Phil Spector, who died on Saturday (Jan. 16) at age 81, may be best known today as a convicted killer, but he was one of the most successful and celebrated producers of the rock era.
Spector and George Harrison co-produced The Concert for Bangladesh, which won a 1972 Grammy for album of the year. The triple-disk album, recorded live at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 1, 1971, featured many of the biggest rock stars of the era, including Harrison, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Leon Russell.
Spector and Harrison had been Grammy-nominated in that category the previous year for producing Harrison’s smash solo album, All Things Must Pass, which was also a triple-disk opus. The album yielded the smash single “My Sweet Lord,” for which they were nominated for record of the year.
Spector was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 in the non-performers category. (The award was renamed in honor of Ahmet Ertegun in 2008.) Spector was inducted by Tina Turner, who, with her then-husband Ike Turner, recorded the 1966 single “River Deep, Mountain High,” which Spector produced. (The single flopped at the time — it stalled at No. 88 on the Hot 100 — but is now regarded as a classic.)
Spector was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2005, he shared the SHOF’s Towering Song Award with legendary songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil for co-writing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” Only 20 other songs have won that award.
Spector received a Trustees Award — the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award for people whose primary contributions is behind-the-scenes — from the Recording Academy in 2000. He was one of two recipients of the award that year, the other being legendary record executive Clive Davis.
None of these awards have been rescinded. By contrast, the Kennedy Center Honors rescinded Bill Cosby’s 1998 award, and the Television Academy Hall of Fame rescinded his 1991 award. Both awards were revoked in 2018 following Cosby’s rape conviction. The Kennedy Center Honors site still lists his name, followed by the explanation, “*rescinded in 2018.” The Television Academy Hall of Fame site simply doesn’t list his name anymore.
Spector probably would have won more Grammys, but many Grammy voters were cool to rock in the 1960s, when he was at his creative and commercial peak. The Grammys didn’t have categories devoted exclusively to rock until 1979. Also, they didn’t introduce their producer of the year, non-classical award until 1974.
But many songs and albums that Spector wrote and/or produced have been voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, including The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (inducted in 1998), Phil Spector & Various Artists’ A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector (1999), The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” (1999), Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High” (1999), John Lennon Plastic Ono Band’s “Imagine” (1999), Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem” (2002), The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” (2004) and Harrison’s All Things Must Pass (2014).
The Grammy Hall of Fame is open to all recordings that are at least 25 years old.
Inauguration festivities means that in the days leading up to the swearing in of Joe Biden as president of the United States and Kamala Harris as vice president on Jan. 20, there will be various musical performances to watch on television, which will of course also be streamed online. But perhaps most notable will be Lady Gaga singing the National Anthem on the big day itself, with additional sets by Jennifer Lopez, John Legend, Justin Timberlake, and many more.
If you’re looking for something to take your mind of politics, there are plenty of other options as well. Those include the long-awaited and twice-postponed Verzuz battle featuring Ashanti and Keyshia Cole on Jan. 21, and a big virtual concert by K-pop superstars Seventeen on the 23rd.
Below are some of the virtual music events to check out the week of Jan. 18-24. Stay tuned for other livestreams as more online shows are announced.
Jan. 18: The Chicks, Ruthie Foster and more are participating in the Move Forward Virtual Music Festival to raise money to relocate two historic Confederate monuments from the Bastrop, Texas County courthouse lawn. The event will also promote racial equality, and can be streamed on Move Forward’s YouTube and Facebook pages. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. ET.
A$AP Mob is hosting his annual Yams Day, this year virtually, and will feature an awards ceremony. Visit YamsDay.com for more information.
Jan. 21: After two postponements, the Ashanti and Keyshia Cole Verzuz battle is finally happening. The event begins at 8 p.m. ET on Verzuz’s Instagram Live or on Apple Music to watch in HD.
Phoebe Bridgers is livestreaming a set on BandsInTown.com beginning at 8 p.m. ET. A subscription is required to watch the event.
Jan. 21-30: The Hives are playing the World’s First World Wide Web Tour on Jan. 21 via livestream. The live shows will feature phone calls from fans, voting for the setlist, and more. The only U.S. show is set to begin at 7 p.m. ET on the 23rd; tickets start at $15 plus a service fee. For the full list of dates and tickets, visit The Hives’ website.
Jan. 23: K-pop stars Seventeen are kicking off 2021 with a virtual concert, during which they will perform more than 20 songs. The show begins at 4 a.m. ET. Check venewlife.com for more information.
Juliana Hatfield is performing the entirety of her 1998 album, Bed, with just an acoustic guitar. The show is pay-what-you-want, and begins at 4 p.m. ET on YouTube.
