Phil Spector’s Biggest Billboard Hits: ‘To Know Him Is to Love Him,’ ‘Be My Baby,’ ‘Unchained Melody’ & More

As previously reported, Phil Spector, who pioneered the “Wall of Sound” production style for classic Billboard Hot 100 hits in the 1950s, ’60s and beyond, died Saturday, Jan. 16, at the California Health Care Facility state prison in Stockton, Calif., where he’d been serving a 19-year sentence for a 2009 murder conviction. He was 81.

Spector was a force like few others on the Hot 100 from the late ’50s through the early ’70s, producing five No. 1 songs, among 19 top 10s, during his lifetime. He first appeared atop the tally nearly four months into the chart’s existence, when The Teddy Bears’ “To Know Him, Is to Love Him” began a four-week reign in December 1958, just before his 19th birthday.

Spector added two more Hot 100 No. 1s as a producer in the ’60s: “He’s a Rebel” by the Crystals and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ ” by the Righteous Brothers. He also notched two in the ’70s: the last of The Beatles’ record 20 leaders, “The Long and Winding Road”/”For You Blue,” and the first solo No. 1 by a member of the group after its breakup that year, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”/”Isn’t It a Pity.”

Below, Billboard has compiled a ranking of Spector’s 40 biggest Hot 100 hits as a producer. Among those 40 songs are six each by The Crystals, led by “He’s a Rebel,” and The Ronettes, paced by “Be My Baby.” The Righteous Brothers follow with five entries, with “Lovin’ Feelin’ ” joined in the top 10 by “Unchained Melody.”

Along with The Beatles’ “Road,” the group’s John Lennon shows with four titles below, and Harrison has three.

Spector’s influence is such that his name has contributed to Hot 100 hits from the chart’s first year, 1958, through 2021. Following the survey’s Aug. 4, 1958, inception, “To Know Him” debuted on the chart dated Sept. 22 that year. Most recently, two holiday chestnuts that he produced hit new highs earlier this month: The Ronettes’ “Sleigh Ride” and Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” The seasonal classics, originally released in the ’60s, reached bests of Nos. 13 and 19 on the Hot 100 dated Jan. 2 and rank at Nos. 28 and 36 on the retrospective below.

Phil Spector’s Biggest Billboard Hits
Rank, Title, Artist, Peak Position, Peak Date
1, TO KNOW HIM, IS TO LOVE HIM, The Teddy Bears, No. 1 (three weeks), 12/1/1958
2, MY SWEET LORD/ISN’T IT A PITY, George Harrison, No. 1 (four weeks), 12/26/1970
3, YOU’VE LOST THAT LOVIN’ FEELIN’, The Righteous Brothers, No. 1 (two weeks), 2/6/1965
4, HE’S A REBEL, The Crystals, No. 1 (two weeks), 11/3/1962
5, INSTANT KARMA (WE ALL SHINE ON), John Ono Lennon, No. 3, 3/28/1970

6, BE MY BABY, The Ronettes, No. 2, 10/12/1963
7, THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD/FOR YOU BLUE, The Beatles, No. 1 (two weeks), 6/13/1970
8, UNCHAINED MELODY, The Righteous Brothers, No. 4, 8/28/1965
9, IMAGINE, John Lennon Plastic Ono Band, No. 3, 11/13/1971
10, DA DOO RON RON (WHEN HE WALKED ME HOME), The Crystals, No. 3, 6/8/1963

11, CORINNA, CORINNA, Ray Peterson, No. 9, 1/9/1961
12, THEN HE KISSED ME, The Crystals, No. 6, 9/14/1963
13, I LOVE HOW YOU LOVE ME, The Paris Sisters, No. 5, 10/30/1961
14, EBB TIDE, The Righteous Brothers, No. 5, 1/8/1966
15, PRETTY LITTLE ANGEL EYES, Curtis Lee, No. 7, 8/7/1961

16, ZIP-A-DEE DOO-DAH, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, No. 8, 1/12/1963
17, JUST ONCE IN MY LIFE, The Righteous Brothers, No. 9, 5/15/1965
18, SECOND HAND LOVE, Connie Francis, No. 7, 6/9/1962
19, BLACK PEARL, Sonny Charles and the Checkmates, Ltd., No. 13, 7/5/1969
20, WHAT IS LIFE, George Harrison, No. 10, 3/27/1971

21, UPTOWN, The Crystals, No. 13, 5/26/1962
22, HE’S SURE THE BOY I LOVE, The Crystals, No. 11, 2/16/1963
23, POWER TO THE PEOPLE, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, No. 11, 5/1/1971
24, THERE’S NO OTHER (LIKE MY BABY), The Crystals, No. 20, 1/6/1962
25, WALKING IN THE RAIN, The Ronettes, No. 23, 12/5/1964

