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Who will get killer producer Phil Spector’s $50m fortune?

Murderer Phil Spector’s four children are expected to be in line to receive shares of the killer’s fortune following his death in prison from coronavirus last week.

Spector, whose net worth is estimated to be around $50million thanks to royalties from hits including You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling was father to three adopted sons with second wife singer Ronnie Spector. 

And he later had a twin son and a daughter with Janis Zavala. Their son Phillip Spector Jr died of Leukemia in 1991 and their daughter Nicole is a writer and freelance journalist.   

The music producer had been serving a 19 years-to-life sentence for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 when he died of coronavirus after suffering breathing difficulties.

And his ex-wife Ronnie took to social media yesterday to pay a barbed tribute to Phil, describing him as ‘a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband’ after he abused her throughout their marriage from 1968-1974.

She said: ‘It’s a sad day for music and a sad day for me. When I was working with Phil Spector, watching him create in the recording studio, I knew I was working with the very best.

Although Spector’s net worth at the time of his death was estimated to be around $50million, celebritynetworth.com claims this figure could be higher depending on how much he owns of ‘one of the most valuable song royalty catalogues in the world’.  

‘As I said many times while he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband.

Unfortunately Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio.

Darkness set in, many lives were damaged.

I still smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and always will. The music will be forever.’

Now, Spector’s four children, who he had across two of his three marriages, are set to inherit his vast fortune.  

In the 1980s Spector then began dating Janis Zavala with whom he had twins Nicole Audrey Spector (pictured) and Phillip Spector Jr who died of leukemia in 11991

Phil Spector’s four children are expected to be in line to receive shares of the killer’s $50million fortune following his death from coronavirus complications last week. Pictured: left Spector’s three adopted children Donte, and twins Gary and Louis (left). His daughter Nicole Audrey Spector is pictured right

Phil Spector (left) initially adopted three children with Ronnie Spector (right), who was the leader singer of the Ronettes, and who he was married to for six years

Phil Spector (left) initially adopted three children with Ronnie Spector (right), who was the leader singer of the Ronettes, and who he was married to for six years

PHIL SPECTOR’S POP GENIUS SONGBOOK 

While the legendary producer’s fortune was down to a reported $50M at the time of his death, Spector was reported to still hold the publishing rights to some of pop music’s catchiest hits. 

While he never sold the rights to music written solo or with partners Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich before his death – anyone who comes to own the extensive catalogue would be in line for tens of millions of dollars of royalties a year. 

The jailed genius owned the rights or at least partial rights to 200 songs ranging from his chart-topper ‘To Know Him Is to Love Him’ – to his masterpiece – ‘River Deep Mountain High’ – sung by Tina Turner in 1966.

  • To Know Him Is To Love Him – The Teddy Bears – 1958
  • Be My Baby – The Ronettes – 1063
  • Da Doo Ron Ron – The Crystals – 1963
  • Then He Kissed Me – The Crystals – 1963
  • Chapel of Love – The Dixie Cups – 1964
  • You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – 1965 – The Righteous Brothers
  • Just Once In My Life – The Righteous Brothers – 1965
  • River Deep Mountain High – Ike And Tina Turner – 1966

Spector also famously produced ‘A Christmas Gift For You’ in 1963 which has become a staple of the Holiday Season and The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ album in 1970. 

Continuing to work with John Lennon and George Harrison – the producer also worked with 70s punk legends The Ramones.

His first marriage was to Annette Merar who was a lead vocalist in the Spector’s Three which Phil created and produced in the 1960s.

However, during this marriage, he was alleged to have been having an affair with Veronica Bennett, later known as Ronnie Spector.

He divorced Merar in 1966 and married Ronnie two years later in 1968. 

Spector initially adopted three children with Ronnie, who was the leader singer of the Ronettes, and who he was married to for six years.

Ronnie was working as a dancing girl with her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley at Brooklyn’s Fox Theater when they caught Spector’s eye.

He was immediately smitten with Ronnie, co-writing the hit tune Be My Baby as a ‘love letter’ to her.

The song – one of the first to feature Spector’s famous ‘wall of sound’ – went straight to the top of the charts and turned the Ronettes into stars.

When the Beatles invited the Ronnettes to join their world tour, Phil delivered an ultimatum to Ronnie – she could leave him, or she could marry him. 

Phil and Ronnie had adopted their son Donté Phillip Spector in 1970, only to surprise her at Christmas two years later by adopting twins Louis Phillip Spector and Gary Phillip Spector without telling her.  

‘We were in the car and all of a sudden we pull up to the mansion and there’s these twins running around – these blond-haired, blue-eyed twins,’ she told People.

‘I’m saying, “What’s this?” and he said, “Merry Christmas!”

‘No one wants live children as a surprise,’ Ronnie, now 75, said as she recalled the moment.