Phil Spector, an acclaimed rock era producer whose sizable impact on popular music was overshadowed by his 2009 conviction for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson, died on Saturday (Jan. 16) at the age of 81.
While his legacy is forever intertwined with and tarnished by his actions, his impact on popular music via his “Wall of Sound” girl group classics is undeniable. Aside from his celebrated work with the Ronettes, the Crystals, Darlene Love, Ike & Tina Turner and the Beatles, however, there are numerous songs – some indisputable classics, some lesser known oddities – that Spector contributed to in some way, whether through production, co-writing or studio session work. Here are 10 songs you may not have been aware he was involved in.
Ramones, “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” (1979)
While the version that appears on the soundtrack to the willfully schlocky 1979 flick Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is a Phil Spector remix of Ed Stasium’s original recording of the Ramones song (unreleased at the time), the group re-recorded it for the Spector-produced End of the Century album. Depending on which Ramone you ask, Spector did or did not pull a gun on them during the Century sessions; either way, the more polished (but still kick-ass) album cut is the one you’re most likely to hear, and the better one to boot.
John Ono Lennon, “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” (1970)
Once you know that Spector – who famously worked with Lennon on the Imagine album – also co-produced the single-only “Instant Karma,” you can’t unhear it: the ringing piano tone, the compressed blast of sweet sonics, and jangling rhythm are all vintage Spector specialties.
Cher, “Ringo I Love You” (1964)
A novelty Beatles homage released as a promo single at the height of Beatlemania, “Ringo I Love You” is an uncredited Phil Spector production with an unpolished garage rock vibe sung by a pre-fame Cher, who recorded it under the name Bonnie Jo Mason.
George Harrison, “Bangla Desh” (1971)
Spector’s work on George Harrison’s glorious “What Is Life” is no surprise, but it’s less known that he co-produced Harrison’s 1971 single, which helped raise international awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh. Spector also produced the live The Concert for Bangladesh album, a surprise winner for the album of the year Grammy in 1973.
Dion, “Born to Be With You” (1975)
Early rock pioneer Dion DiMucci teamed up with Spector for contentious sessions that eventually produced 1975’s Born to Be With You. While the LP failed to connect at the time, its reputation as a post-heyday highlight for both artists has grown over the ensuing decades. In terms of production, Spector is clearly in a “Save the Last Dance for Me” mindset on the quietly magical title track.
Ben E. King, “Spanish Harlem” (1960)
While Spector didn’t produce this gentle soul classic (collaborators Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller did), he co-wrote it with Lieber just as he was starting to establish his industry bona fides. Ben E. King, operating solo from the Drifters here, turned it into an enduring hit with characteristic warmth and richness.
The Drifters, “On Broadway” (1964)
One of the few classics involving Spector that he didn’t co-write or co-produce, the Drifters’ Hot 100 top 10 about being broke in NYC features Spector on electric guitar, which you can hear most prominently at the top of this recording.
Yoko Ono, “No, No, No” (1981)
As Yoko Ono endured the unthinkable, she teamed with Phil Spector to produce Season of Glass, her 1981 album grappling with the murder of her husband. “No, No, No” is haphazard snapshot of fragility, uncertainty and instability as Ono attempts to make it through the world without her soulmate. Spector was quiet for most of the ’80s, but this one demonstrates he could have acquitted himself nicely enough handling production in the new wave/post-punk era, had he cared to.
John Prine, “God Only Knows” (2018)
No, not that “God Only Knows,” but rather a song that John Prine and Spector co-wrote in the late ’70s that never made it to the former’s Bruised Orange album. Even if it didn’t blossom for Orange, Prine returned to it decades later, recording it as the penultimate track on his final studio album, The Tree of Forgiveness.
Starsailor, “Silence Is Easy” (2003)
A legendary recluse in the early ’00s (this is before he was charged with a murder he would eventually be convicted of), Spector approached British alt-rock outfit Starsailor and asked to produce them, having been turned on to their music by his daughter Nicole. One of the few recordings completed before the notoriously difficult producer and band fell out, “Silence Is Easy” was a U.K. chart hit and the last bit of sublime studio gold to emerge from the fraught producer.
Darlene Love’s career — and name — are forever tied to legendary producer Phil Spector, who died Saturday (Jan. 16). Love sang on many of Spector’s greatest productions, including as uncredited lead on The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” and “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” as well as background on a number of Spector-produced classics.
She was credited as herself — Spector changed her name from Darlene Wright to Darlene Love — on now Christmas standard, 1963’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home.)”
