The long-awaited murder trial of legendary record producer and reclusive genius Phil Spector began Monday with jury selection in a Los Angeles Superior Court room.
Once selected, the jury will hear arguments about whether Spector is to blame for the mysterious 2003 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson inside his castle-style compound in Alhambra, Calif.
If convicted, Spector could face life in prison.
Clarkson was killed with an unregistered .38-caliber pistol. According to pretrial hearings, Spector owned a dozen guns at the time, but the pistol was not from Spector's collection of firearms.
Police reports show the gun was in Clarkson's mouth at the time the bullet discharged. Gun powder was found on her hands, and the coroner reported that her blood alcohol level was high.
Minutes after the shooting Spector spoke with Adriano De Souza, his chauffeur, reportedly stating, "I think I killed someone." Spector later denied making the statement and told friends Clarkson's death was an "accidental suicide."
Dubbed the "Tycoon of Teen," Spector oversaw the adolescence of rock 'n' roll during the early '60s with classic jukebox hits like "Be My Baby" and "Then He Kissed Me." He wrote his first No. 1 hit at the age of 16 and was a millionaire by age 21. His signature "wall of sound" layered vocals and instrumentation in a symphonic way, giving pop songs impressive depth on the radio.
Long before Quincy Jones, Diddy or Pharrell Williams made their names as hitmakers, Spector's celebrated Midas touch gave him exalted status among artists such as The Beatles, Tina Turner, The Ronettes and The Righteous Brothers.
Between 1961 and 1965, he produced 17 Top 40 hits. He enjoyed unprecedented control over the gamut of music production and publishing rights.
Mark Ribowsky, author of "He's a Rebel: Phil Spector, Rock and Rolls Legendary Producer," says Spector suffered from a massive Napoleon complex.
"He was a tiny, frail guy using music to make himself into a big guy. He was always overcompensating with music," Ribowsky said.
Despite Spector's brilliant talent and long list of hits, his demand for absolute control and fits of rage tarnished his golden reputation.
"Unfortunately there was a dark side to Phil Spector that was kind of frightening at times," said Darlene Love, former member of Spector's girl group, The Blossoms. "He wanted to be in control, no matter who it was."
Firing off a gun was one way for Spector to maintain that control. He was known for his armed outbursts within the industry and at home.
"There was always a kind of theatrical danger around Phil Spector," said Anthony DeCurtis, a contributor to Rolling Stone magazine. "Certainly 20, or 25 years ago you would hear stories about firing off guns in the studio with John Lennon, or waving a pistol around the Ramones. It cultivated an air of mystery and danger that Spector had."
His ex-wife, Veronica "Ronnie" Spector, described horrible verbal abuse and his peculiar gun fetish to ABC News in 2003. "The first three months of our marriage he pulled a gun, and I ran away because I was so afraid."
Indeed, the eccentric behavior was not limited to a preoccupation with guns. Spector was reportedly obsessed with his wigs and was known to stay home for days if a favorite wig was rumpled.
Ribowsky alleges that when the music producer would go out with comedian and notorious heroin addict Lenny Bruce, Spector would pretend to be strung out on heroin like his friend, but frequently wasn't.
"You never knew when it was an act with Spector," Ribowsky said.
Music industry lore paints Spector as both a visionary and an insecure, vengeful creature for whom physical and verbal assaults were common. When he began palling around with Ike Turner, it was remarked that, of the two, Spector was the one to be feared.
He produced fewer hits in the 1970s and relatively none in the decades to follow. He slowly cut ties with friends and maintained a small network of yes men.
For Spector, the failure to stay relevant in the music world was devastating. No matter what he tried, he could not recreate the electrifying success of his early years.
"How could he keep topping himself?" Ribowsky said. "He couldn't."
Those that sympathize with him say the career shortcomings compounded existing emotional problems. His father committed suicide when Spector was only 9 years old. He was dominated by an overbearing mother and sister.
Much like Michael Jackson, the early stardom of his teens ensured Spector had nothing like a normal childhood. Already an eccentric recluse, Spector withdrew into alcohol and became even more isolated after his young son died of leukemia in the 1990s.
Shortly before Clarkson's death, Spector admitted to a British newspaper that he had bipolar disorder and took medicine for schizophrenia, saying "I'm my own worst enemy. I have devils that fight inside me."
But were those devils powerful enough to spark a homicidal rage in the superstar producer?
Some of his associates are shocked by the murder charges. Others say, with Spector's penchant for mixing alcohol and firearms, they are surprised there was not an incident sooner.
Now four other women have come forward to say that Spector threatened them with a gun on occasions when his sexual advances were rejected.
The jury may get to hear their testimony when arguments begin in April.