‘He never said, ‘Ronnie, what do you think we should do? Should we adopt twins? Everything was a surprise.’

 

Ronnie said that she pulled up to the mansion she lived at with Phil (pictured) when she suddenly saw twins Gary and Louis running around. She had not been consulted by her husband before he adopted the two boys

Ronnie said that she pulled up to the mansion she lived at with Phil (pictured) when she suddenly saw twins Gary and Louis running around. She had not been consulted by her husband before he adopted the two boys

 

Ronnie Spector’s tribute to Phil 

Ronne Spector took to social media to pay tribute to Phil, who she had previously been married to for six years. She said: 

It’s a sad day for music and a sad day for me.

When I was working with Phil Spector, watching him create in the recording studio, I knew I was working with the very best. 

He was in complete control, directing everyone. So much to love about those days.

Meeting him and falling in love was like a fairytale.

The magical music we were able to make together, was inspired by our love. I loved him madly, and gave my heart and soul to him.

As I said many times while he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband.

Unfortunately Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio.

Darkness set in, many lives were damaged.

I still smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and always will. The music will be forever.

Phil Spector 1939-2021.

The twins later claimed that they had been abused by their adopted dad. In an interview with the Mail on Sunday in 2003, Donte described his relationship with his father as a ‘thin line between love and hate.’

He said Phil locked him and his brothers in their bedrooms ‘with locks on the door’ and that he’d left home at 10 years old after years of abuse.

After six years, Ronnie eventually divorced Phil in 1974, claiming in a memoir that he held her prisoner in their mansion and that she had escaped the property barefoot in 1972 with help from her mother. 

In the 1980s Spector then began dating Janis Zavala with whom he had twins Nicole Audrey Spector and Phillip Spector Jr.

Phillip Spector Jr died from leukaemia at the age of nine-years-old in 1991.

His twin, Nicole is now a writer, editor, book coach, and the creator of #Bookishdresses who has featured in publications such as The New Yorker, NBC News, The Atlantic, Vogue, Reductress, and Publisher’s Weekly. 

In 2006, Phil married his girlfriend Rachelle Short, but the pair divorced 10 years later, citing ‘irreconcilable differences’.

During his career, Spector developed the Wall of Sound, a technique of that has a roaring effect, dubbed the ‘Wagnerian approach to rock ‘n’ roll,’ that was popular in the ’60s.

This was the first time the recording studio was used as an instrument itself. It works by having reverberating instruments and large ensembles play in unison to create a fuller, richer tone and nearly drown out vocals.

Spector was the rare self-conscious artist in rock’s early years and cultivated an image of mystery and power with his dark shades and impassive expression.

Tom Wolfe declared him the ‘first tycoon of teen.’ Bruce Springsteen and Brian Wilson openly replicated his grandiose recording techniques and wide-eyed romanticism, and John Lennon called him ‘the greatest record producer ever.’

His children now are now set to inherit his $50million fortune, tied up in 'one of the most valuable song royalty catalogues in the world'

His children now are now set to inherit his $50million fortune, tied up in ‘one of the most valuable song royalty catalogues in the world’

He wrote, co-wrote and produced acts for the likes of the Ronettes, the Crystals, and Ike & Tina Turner.

He started his career by producing his first hit ‘To Know Him is To Love Him’ for his vocal trio the Teddy Bears when he was still in high school. It went to the top of the Billboard 100 in 1958.

From there his career skyrocketed and he produced hits including ‘Be My Baby’ by the Ronnettes and ‘He’s a Rebel’ by The Crystals.

In 1970 he produced the Beatles’ album Let It Be and several solo records for John Lennon and George Harrison.

By the 70s he had produced 18 US Top 10 singles for various artists including Leonard Cohen, and the Ramones.

Some of his top songs include ‘The Long and Winding Road’ by the Beatles in 1970 and ‘My Sweet Lord’ by George Harrison in 1970.

The gun-mad pop genius who died a killer in jail: Phil Spector, who has succumbed to Covid aged 81, was the iconic producer behind some of the greatest hits ever. But he was also a terrifying and deranged monster…

Phil Spector created the greatest pop music ever recorded. 

Hear his songs once and their dense, immense sound, layered with countless harmonies, is unforgettable – Be My Baby by The Ronettes or River Deep, Mountain High by Ike and Tina Turner.

Of all the giant hits throughout the Sixties produced by Spector, with his hallmark ‘Wall of Sound’, perhaps the finest is You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ by the Righteous Brothers.

Spector, who died yesterday aged 81 from complications linked to a Covid infection, has been acknowledged in the music business for six decades as a genuine genius.

Yet for almost as long, he has been regarded as the most hated man in pop: a thug, a bullying control freak, an alcoholic, a gun nut, a monster… and a murderer. 

When he died, he was serving a jail sentence of 19 years to life for the killing of an actress at his California home.