26, BABY, I LOVE YOU, The Ronettes, No. 24, 2/1/1964
27, WAIT TIL’ MY BOBBY GETS HOME, Darlene Love, No. 26, 9/7/1963
28, SLEIGH RIDE, The Ronettes, No. 13, 1/2/2021
29, BANGLA-DESH/DEEP BLUE, George Harrison, No. 23, 9/11/1971
30, WHY DO LOVERS BREAK EACH OTHER’S HEART?, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, No. 38, 3/30/1963

31, HE KNOWS I LOVE HIM TOO MUCH, The Paris Sisters, No. 34, 3/10/1962
32, DO I LOVE YOU?, The Ronettes, No. 34, 8/1/1964
33, (TODAY I MET) THE BOY I’M GONNA MARRY, Darlene Love, No. 39, 5/11/1963
34, (THE BEST PART OF) BREAKIN’ UP, The Ronettes, No. 39, 5/16/1964
35, PUDDIN N’ TAIN, The Alley Cats, No. 43, 2/16/1963

36, CHRISTMAS (BABY PLEASE COME HOME), Darlene Love, No. 19, 1/2/2021
37, EVERY BREATH I TAKE, Gene Pitney, No. 42, 9/11/1961
38, MOTHER, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, No. 43, 1/30/1971
39, UNDER THE MOON OF LOVE, Curtis Lee, No. 46, 11/27/1961
40, HUNG ON YOU, The Righteous Brothers, No. 47, 8/21/1965

Phil Spector’s Biggest Billboard Hits as a producer recap is based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart. Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, eras are weighted to account for different chart turnover rates over various periods. Research, in part, via Fred Bronson’s Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits book.

Fans Choose Zayn’s ‘Nobody Is Listening’ as This Week’s Favorite New Music

Zayn’s new music is proving to a be a winner with fans. The 28-year-old singer has topped the new music poll for the second week in a row, this time with his latest album, Nobody Is Listening.

Music fans voted in a Billboard poll published on Friday (Jan. 15), selecting the former One Direction member’s third studio release as their favorite music release of the week.

Nobody Is Listening brought in 45% of the vote this week, beating out new music by Selena Gomez (“De Una Vez”), Ariana Grande featuring Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion (“34+35″ remix), Lana Del Rey (Chemtrails Over the Country Club), and others.

Last week, Zayn topped the new music poll with his comeback single, “Vibez,” which earned nearly 70% of the fan vote.

Nobody Is Listening arrives almost three years after the R&B singer’s 29-song 2018 album, Icarus Falls. In addition to “Vibez,” the new set features previously unreleased the previously unreleased track “Better,” which peaked at No. 89 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October.

Placing second on the past week’s tally with 38% of the vote was Gomez’s new Spanish-language single “De Una Vez,” a rhythmic pop track that touches on healing and empowerment. It marks her first Spanish-sung song since “Un Año Sin Lluvia” in 2010.

Coming in third with 10% of the vote was an all-star remix of Grande’s “34+35,” featuring Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion. The song is featured on Ari’s latest album, Positions.

See the final results of this week’s new music release poll below.

10 Signature Phil Spector Productions, From Darlene Love to the Beatles

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.

A pioneering producer and influential hitmaker whose work in the ’60s and ’70s changed the way musicians approached the studio, Spector was best known for creating the jubilant, pile-driving “Wall of Sound” that characterized numerous girl group classics. Despite his unpredictable, often violent behavior, his reputation and technical skills made him one of the most respected producers of the rock era, leading him to work with everyone from the Beatles to John Lennon to the Ramones to Celine Dion in the ’90s (those sessions remain unreleased, however).

While his legacy is forever intertwined with and tarnished by his actions, dozens of songs he co-wrote and/or produced remain essential pieces of American pop history. These are 10 signature Phil Spector productions.

The Crystals, “Da Doo Ron Ron” (1963)

After many of the first-wave American rock ambassadors dropped off the scene temporarily (such as Little Richard and Elvis Presley) or permanently (such as Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens), it seemed there wasn’t much innovation in rock until the Beatles arrived. Phil Spector was a major exception to that rule in the U.S., however, and the Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron” is a perfection distillation of musical approach: a simple, lyrically uncomplicated song delivered with a youthful enthusiasm from a group of young African American females, augmented by an impenetrable wall of orchestral pop at a breakneck pace (courtesy his group of studio pros known as the Wrecking Crew). With Dolores “LaLa” Brooks on lead, the Crystals spat out admittedly silly adolescent declarations like this one as if nothing else in the world mattered except for the moment a cute boy or girl caught your eye; the snowballing energy of the recording rips you along for the ride whether you’re ready for romance or not.

