Phil Spector Sentenced to Minimum of 19 Years
Phil Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison Friday, ending a six-year legal journey and capping an illustrious but rocky career as one of music's greatest talents.
The legendary "Wall of Sound" producer, 69, was found guilty on April 13 for the fatal shooting of actress Lana Clarkson, 40, at his mansion on Feb. 3, 2003.
Spector's conviction for second-degree murder carried a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life in prison. Judge Larry Paul Fidler, who also presided over a 2007 murder trial that ended with the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction, imposed an additional four years for the use of a firearm. Spector, who was given credit for serving 47 days, must serve at least 19 years and will not be eligible for parole until 2028, when he'll be 88.
During the trial, which began in October and ended after nine days of deliberations, Spector was depicted by prosecutor Truc Do as a violent misogynist with a "history of playing Russian roulette with the lives of women" while drunk.
The sentence serves as an inglorious epilogue to a storied career that took him to heights of fame normally reserved for the stars he produced. In the '60s, Spector released a slew of classics on his Philles label that brought a symphonic majesty to rock 'n' roll, starting with The Crystals' "There's No Other (Like My Baby)."
His use of instrumental density and echo created a sonic signature known as the "Wall of Sound," best exemplified by such hits as the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody" and Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High."
Spector's powers waned in the '70s, though he periodically continued to produce A-list acts. His legacy was stained by three decades of violent and eccentric behavior that including brandishing guns.
His conviction "is about as far as you can fall from the heights he once reached," says Nick Marino, managing editor of music magazine Paste. "I don't think anyone paid a lot of attention to the last couple decades of Spector's career, but the first couple were seismically important. I can't imagine what it must have been like for him sliding downward for so long and now continuing the trajectory all the way to jail."
While Spector's career is finished, his early contributions to music will retain historical heft, Marino predicts.
"Popular culture is pretty forgiving of personal misdeeds," he says. "Whether they're critics and historians or fans and consumers, people seem to differentiate the artist from his art. Lots of artists throughout history have had questionable personal lives at best and criminal lives at worst and along the way made some indelible art. 'Be My Baby' is still 'Be My Baby.' Those girl group songs and 'Wall of Sound' tunes are amazing. But to say that this taints his personal life and overall character as a human being is an understatement."