Phil Spector (pictured in 1978) , who died yesterday aged 81 from complications linked to a Covid infection, created the greatest pop music ever recorded

Phil Spector (pictured in 1978) , who died yesterday aged 81 from complications linked to a Covid infection, created the greatest pop music ever recorded

Spector claimed Lana Clarkson was playfully kissing the barrel of his revolver when it was accidentally discharged, in 2003. A pathologist found bruising on the 40-year-old’s tongue, indicating the weapon was forced into her mouth. 

After a murder hearing ended in a mistrial in 2007, Spector was found guilty two years later of second degree murder, the US term for manslaughter.

Few who knew the producer were surprised. He had a reputation for gunplay in the recording studio, threatening musicians and stars at pistol point if they failed to obey his instructions to the note.

Songwriter Leonard Cohen, who recorded with Spector in 1977, said that during one late-night session, an argument about the phrasing of a line became so acrimonious that the producer marched out of his booth and held a gun to Cohen’s head until he performed it to his liking.

That wasn’t the only time the Canadian singer and poet found himself a heartbeat away from being shot. 

Phil Spector seated in the courtroom on March 23 2009, the last day of the prosecution rebuttal in the case of People v Phil Spector

Phil Spector seated in the courtroom on March 23 2009, the last day of the prosecution rebuttal in the case of People v Phil Spector

On another night, Spector weaved across the studio with a pistol in one hand and a bottle of red wine in the other. He flung an arm across Cohen’s shoulder, pulled him tight and shoved the gun barrel against his neck. ‘I love you, Leonard,’ he said.

‘I hope you do,’ Cohen replied.

Cohen was not the only one unnerved by the svengali’s habit of pointing weapons at anyone who displeased him, included John Lennon and The Ramones.

Lennon was recording his 1975 covers album Rock ‘n’ Roll when Spector pulled his revolver from its hip holster and fired a shot inches from the ex-Beatle’s head, into the control room ceiling. A shaken Lennon snapped: ‘Phil, if you’re going to kill me, kill me. But don’t f*** with my ears. I need them.’

Punk bass player Dee Dee Ramone tried to leave the studio after a 12-hour session during which Spector refused to record anything but one chord, played endlessly. The producer aimed his revolver at the bassist’s chest – then deftly stripped and reassembled the gun without ever breaking eye contact.

It sometimes seemed that Spector had pulled a gun on every leading artiste in the business. 

Spector had a habit of pointing weapons at anyone who displeased him, included John Lennon and The Ramones. Pictured: Phil Spector with John Lennon

Spector had a habit of pointing weapons at anyone who displeased him, included John Lennon and The Ramones. Pictured: Phil Spector with John Lennon

When Blondie’s Debbie Harry approached him about producing a comeback album for her, he took out a handgun, stuck it into the top of her boot and said: ‘Bang!’ After that, Harry said, she couldn’t get out of the room fast enough.

Spector claimed his obsession with firearms began in his teens, after he was beaten up by a gang.

The guns were for protection, he said. But that was far too simple an answer for a man of deep and complex insecurities, who wore two-inch heels to boost his 5’5” height and took medication for schizophrenia even though he had not been diagnosed with the illness.

Days before the killing of Lana Clarkson, he gave his first interview for 25 years and blamed his mental instability on the fact that his parents were first cousins. 

‘I would say I’m probably relatively insane, to an extent,’ he said. ‘I have a bipolar personality which is strange. I’m my own worst enemy.’

Born in New York on Boxing Day, 1940, he moved with his family to Los Angeles as a toddler. 

Phil Spector (sitting) with George Harrison and the Ronettes

Phil Spector (sitting) with George Harrison and the Ronettes

Tragedy struck when he was eight: his father Ben set off for work as usual one morning, but pulled off the road, fed a hosepipe from the exhaust to the driver’s window, and gassed himself to death.

Ben’s gravestone bore the words: ‘To know him was to love him’. Lying in bed and grieving, the boy heard the line in his mind as the refrain of a song. 

He formed a high school rock ‘n’ roll band, The Teddy Bears, and recorded it, landing his first No1 hit in 1958. The song became a cover favourite, recorded by artists from Nancy Sinatra and Emmylou Harris to The Beatles and Amy Winehouse.

Spector sang harmonies on that original version, but he soon realised his talent was for shaping sounds, not making them. 

After a brief career as a Tin Pan Alley songwriter (co-writing Spanish Harlem, a hit for Cliff Richard and Ben E King), he set up a record company to develop his distinctive, symphonic soundscape – a densely-packed tsunami of music, as if three orchestras and a choir were combining.

Soon he was a phenomenon, the producer as star-maker, dubbed ‘the first tycoon of teen’ by journalist Tom Wolfe.

