Page last updated at 03:44 GMT, Tuesday, 14 April 2009 04:44 UK

Verdict blights Spector's legacy

By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

Phil Spector in court in Los Angeles (May 2005)
Spector had a reputation for being eccentric and domineering

The conviction of legendary record producer Phil Spector brings to an end a six-year legal drama that has both intrigued and dismayed the general public and music fans.

A jury in Los Angeles found him guilty of second-degree murder.

The victim, Lana Clarkson, was an out-of-work actress who was earning a living as a hostess at a Hollywood nightclub.

The pair met at the club in 2003 and went home to Spector's mansion on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Later that night, Ms Clarkson died when she was shot in the mouth.

The record producer said she killed herself while the prosecution insisted that Spector fired the fatal shot.

The verdict by a six-man, six-woman jury, follows a retrial that lasted over five months.

Spector's first trial, two years ago, ended with the jurors unable to reach a unanimous decision. They were split 10:2 in favour of a guilty verdict on the charge of murder.

The original jury was not given the option of voting on a manslaughter charge.

The retrial was conducted with little media attention. Much of the evidence was a repeat of the original trial, with the same cast of characters.

'Flaunted firearms'

He always flaunted firearms and he was always, for a little guy, a bit of a bully
Roy Trakin, HITS magazine

"This tale is so tawdry and so sordid and whatever happened that night… I think Phil Spector has been tainted with that brush at least for the rest of his life," says Roy Trakin, a pop culture critic and senior editor of HITS magazine.

"Hopefully in time we'll be able to better appreciate his work and what he did and separate it out," he adds.

Separating Spector's murder conviction from his lifetime of work in the music business is not easy.

Always a domineering figure, Spector had a reputation for being eccentric and intimidating.

In 1964 the American author and journalist Tom Wolfe famously called him "the first tycoon of teen".

"He always flaunted firearms and he was always, for a little guy, a bit of a bully and that was certainly something that followed him around," says Mr Trakin.

"On the other side those who were part of the inner circle, friends of Phil, have talked of his loyalty and his sense of humour."

Musical pioneer

The Ronettes (file image)
The sound of bands like the Ronettes suited the technology of the day

Spector's musical legacy is undisputed. He developed a sound that still influences groups today.

He described his songs as "little symphonies for the kids", and was a groundbreaking force in popular music.

He produced records for some of the biggest names in popular music since the early 1960s.

His hits include the Ronettes' Be My Baby, You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' by the Righteous Brothers' and Ike and Tina Turner's River Deep - Mountain High. He produced The Beatles' Let It Be album and John Lennon's classic single, Imagine.

Spector pioneered the art of multiple track recordings using small armies of musicians - pianists, guitarists and drummers - to produce the "Wall of Sound".

It was a big, dense sound that was particularly well suited to the technology of the day - transistor radios and early car radios.

For music fans, there is no silver lining to this tragic episode in Spector's life

"Phil has always been a proponent of the mono sound," explains Mr Trakin.

"That great big sound that came out of the tiny little speakers on which you listened to the music back in the early 60s."

Spector is also credited with being one of the first figures in the music business to flaunt his grandiose persona.

"He was the first to start wearing his hair longer, wearing the shades in public, to start really carrying on that larger-than-life image which was adopted by everyone from the Beatles through to Prince and up until the modern day," says Mr Trakin.

But for most fans, nothing can redeem this tragic episode in Spector's life. His musical legacy will be forever overshadowed by the murder conviction.

The record producer will be sentenced on 29 May and faces between 18 years and life in prison. His lawyers have said they intend to launch an appeal.

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