VERDICT: Phil Spector Guilty Of Murder


NEW YORK TIMES:  Phil Spector, the rock music impresario behind hits like “Da Doo Ron Ron,” and “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling,” was convicted Monday of murdering a struggling actress at his mansion in 2003 after a night of drinking. Music producer Phil Spector, center, surrounded by his defense team during closing arguments at the retrial murder case in Los Angeles in March. Mr. Spector, 68, faces at least 18 years in prison.

The jury, ending a five-month trial, reached its decision after 27 hours of deliberating whether he shot the woman in a fit of anger or, as his lawyers argued, merely witnessed her suicide. In addition to second-degree murder, the jury found Mr. Spector guilty of illegally discharging a firearm. This was the second murder trial in the case; the first ended in a hung jury in 2007. Mr. Spector has been out on bail for most of the last six years, but was immediately taken into custody after the verdict on Monday. MORE

LA TIMES: Over the course of the trial, which began in October, the prosecution portrayed Spector as a sadistic misogynist who had a three-decade “history of playing Russian roulette with the lives of women” when he was drunk. A prosecutor told jurors in her summation that “by the grace of God, five other women got the empty chamber and lived to tell. Lana just happened to be the sixth woman, who got the bullet.” MORE

The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” produced by Phil Spector

The intro must have sounded like gunshots back in the summer of 1963 — just months before Kennedy’s death ride past the grassy knoll–because back then drums simply didn’t hit that hard. Even now, when rock ‘n’ roll has grown louder than bombs, those drums sound like they’re being played in some vast, immeasurably grand space — like they’re ricocheting around the sunken belly of the Titanic or bouncing off the vaulted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Time and repetition have rendered the beat iconic, as classic as tail fins and french fries: boom boom-boom CHA! boom boom-boom CHA! And then the Wall of Sound comes down like a velvet hammer–shimmering piano, hot-rod bass, chugging guitar, a billowing curtain of strings and a sparkling candelabra of tambourines, maracas and castanets– resonating endlessly in colossal reverb and pristine mono. The sound soars, swelling into an eternal sigh, a symphonic teen fantasia of need and want. (There’s no telling how many takes Phil Spector demanded. Legend has it he once spent 12 hours listening to one note until he was certain it was perfect.) And then the vocals come in, like a choir of angels with dirty faces. It’s Ronnie Bennett — soon to be Ronnie Spector — of the Ronettes. Their unholy 1968 to 1974 marriage could be summed up with the title of another Spector production, “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss).” Spector liked to tell people that when he discovered the Ronettes he thought they were good-looking but couldn’t sing so good. Still, he “kinda promised their mother” that he would make them stars. And so Ronnie became his songbird, the canary in the coal mine of his black-leather soul. If Brian Wilson — who became obsessed with “Be My Baby,” more or less using it as the floor plan for the Beach Boys’ sound — was teen America’s Mozart-on-the-beach, Spector was its Beethoven: dark, brooding, brilliant and doomed. That’s why he always wore shades — not to keep the light from getting in, but to keep the darkness from getting out. JONATHAN VALANIA


al_franken2_1.jpgASSOCIATED PRESS: A Minnesota court confirmed Monday that Democrat Al Franken won the most votes in his 2008 Senate race against Republican Norm Coleman, who had already announced plans to appeal the decision. Coleman has 10 days to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Once the petition is filed, it could further delay the seating of Minnesota’s second senator for weeks. After a statewide recount and seven-week trial, Franken stands 312 votes ahead. He gained more votes from the election challenge than Coleman, the candidate who brought the legal action. The state law under which Coleman sued required three judges to determine who got the most votes and is therefore entitled to an election certificate, which is now on hold pending an appeal. “The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that the November 4, 2008, election was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately,” the judges wrote. “There is no evidence of a systematic problem of disenfranchisement in the state’s election system, including in its absentee-balloting procedures.” MORE

GOODNIGHT FIDEL: Obama Relaxes Cuban Travel Ban

NEW YORK TIMES: In abandoning longstanding restrictions on the ability of Cuban-Americans to visit and castro_time_cover_1.jpgsend money to family members on the island, President Obama demonstrated Monday that he was willing to open the door toward greater engagement with Cuba — but at this point, only a crack. The announcement represents the most significant shift in United States policy toward Cuba in decades, and it is a reversal of the hard line taken by President George W. Bush. It comes as Mr. Obama is preparing to meet later this week in Trinidad and Tobago with Latin American leaders, who want him to normalize relations with Cuba and its leader, Raúl Castro. The White House made clear on Monday that Mr. Obama, who campaigned on improving relations with Cuba, was not willing to go that far, at least not yet. Rather, the steps he took were modest, reflecting the complicated domestic politics around Cuba and the unpredictability of the Cuban response. This volatility on both sides of the Florida Straits has bedeviled every president since Kennedy, and even Mr. Obama, who has vowed to make greater use of diplomacy with enemies as well as allies, seems to have recognized the threat. MORE


Mark Ribot (pronounced REE-bow) was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1954. As a teen, he played guitar in various garage bands while studying with his mentor, Haitian classical guitarist and composer Frantz Casseus. In 1978, Ribot crossed the river to New York City, where he served as sideman for such musicians as jazz organist Jack McDuff and legendary soul shouter Wilson Pickett. Ribot began hisribot_16.gif five-year stint as a member of the Lounge Lizards (John Lurie’s innovative and influential Downtown jazz ensemble) in 1984. At the time, Marc’s playing, which blended elements of classic Blues guitar with the ironic No Wave/Knitting Factory aesthetic, caught the ear of a number of artists who were also interested in amalgamating and disrupting disparate musical traditions. Ribot performed on some of these singer/songwriter’s finest records, including Elvis Costello’s SPIKE, MIGHTY LIKE A ROSE, and KOJAK VARIETY; Marianne Faithful’s BLAZING AWAY; and Tom Waits‘ RAIN DOGS, BIG TIME, FRANK’S WILD YEARS, MULE VARIATIONS, and the recently released REAL GONE. All the while, the increasingly in-demand guitarist continued to explore the ever-changing terrain of New York’s New Music scene, working with musicians such as Arto Lindsay, Don Byron, Anthony Coleman, T-Bone Burnett, the Jazz Passengers, Evan Lurie, the Sun Ra Arkestra, Chocolate Genius, Bill Frisell, Medeski Martin & Wood, and John Zorn in any number of incarnations. Ribot also composed and recorded his own brand of Downtown soul music with his bands, Rootless Cosmopolitans and Shrek.[…] In 1998 Atlantic Records released the critically acclaimed MARC RIBOT Y LOS CUBANOS POSTIZOS, featuring Ribot’s beautifully slanted interpretations of material by the great Cuban songwriter Arsenio Rodriguez. MORE

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