“I don’t feel sorry. I don’t feel grief,” she says a few hours after learning of his death. “It’s really sad that the way he ended his life [was] in prison for killing somebody. I want him to be remembered as this man who changed rock ‘n’ roll.”
Spector was convicted in 2009 of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of actress Lana Clarkson. He was serving a 19-years-to-life sentence at the time of his death.
Love recalls their thorny relationship, with its soaring highs and bruising lows, to Billboard.
You first met Spector in 1962 in California when he hired your group, The Blossoms, to record “He’s a Rebel.” What was your first impression?
When I met him, I just kept looking at his hair. It looked too neat. And then out of my mouth, I said, “Are you wearing a toupee?” [Laughs]
What did he say?
He said, “Oh no, no no. Don’t be looking at my hair.” He just kind of shrugged it off. I didn’t do it in a mean way. I was the one with the big mouth who would even say anything like that to anybody. At that age he had lost a lot of his hair.
What direction did he give you when you recorded “He’s a Rebel?”
The thing about me and The Blossoms, I was already a professional singer and producers liked for you to sing their melodies, especially writers. They don’t want you to go off and do runs like they do today. I was a melody singer, so he didn’t really have to harp on me about singing the song the way he wanted it. Once he told me how he wanted it sung, that’s how I sung it. … Me and Phil and Blossoms, we had so much fun in the earlier days. I was like 17 or 18, Phil was . We were in the business working around all these superstars.
Your relationship first went south when he wouldn’t put your name on the next single, “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” and still released it under The Crystals, right?
The big fallout was after that, [though] we did fallout about “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” I was driving my car home from a session and the disc jockey said, “Here’s the next record from The Crystals” and it was “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” I stopped my car — it’s a good thing there was nobody behind me — turned around and went back to the studio. I came in with fire in my eyes and nobody could really stop me as mad as I was. I was like, “Phil, this was supposed to by my record. I can’t believe it. I gave it my all. You promised me this was going to be my record.” And then we didn’t talk for a long time after that happened. I will still under contract.
How long did you not speak?
It might have been a couple of weeks or months. We only worked with him from 1961 to 1964. It was all done during that little bit of time. I always thought he was going to put my name on [1963’s] Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans’ “Zip-a-Dee-Doo Dah.”
Did you ever see him in the studio with a gun like some other artists did?
Never, because the one time I did go to the studio and they said he did have a gun, I went back home. He called and said, “Where are you?” I said, “I was there an hour ago, but you had a gun and I’m not coming to no studio with you with a gun.” “OK, come on back, Dar.” I said, “Well, just make sure when I get there the guys are gone.” He has these two twins that used to be his bodyguards. I said, “I don’t want to see them. If I come in that studio and they say you have a gun on you, I’m going home.”
As great as he was and as great a friendship as we had, you could flip and then I’m not there no more. I didn’t give him a chance to show guns [around] me. A lot of people saw it. I just wasn’t one of them.
Did you feel you were in the presence of someone who was creating a sound that would become historic?
Not at first. We thought, “This is different. Hmmm, maybe he has something here,” but never like, “It’s going to be around for the next 50 years.” That was never a thought.
When we really thought this music was great was when we did [1963’s] A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector. The thing about that whole Christmas album was the idea that Phil Spector was getting ready to do a rock ‘n’ roll Christmas album and our question is “You’re going to touch these songs?” But the more we recorded, the greatness started sinking in, not just with the singers, but the musicians. We are really getting ready to make history here. When we started doing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” it was like you’re really creating sunshine in rain here. There had never been a Christmas song like that.
Studio technology was also changing.
That album was when we had more than two tracks, so Phil Spector was now working with four tracks, so he could really be creative. “He’s a Rebel,” all that stuff before was two tracks. He was able to hear different things he wanted to put on the tracks so they had to go through melting everything down to one track and then starting putting things on again. I got a chance to see him do that. I didn’t know what the hell he was doing. [Laughs] I said, “Phil, what are you doing?” And he said, “You’ll see, you’ll see!” We had such a wonderful relationship as buddies — not as lovers, not as great friends — but just as buddies in the recording studio because I really enjoyed watching him do what he was doing and nobody got a chance to see that.
So what happened after that?
That’s when we fell out. I got Shindig!, the television show we did for two years (from 1964 to 1966), so I was always busy and I didn’t have my mind on that jack–s Phil Spector — that’s what I was saying to myself. [Laughs] He tried to stop me from singing background (for other producers) and I said, “You must be crazy. You don’t own my talent.”
He had me under contract as a lead singer, not as a backup singer. He’d call producers and say, “I have Darlene Love under contract and they’d say, “How come you don’t record her? Put out a hit record on her.” That was another thing I really had to forgive him for. Everybody that did Shindig! had hit records and once they did Shindig! they went sky high and he would not record me as Darlene Love.
