F*ck You, Dead Phil Spector
Phil Spector is dead. 81 years old, natural causes. Not in prison, where he has been for the last eleven or so years, but in a nearby hospital. Hopefully alone.
There are going to be a lot of remembrances today talking about how he was a pioneering music producer, how he created the wall of sound, how he is responsible for some of the best music ever made. These things are true. What is also true is that he was a murderer and an abuser and just an all around rotten person in a startling variety of ways.
People will talk about his talent. And yes, he may have had talent, but he destroyed talent as well. When he married Ronnie Spector (neé Bennett) of The Ronettes — one of the great talents of her generation — he pulled her right off the stage at the height of her career and kept her locked in his mansion, with bars on the windows, monitoring intercoms, surrounded by barbed wire and guard dogs and ten-foot electric gates. Literally. She didn't see so much as a movie the entire time they were together. He surprised her with adopted children to force her to stay. He also bought a large golden coffin and told her that if she tried to escape, he would kill her and put her dead body on display in it, telling her mother it was "so I can keep an eye on her after she's dead.". He hid her shoes so that she could not escape, and when she finally did escape, with the help of her mother, it was in bare feet.
"I knew that if I didn't leave I was going to die there," she said.
She was right. Spector would later murder actress Lana Clarkson and go to prison for doing so. Clarkson was found dead in his home with her teeth splattered all over the floor. Although he would later claim it was an "accidental suicide," Spector had, at first, told 9-1-1 "I think I've killed someone." Four other women would later come forward and say that Spector had pulled a gun on them after they had spurned his advances. He had also pulled guns on John Lennon and Dee Dee Ramone.
He was also horrible to women he was not involved with. He stole so much from Darlene Love — not least of all, her voice. He would have her record songs and then put them on other people's albums. Lala Brooks and Barbara Alston of The Crystals were certainly surprised when they heard "He's A Rebel" being attributed, on the radio, to The Crystals — when it was being sung by Darlene Love. She couldn't record with anyone else because Spector wouldn't let her out of her contract, and he regularly used her and her group The Blossoms as back up singers ... and then did not pay them royalties. Love successfully sued Spector for royalties in 2004, but only got a fraction of what he owed her.
Ronnie Spector did not get anything in her divorce from Phil Spector, because he told her he had hired a hit man who would kill her if she did.
Phil Spector was also accused of sexual abuse by his adopted children, Donte and Gary. They said he held them captive and forced them to "perform sex acts" with one of his girlfriends.
As always happens when someone like Spector dies, there will be the usual discussions that occur when a person who has produced some very good things in the world is also a shitty, abusive human being. And Phil Spector absolutely did produce some of the absolute best songs that have ever existed, and it would be stupid not to listen to them because he is a shitty person. The actual musicians and singers who recorded the songs don't deserve to be punished for that — especially those who were his actual victims, like Ronnie Spector. But it is important to remember while talking about what he contributed to the world, that he also took so much away from it and from us. We all lost out on years of songs from both Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love, two of the greatest voices in history, and God knows how many others, because Phil Spector was a piece of shit. And that is heartbreaking.
I read Ronnie Spector's autobiography, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, Or, My Life as a Fabulous Ronette, the book in which she detailed the abuse she suffered at the hands of Phil Spector as well as her escape, when I was nine years old. It was absolutely horrifying. And so I have deeply, deeply hated Phil Spector for a very, very long time now. I am glad that he is dead. I am glad that he can't hurt anyone else, and I absolutely motherfucking refuse to read any "Oh well, he was a genius" crap.
Anyway! This is now your open thread! Feel free to celebrate the fact that this motherfucker is rotting in the ground, because I sure will.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse