His grandfather was an immigrant from Russia (now Ukraine) with the surname Spekter, which he anglicized to Spector after immigrating.
Spector’s father Ben committed suicide on April 20, 1949.
In 1953, his mother moved the family to Los Angeles, California.
At the height of his career, Spector was a pioneer of the 1960s girl-group sound, and produced more than twenty-five Top 40 hits from 1960 to 1965, writing or co-writing many of them for artists such as the Ronettes and the Crystals.
Spector is often called the first auteur among musical artists for acting not only as a producer, but also the creative director, writing or choosing the material, supervising the arrangements, conducting the vocalists and session musicians, and masterminding all phases of the recording process.
He helped pave the way for various music genres, with numerous artists later citing his work as a major influence.
In 1960, Sill arranged for Spector to work as an apprentice to Leiber and Stoller in New York. Ronnie Crawford would become Spector’s first true recording artist and project as producer.
Spector quickly learned how to use a studio.
He co-wrote the Ben E. King Top 10 hit “Spanish Harlem” with Jerry Leiber and also worked as a session musician, most notably playing the guitar solo on the Drifters’ song, “On Broadway”.
His own productions during this time, while less conspicuous, included releases by LaVern Baker, Ruth Brown, and Billy Storm, as well as the Top Notes’ original version of “Twist and Shout”.
In late 1961, Spector formed a new record company with Lester Sill, who by this time had ended his business partnership with Hazlewood.
Philles Records combined the names of its two founders. Through Hill and Range Publishers, Spector found three groups he wanted to produce: the Ducanes, the Creations, and the Crystals.
The first two signed with other companies, but Spector managed to secure the Crystals for his new label.
In a 1964 magazine piece, Tom Wolfe profiled Spector, dubbing him “the first tycoon of teen.” By this time, however, Spector had made more enemies than friends in the record business.
In 1966 came the turning point, with Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep —Mountain High.”
Embittered, Spector went into seclusion for two years, during which time reports of strange, near-psychotic behavior on his part filtered out of his 23-room Hollywood mansion: Spector allegedly mentally abused his wife, Ronnie (formerly of the Ronettes); Spector also carried a gun.
Except for a cameo appearance as a dope pusher in the film Easy Rider and some hits for Sonny Charles and the Checkmates — “Love Is All I Have to Give,” “Black Pearl,” and “Proud Mary” (the latter employed some 300 musicians) — he remained inactive through the late Sixties.