Music producer Phil Spector has died while he was serving a prison sentence for murder.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirmed he died of natural causes in hospital on Saturday.

A statement from the department said: “California Health Care Facility inmate Phillip Spector was pronounced deceased of natural causes at 6.35pm on Saturday, January 16, 2021, at an outside hospital.

“His official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.”

The department told the PA news agency Spector was born in December 1940 and died aged 80, however The Associated Press said court documents and the producer’s lawyer gave his date of birth as 1939.

In 2009, Spector was sentenced to a minimum 19 years in prison for murdering the actress Lana Clarkson.

The 40-year-old, known for starring in films including Barbarian Queen, died of a gunshot fired into her mouth while she was in Spector’s mansion on the outskirts of Los Angeles in 2003.

In a magazine interview, Spector had claimed she had “kissed the gun” before pulling the trigger herself, however the jury unanimously agreed he had murdered the actress.

After news of his death broke, his former wife Ronnie Spector, whose music he produced when she was in The Ronettes, said it was a “sad day for music and a sad day for me”.

The pair married in 1968 and divorced six years later, with Ronnie subsequently claiming in a memoir that he would keep her prisoner in his mansion and even threatened to kill her.

“When I was working with Phil Spector, watching him create in the recording studio, I knew I was working with the very best,” she wrote on Instagram.

“He was in complete control, directing everyone. So much to love about those days. Meeting him and falling in love was like a fairytale.

“The magical music we were able to make together, was inspired by our love. I loved him madly, and gave my heart and soul to him.

“As I said many times while he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband.

“Unfortunately Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio. Darkness set in, many lives were damaged.”

Radio DJ Paul Gambaccini told Sky News people should remember both his artistry and his crime.

Phil Spector Retrial – Los Angeles
(Ian West/PA)

“You can’t just say that Phil Spector was a great record producer, which he was, and you can’t just say he was a killer, which he was, so let’s ignore his previous work,” he said.

“We have to be able to hold more than one thought in our head at the same time.”

Spector, who was born in The Bronx, New York, made his name as a record producer for what became known as the “wall of sound” recording technique with its dense, layered effect.

When he was just 17 years old and performing with the Teddy Bears, Spector had a top 10 hit in the US with To Know Him Is To Love Him.

However he was best known for his role as a producer, working with some of biggest stars in music including John Lennon, whose 1971 hit Imagine he produced.

Ike and Tina Turner, The Ronettes, The Righteous, Cher, Bruce Springsteen and The Beatles all also worked with the producer.

Spector produced Let It Be, The Beatles’ final album, which was released in 1970.

(Michael Stephens/PA)

Spector was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

After 23 years, Spector came out of retirement in 2003 to work with UK band Starsailor on their album Silence Is Easy.