The Nature of the Creative Mind
Updated: Jan 21
The notice of Phil Spector's death in prison this week gave me pause.
If you don't know his name, he was one of the most innovative and successful American music producers ever, producing 20 top-40 hits between 1961 and 1965: he worked with The Beatles, Righteous Brothers, Ike & Tina Turner, and many others over many years. He created the so-called "Wall of Sound." But there was an extremely dark side to him; he was a psychopath.
I lived next door to him on LaCollina Drive in Beverly Hills for several years in the mid-1980s. I never met Spector, but I knew his kids Gary, Lewis, and Dante, all victims of one form or another of abuse from him. His wonderful bodyguard George Brand (since deceased) told me at that time that the only reason he stayed with Spector was to protect the boys as best he could.
The sound of Spector screaming and yelling in the middle of the night (usually about some business deal or another) woke me up many times and I even heard a gunshot one late night (he was infamous for carrying a gun into the studio and threatening people).
He was a horrible person on every level, culminating in the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 in another home that he had moved into in Alhambra, California. He rightly went to prison where he died last Sunday.
During the same period in California, I had the good fortune to meet and get to know Sir Neville Marriner, the famed English violinist and who is often viewed as one of the world's greatest conductors. He founded the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and his partnership with them is the most recorded of any orchestra and conductor. After a dinner one evening with Sir Neville, his lovely wife Molly, and Peggy Kiskadden, we talked about the nature of creativity. It was a long discussion full of examples that he offered. The upshot was that, after a lifetime in the arts, he had observed that the most talented people were usually the most tortured in some way and often an enfant terrible. He lamented that the price of genius often had a very dark side. Perhaps it was something from their past (or present) that stirred the need for self-expression.
In any case, Phil Spector was one of them and I don't imagine that he'll RIP.