The Ronettes, “Be My Baby” (1963)

Part of the appeal and brilliance of the Wall of Sound approach was that it worked not only for propulsive pop-rockers like the aforementioned Crystals tune, but it injected the simmering, irrepressible energy of teenage hormones into songs such as this game-changer. While a different producer might have approached this as an austere or saccharine ballad, Spector’s layered production – punctuated by that decisive, oft-imitated drum beat from Hal Blaine – makes “Be My Baby” feel like a dance song despite the easy-going pace. The essential ingredient is Ronnie Spector, whose deft negotiation between romantic infatuation and restraint ensured that “Be My Baby” would give birth to countless pop chart descendants. Heck, some might even say it’s the greatest girl group song of all time.

The Crystals, “Then He Kissed Me” (1963)

If there was ever a pop song that could make you believe in happily ever after for two teenage sweethearts, this is the one. LaLa Brooks’ vocal expertly builds from romantic indifference to head-over-heels devotion as that sweetly optimistic guitar tone rings out and a gentle, unshakable rhythm percolates beneath Spector’s mini orchestra. As always on Spector’s finest productions, the strings swoop in at just the right moment and make a quiet exit before overwhelming the honesty of the lead vocal with forced sentimentality. The result is one of the loveliest odes to the way a simple kiss can lead to a lifetime – and even if you don’t really believe in that, you will for the two minutes and forty seconds of this song.

Righteous Brothers, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (1964)

If Spector’s girl group hits demonstrated brevity and restraint, his work with the Righteous Brothers allowed him to indulge his more operatic compositional inclinations. A slow, somber number that delicately builds to a thunderous, widescreen chorus, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” finds the blue-eyed soul duo drenched in soul-wrenching, Sirkian drama. A Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 and enduring karaoke favorite, “Feelin'” verges on histrionics but sticks the landing. Spector is also listed as producer on their equally iconic “Unchained Melody,” though the duo’s Bill Medley insists his involvement was minimal on that one.

Ike & Tina Turner, “River Deep – Mountain High”

A song that sounds exactly like its title, “River Deep – Mountain High” crests and dips like a majestic bird of prey swooping through the Great Smokies, with Tina Turner – perhaps the greatest vocalist of her era, period – alternately mining her rich lower range and flaunting her effortless vocal peaks on this strange melange of gospel, doo-wop and classical. The unconventional structure and pacing made this one a tough sell at radio, and after it stalled at No. 88 on the Hot 100, Spector retreated for a couple years. But its reputation has swelled like the chorus since then, becoming one of Tina’s most respected studio recordings in a career stuffed with classics. (Then-husband Ike doesn’t appear on the recording but was listed as an artist per an agreement with Spector, who was solely interested in working with Tina.)

Veronica, “So Young” (1964)

If “Lovin’ Feelin'” and “River Deep” found Spector exploring his penchant for blockbuster storytelling, “So Young” is the flip side of that: a narrow focus on a small drama that nevertheless means the world to those caught up in it. In this case, the issue is “how young is too young to get married?”, certainly a topic of some interest for the record-buying teenage public in 1964. Ronnie Spector (here billed solely by her birth name Veronica) imbues the song with a reflective melancholy, as if she knows society will ultimately best the wishes of her heart; the ethereal, restrained production gives her lamentation an almost religious quality.

Darlene Love, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (1963)

Even back in the ’60s, writing an original Christmas classic was a tall order: Most successful holiday singles were mere novelties, fun for sing-alongs but not terribly meaningful. Working with frequent collaborators Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Spector co-wrote and produced an emotionally devastating vignette about a broken romance during the so-called Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Darlene Love belts “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” with a beautiful desperation, painting a Rockwellian portrait of a perfect Dec. 25 while simultaneously tearing your heart out. The secular glory of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is almost unthinkable without this one shoveling a path through the snowbank first.

The Beatles, “Let It Be” (1970)

Paul McCartney might have been right to retch at what Phil Spector did to “The Long and Winding Road,” but it’s hard to argue with the girl group auteur’s treatment of Macca’s most emotionally resonant composition. While George Martin produced the single version, Spector made subtle but impactful changes to the album version, pushing up the horns in the mix, emphasizing Ringo Starr’s soft teasing of the hi-hats and giving the crackling guitar solo from George Harrison (a different take from the single version) a bit more room to breathe.

John Lennon, “Imagine” (1971)

Every celebrity’s favorite “music with a message” song, “Imagine” has elicited tears and sneers over the past half century, but there’s no denying it’s one of the most internationally popular social change anthems. John Lennon tapped Spector as co-producer for the Imagine title track, and Spector turned to composer Torrie Zito for the accompanying string arrangement; unlike his sonically stuffed ’60s productions, Spector let the orchestral bits waft in and out of “Imagine,” making it one of his airiest, least invasive productions.