But when he finally did, those records weren’t as successful as you had hoped. Do you think he sabotaged you in any way?
I think so. There were some records that he would put out and then take them off the radio. If you don’t have no radio play, nobody’s going to hear your records. Record companies could do that in those days: “Don’t play that record anymore.”
How did he react when you started appearing on Late Night With David Letterman in 1986 to sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home”)?
I had moved to New York. I hadn’t talked to him during that whole time. When I did the first David Letterman show, that’s how I knew Phil Spector was following me every step of the way. The producers told me Phil Spector had called the station and told them they were not allowed to have me sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on the David Letterman show, and if they continued to do it, he was going to sue them. They told him, “Go on and sue us.”
What happened the night he got inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989?
I didn’t talk to him that night. His lawyer came over to our table and was trying to make a deal with me. They wanted to give me $25,000 to sign off from ever suing Phil Spector again, no matter what it was. As much I needed that $25,000, I did not sign. If they hadn’t offered me that $25,000, I probably would have never sued Phil Spector, but if he wanted to try to buy me for $25,000, how much did he really owe me? That’s what made me sue him.
You first sued him in 1993 for unpaid royalties and were awarded $250,000. Did you talk to him in court?
I didn’t speak to him him because he came with an entourage. It was out here in Rockland County [N.Y.] He came with his entourage, his Cadillacs. He just had a bunch of people with him. I was with my sister, who could hold my hand through this, and my husband and my lawyer. That was it.
How did you find a way to forgive him?
I thank God for grace and his mercy and [my] faith in God. I had to forgive Phil for my sake. I had to get rid of the hate that I had for him and start thinking about if it wasn’t for Phil Spector, I wouldn’t have had a career. That’s the truth, if I live the next 100 years. If it wasn’t for Phil, there would not be a Darlene Love.
I had to start thinking about the good things and it made all the hate go away because wonderful things really started happening to me when I moved to New York. I met Paul Shaffer who got me introduced to David Letterman and I did the show for 28 years. I met Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder. All these people started giving me accolades and they don’t know how they were really touching my heart by saying all these things. They didn’t realize that they were helping me to forgive him.
What did you think when he went to prison?
Unfortunately his life led to this … I did actually write him a couple of letters while he was in prison. I never heard back. After that, I just said, “I’ll leave him alone.” I don’t even know if he read them. He was Phil Spector and my life with him was wonderful during that period that I was recording. What happened to him after that had nothing to do with me.
Olivia Rodrigo experienced one of the most memorable moments of a new artist’s career last week: hearing her own song playing on the radio for the very first time. The “Drivers License” singer-songwriter shared that exhilarating moment with her fans on Friday (Jan. 15).
Rodrigo’s reaction was filmed and posted on Instagram, where she wrote, “somebody say sike rn.”
In the clip, she squeals and covers her mouth, and a muffled “I’m gonna cry” can be heard. “It’s on the radio,” she says before singing along in the car to her own tune. “It’s on the radio.”
“Drivers License,” Rodrigo’s emotional breakout single about a heartbreaking drive through the suburbs haunted by what could have been with an ex — and there’s plenty of speculation about the High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’ star’s IRL inspiration — was just released on Jan. 8. It’s expected to make a major impact on the Hot 100 after breaking records on streaming services in its first week.
Watch her reaction to hearing “Drivers License” on the radio on Instagram.
Ronnie Spector is reacting to the death of her ex-husband Phil Spector following his passing on Saturday (Jan. 16) at the age of 81.
The iconic Ronettes singer took to social media on Sunday to remember Spector — who was convicted of second-degree murder in 2009 — as a “brilliant producer, but a lousy husband.”
“It’s a sad day for music and a sad day for me,” Ronnie, 77, wrote on Instagram. “When I was working with Phil Spector, watching him create in the recording studio, I knew I was working with the very best. 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 producer, who pioneered the revolutionary “Wall of Sound” production style, was found guilty of the 2003 fatal shooting of actress Lana Clarkson. He died in prison while serving a 19-years-to-life sentence.
Phil and Ronnie married in 1968 and divorced six years later. During their tumultuous marriage, Ronnie was physically and mentally abused by the producer, as documented in her 1990 memoir, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, or My Life as a Fabulous Ronette.
“As I said many times while he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband,” she wrote. “Unfortunately Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio. Darkness set in, many lives were damaged.”
Ronnie added, “I still smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and always will. The music will be forever.”
Phil produced many of The Ronettes’ hit songs, including the famous girl-group’s “Be My Baby” and “(The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up.”