Spector began his career in 1958 as the co-founder of the Teddy Bears, performing on guitar and vocals, and penning their U.S. number-one single "To Know Him Is to Love Him". Sometimes depicted as the "First Tycoon of Teen", he wrote, co-wrote, or produced for girl groups such as the Ronettes and the Crystals, and later, John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles. He often employed what would become known as "the Wrecking Crew" as his de facto house band while collaborating with arranger Jack Nitzsche and engineer Larry Levine. Spector's other chart-topping singles include "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (Righteous Brothers, 1964), "The Long and Winding Road" (Beatles, 1970), and "My Sweet Lord" (Harrison, 1970).
His honors include the 1973 Grammy Award for Album of the Year for co-producing Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh (1971), a 1989 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a 1997 induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Spector number 63 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", and for their 2003 list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time", included his productions of Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes (1964), A Christmas Gift for You (1963), and Back to Mono (1991). According to BMI, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (co-written and produced by Spector) is the song that received the most US airplay in the 20th century.
By the mid 1970s, Spector had produced eighteen US Top 10 singles for various artists, but following sporadic work with Leonard Cohen, Dion DiMucci, and the Ramones, he remained largely inactive. From 2007 to 2009, he was the subject of a trial and retrial for murder. He is serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life and will be 88 years old before becoming eligible for parole.
Harvey Phillip Spector was born on December 26, 1939 to a first-generation immigrant Jewish family in the Bronx, New York City. His father, Ben, was an ironworker from Ukraine with the surname Spekter, which he later anglicized to Spector. Spector's father committed suicide on April 20, 1949. In 1953, his mother moved the family to Los Angeles where she found work as a seamstress.
Having learned to play guitar, Spector performed "Rock Island Line" in a talent show at Fairfax High School, where he was a student. While at Fairfax, he joined a loose-knit community of aspiring musicians, including Lou Adler, Bruce Johnston, Steve Douglas, and Sandy Nelson, the last of whom played drums on Spector's first record release, "To Know Him Is to Love Him".
With three friends from high school, Marshall Leib, Sandy Nelson, and Annette Kleinbard, Spector formed a group, the Teddy Bears. During this period, record producer Stan Ross — co-owner of Gold Star Studios in Hollywood — began to tutor Spector in record production and exerted a major influence on Spector's production style. In 1958, the Teddy Bears recorded the Spector-penned "Don't You Worry My Little Pet", which helped them secure a deal with Era Records.
At their next session, they recorded another song Spector had written—this one inspired by the epitaph on Spector's father's tombstone. Released on Era's subsidiary label, Dore Records, "To Know Him Is to Love Him" reached number one on Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on December 1, 1958, selling over a million copies by year's end. It was the seventh number-one single on the newly formed chart. Following the success of their debut, the group signed with Imperial Records. Their next single, "I Don't Need You Anymore", reached number 91. They released several more recordings, including an album, The Teddy Bears Sing!, but failed to reach the top 100 in US sales. The group disbanded in 1959.