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Phil Spector Murdered Lana Clarkson. That Is Not And Never Will Be Simply A 'Flaw'

Grazia logo Grazia 11/05/2021 Rhiannon Evans
Lana Clarkson smiling for the camera © Getty

The late Phil Spector, convicted murderer and former music producer, is back in the news today after the BRIT Awards included him in an online list of musical figures who have died in the past year. Noting him as a 'producer, songwriter and pioneer of the iconic "Wall of Sound",' they stated that he 'will equally be remembered for his conviction for murder of the actress Lana Clarkson. Spector collaborated with many of the greats including The Beatles individually and as a band — producing Let it Be and Imagine – The Righteous Brothers, Leonard Cohen and The Ronettes, and also wrote numerous era-defining songs.' Many have been angered by his inclusion, and it is has rekindled conversations that surrounded his death - and the resulting obituaries - earlier this year. This is what Grazia said when the man's professional reputation seemed to trump his heinous act...

Convicted murderer and former music producer Phil Spector died yesterday, almost 18 years after he killed actress Lana Clarkson by shooting her in the head. Spector, who was well known as an abuser following on-the-record revelations by his ex-wife Ronnie and more, had been jailed in 2009 for the murder. He was given 19 years in jail - during the trial other women came forward to say he'd threatened them with guns.

And yet... when Phil Spector died yesterday, a slew of headlines from major media organisations were sickeningly wrong.

They were sickening in their inability to process how you should talk about a man that has murdered and abused women... but also had a successful music career. In the absence of the word 'murderer'. In the fact Lana Clarkson's name was barely mentioned. In the constant implication that abuse and murder can be cast as footnotes, or wikipedia sub-heads, if you had enough 'hits' back in the day and people can't quite let go. But importantly in the message they sent out about the way we speak about abuse and how seriously we take it - not just worrying for society, but for what it says to women and families living in danger right now.

One of the headlines which got most attention was the BBC's first go at a headline which branded Spector, 'Talented but flawed'

FLAWED? Flawed. Flllaaaawwwed. To use that word is so obviously ridiculous and offensive, that it makes me tired even having to think about how to explain why that is just so... bad. And wrong.

I'm tired because this happens ALL THE TIME. And, sorry, but as a load of white men with varyingly questionable life stories also heralded as genuises near their 70s and 80s, it's something that it feels is just going to happen over and over again. If people can't even sort it out to write an accurate headline when a convicted murderer dies IN JAIL, then I don't hold out much hope for whether women will start to be put at the beginning of those obituaries to come.

I'm tired because I feel like I've written all these tweets before - I know I've written pieces like this before. You're probably fed up too.

It was only months ago social media had to start a 'Say Her Name' campaign about Reeva Steenkamp, when her name was left out of a trailer for a documentary about Oscar Pistorius, who killed her... a documentary quite unbelievably (and yet not at all unbelievably) called THE TRIALS of Oscar Pistorius.

Now, again, people are googling things like 'Who did Phil Spector kill' because Lana Clarkson's name is so far left out of the stories they're reading about him.

The way society seems to be unable to let go of what someone has done while and before becoming convicted of abuse, rape, murder, sexual assault is just totally baffling to me - and to many others. But beyond just raising the blood pressure of most women, it actively attacks the women who have already been victimised by these men. It's so brutally unfair that they are remembered as footnotes. GOD FORBID everyone not remember that Phil Spector worked with The Beatles or created The Wall of Sound. Well, no, actually, I'm so over it - God forbid that we continue to live in a society where people have to google to find out the name of a woman he shot in the head.

The fact that it's so pervasive as well is so infuriating. That his 'talent' and 'catalogue' was so clearly foremost in the brains of so many writers out there creating those stories. That's just so depressing and symptomatic of how we think as a wider society. Journalist Sirin Kale started a thread of headlines from huge, often 'woke' publications that made error after error in their headlines and reporting of Spector.

The plague of worshipping at the feet of men who have created something is worldwide and goes on and on - meanwhile, the plague of women being murdered and abused by men continues too.

We've become so much better (though there are repeatedly and often still mistakes) in our reporting of so many things - suicide, for instance - and follow guidelines and laws about what we should and should't say, in order that words aren't harmful to those reading them. Why is this never sorted out so we don't have to go through this all again.

And that's what was the absolutely most distressing thing about the language around Spector - that words matter. Not just so you can appear woke and not offend. Not even just out of respect to victims and victims' families (though isn't that enough?)

They matter to women living around the world in abusive situations who read them.

They matter to women wondering if anyone will believe them if they step forward. If their abuser's reputation can ever be beat. If their reputations or life will matter. If their abusers lies that 'No-one will trust you, over me' are right.

Lisa King, Director of Communications and External Relations at Refuge added: 'It is deeply troubling when men convicted of violence against women are celebrated in a way that is detached from their crimes.

'Perpetrators of violence and abuse often assume that their fame, power, and wealth will ensure immunity from public scrutiny, and use this as a weapon to silence their victims. The media has a duty to remember the lives of the victims too. Lana Clarkson's life was stolen through an act of extreme violence, and her name must not become a footnote in her murderer's obituary.'

If we allow the weapon of silence to grow in strength and don't do what we can to diminish it in such blindingly obvious cases of abuse as this, then what hope is there for the next time and the next time we come to more difficult conversations? How many more women's lives will be stolen while we try and sort out our language and dither over legacies? We need to be better than this and we need to be better, quicker.

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