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None of these awards have been rescinded. By contrast, the Kennedy Center Honors rescinded Bill Cosby’s 1998 award, and the Television Academy Hall of Fame rescinded his 1991 award.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 The Kennedy Center Honors site still lists his name, followed by the explanation, “*rescinded in 2018.”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.