusive — not just physically, but mentally. That’s what Phil was trying to do with me. He wanted to control not Darlene, but the talent.”

When Spector initially died, Love says she went through a few different emotions. However, even though they had a rocky past, Love says she didn't feel any malice for him after his death. She thought of the legacy he left behind as an artist. “I felt this is very sad. I didn’t think of hate. I didn’t think, ‘He deserved it or this should have happened.’ I just felt this was a sad way for him to leave this earth," she said. Love learned of Spector's death through her son on Sunday morning. “The more I thought about it, the sadder I got. He changed the sound of rock ‘n’ roll — the reason I know this is because Steve Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen and Elton John all told me that.”

Love as a background singer for the Blossoms in the early 1960s, which is how she met the complicated artist. Her voice carried one of Spector's biggest hits "He's a Rebel," but the song was credited to another one of Spector's girl groups –– the Crystals. As they continued working together, Spector continued to bury Love's name, even though she sang on a number of his songs. Over time, Love describes his controlling nature as the factor that started to drive the two apart. “The problem I have with Phil is that he wanted to control Darlene Love's talent,” she says. “If he couldn’t do that, he was going to do everything in his power to keep my talent from shining. He made me. ‘I discovered her.'”

With his control of copyrights, he stopped Love from performing the songs that effectively launched her career. Therefore, she decided to restart as a solo artist. She went on to live a successful career as an entertainer, even performing in shows on Broadway. "Once I moved to New York [in 1983], I thought I was done with Phil. I had a wonderful husband and life was great. I met Paul Schaffer and he got me on The Late Show with David Letterman,” she said. “[Spector] didn’t control me anymore, and that’s what I left in California. I didn’t have to think about him anymore.”

Love went on to successfully sue Spector in 1993 for unpaid royalties. She also won a Grammy award in 2015 for her work in 20 Feet from Stardom, a film about her and many other widely recognized but often overlooked singers. Love says even before his death, she knew his musical legacy would outlive the negative he'd done. “When your work is good, they forget about whatever happened to you, and they look at the product, and that is what has happened with Phil,” she said. “Even though his life didn’t go the way he expected it to go, the music is still there, and people still love ‘He’s a Rebel’ or ‘Be My Baby’ or ‘Lovin’ Feeling.'”