He began with The Crystals, a gospel-influenced girl group with a string of hits: He’s A Rebel, Da Doo Ron Ron, Then He Kissed Me.

Aged 22, he signed The Ronettes. Their lead singer was a statuesque woman with beehive hair and eyeliner like an Egyptian queen. Her name was Ronnie Bennett and Spector became obsessed with her. 

They recorded Be My Baby, the song becoming mixed up with the producer’s all-consuming sexual passion for the singer. In bed, he kept leaping up every two minutes and 45 seconds, to put the single on again.

Ronnie didn’t realise at first that Spector was already married, to Annette Merar. When she noticed women’s clothes at his home, he told her they belonged to his sister.

The Colt revolver found near Lana Clarkson's body is seen here in an evidence photo presented during the trial

The Colt revolver found near Lana Clarkson’s body is seen here in an evidence photo presented during the trial

He insisted on keeping their affair secret, which caused an embarrassing incident at a New York hotel when the house detective assumed Ronnie was a prostitute and tried to throw her out.

A ferociously jealous man, Spector landed The Ronettes a gig as the support act on a Rolling Stones tour – then forced the band’s management to sign legal papers pledging that Mick Jagger and the other Stones would not fraternise or even speak with the girl band.

Ronnie eventually married Spector in 1968 after divorcing his first wife – when his greatest success was already over – and his eccentricities were multiplying.

His Wall of Sound reached its zenith with You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ and another Righteous Brothers classic, Unchained Melody (though pop historians argue over whether he really did produce that song, originally destined to be a B-side).

When River Deep, Mountain High by the Turners flopped on its first release in 1966, an aggrieved Spector retreated to his Hollywood mansion, filling it with memorabilia. For most of the rest of his life, he favoured early-Sixties styles, including a velvet jacket and elevator boots.

He wore toupees and, following a car accident that threw him through the windscreen and left his scalp scarred, a series of bizarre wigs fixed in place with extra-strong glue. At night, Ronnie said, the bedroom reeked of solvent.

Lana Clarkson who was foundshot dead inside Phil Spector's house in LA

Lana Clarkson who was foundshot dead inside Phil Spector’s house in LA

Ronnie was forbidden to have friends. He kept her ‘as a beautiful object,’ said one friend. She couldn’t bear children, so he ordered her to wear a cushion under her dress and fake pregnancies, before adopting three babies including a pair of twins.

Their nine-bedroom house, known as Pyrenees Castle, was surrounded by chain-link fences, with guard dogs roaming the grounds. On rare occasions when she was allowed out alone, she had to keep a mannequin dressed up as Spector on the passenger seat of her car – to deter rapists, he said.

After a terrifying row in 1972, she announced she was going shopping with her mother. In-stead she dashed to LA airport and took the first flight to New York. ‘I knew if I didn’t leave, I was going to die there,’ she said. Spector went on to marry again, briefly, in the Eighties.

Despite his unhinged behaviour, many musicians regarded him as a mercurial genius. In 1968, John Lennon and George Harrison asked him to dust his magic brush over the disjointed Let It Be sessions – although Paul McCartney never did forgive Spector for over-dubbing a full orchestra on to his ballad, The Long And Winding Road.

Stories of his strangeness became legend. One journalist, invited to his house, was shown into a blacked-out room by a servant and told to wait. The man sat in darkness for two hours, until he could stand it no longer and opened a curtain.

The first chink of light revealed Spector in an armchair. He had been there, motionless and silent, the whole time.

In 2003, he met an out-of-work actress at the House of Blues club in Hollywood and tried to befriend her, plying her with drink. She told him her name was Lana, that she was a Marilyn Monroe fan, that she was six feet tall, that she had a bit part in the Al Pacino movie, Scarface. They went back to his mansion.

Previous visitors to the house later told the trial that Spector sometimes tried to prevent people from leaving by force, locking doors and waving guns.

Exactly how Lana died will never be known, but Spector called a friend in panic and said: ‘I think I killed somebody.’

The first trial, at which the producer was represented by a ‘dream team’ of attorneys and forensics experts from the OJ Simpson trial, ended in deadlock, with the jury divided. During the hearing, Spector sported a huge Afro hairstyle.

At the second, which lasted six months, he opted for a blond Beatle wig. The jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to a minimum of 19 years. Yet that was not the end of his bizarrely intertwined romances and musical career.

In 2003, shortly after killing Miss Clarkson, he met a 22-year-old waitress and aspiring singer called Rachelle Short. He attempted to launch her as a star and, when that failed, made her his fourth wife in 2006.

After he was jailed, she went on an alleged spending spree that included a private plane, an Aston Martin and a Ferrari, jewellery and properties. Spector filed for divorce in 2016 and agreed to put Pyrenees Castle up for sale at £4million, splitting the proceeds with his ex.

Their divorce was finalised in 2019. The house where Lana Clarkson died is still on the market.

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