George Harrison, “What Is Life” (1970)

The most exuberant track on George Harrison’s solo debut All Things Must Pass, “What Is Life” opens with a reverb-soaking guitar riff that sounds like a valiant attempt to mimic Spector’s Wall of Sound using just one instrument. If less is more on “Imagine,” second and third helpings of the sanguine sonics in this dense production remind us that excess can occasionally be best when it comes to the feast of “Life.” A veritable horn of plenty (with horns a’plenty) from the studio maestro, “What Is Life” is a booming celebration of life from the supposedly quiet Beatle.

5 Things to Know About the Planning Behind Inauguration Performances

Even virtually, expect President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration week to far more resemble President Barack Obama’s star-studded festivities than President Donald Trump’s 2017 event with Jackie Evancho and the Rockettes.

Things kick off with the “We the People” virtual concert Sunday (Jan. 17), which includes James Taylor, and Fall Out Boy; Lady Gaga sings the National Anthem at Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony; and Friday’s “Celebrating America” special includes Justin Timberlake, Bruce Springsteen and John Legend. (Lineups and formats are still in flux, given President Trump’s supporters’ pledge to cause even more mayhem on Inauguration Day than they did during the Jan. 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol.)

“Every inauguration reflects the president-elect and the moment — the moment in 2021 is very different than the moment in 2009,” says Erik Smith, creative director for Obama’s 2009 and 2013 inaugurations and now a founding partner at corporate-communications firm Seven Letter. “Inauguration planners are probably changing a lot of things they had planned to do over the last week.”

Biden’s team wouldn’t comment, but here are five things you may not have known about the logistics of performances at presidential inaugurations — including this unusual week.

Most Performances This Year Will Be Livestreams

Biden’s team hasn’t announced details for each event, but nobody expects anything to be in person — the pandemic makes concert crowds a health risk, and Biden’s team is astutely aware of Trump supporters’ inauguration threats. “If you have any common sense at all, you’re doing this online,” says Sam Feldman, manager of James Taylor, a headliner for Sunday night’s “We the People” virtual concert.

Though this year’s gigs will be virtual, “Everyone’s jumping at the chance to be part of a moment of change,” says one prominent artist rep. “Similar feeling during Obama days, I think.” 

Musicians Do Not Get Paid

For President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, artists clamored for spots in the lineup — and were happy to work for free. “What we were telling artists was, ‘You’re invited to perform. You’re not getting paid. Your band’s not getting paid. You get one hotel room and two tickets,'” Smith recalls. “We were limited in our resources.”

Artists generally accept the conditions, although Biden’s inaugural committee is raising millions in donations. “Will’s lawyer will say, ‘Is the caterer doing it for free? What about the valet?’ Nobody is. And they always expect artists to,” says Seth Friedman, manager of Black Eyed Peas, whose frontman will share his Biden campaign video, “The Love,” as part of Sunday night’s “We the People” virtual concert. “But Will has never been paid for any of his political work.”

It Helps to Know People

Pete Wentz, Fall Out Boy’s bassist, shared an Instagram photo last November showing Biden holding him as a baby in the 1970s (his mother, Dale Lewis Wentz, worked on Biden’s Senate staff at the time). “When they were starting to put stuff together, they reached out to us,” says Bob McLynn, the band’s manager. “There was a connection there.”

Adds Feldman, whose client Taylor has been a prominent Democratic fundraiser and performer for decades: “It’s really built on relationships — somebody who’s active in any particular political party and their relationships with certain artists.”

In contrast, Trump had few music contacts. Aside from right-wingers such as Ted Nugent and Kid Rock, artists stayed away from his 2016 campaign almost completely. When he came around to planning his inauguration, even conservative artists including Hank Williams Jr. kept clear.

“He didn’t have as many relationships,” Smith says, “and it may not have been that important to him.” Feldman adds: “How could you possibly have any less? Springsteen said it all: It’s been a White House without the joy of music — or irony.”

Supporters May Get Rewarded, who created the “Yes We Can” video in 2008, earned a prime slot at President Obama’s first inauguration. Katy Perry, who campaigned aggressively for Hillary Clinton, undoubtedly would have been a headliner if Clinton had beaten Trump in 2016. “It’s not just like, ‘Hey, we’re having a party.’ It’s ‘Who’s been involved?'” McLynn says.

Cultural Relevance Is Important

U2 wasn’t active in Obama’s 2008 campaign, but they kicked off his inauguration festivities the following January, along with Bruce Springsteen. “It’s people who can deliver a moment of great symbolism and importance,” Smith says.