With the news that Phil Spector - convicted murderer of Lana Clarkson - has passed away at the age of 81 due to COVID-19 complications, many headlines have displayed shocking ignorance and insensitivity by choosing to focus on his music career rather than his crime. Naturally, readers have reacted with predictable disgust.

Phil Spector, 2004 / Photo Credit: Milan Ryba/Zuma Press/PA ImagesPhil Spector, 2004 / Photo Credit: Milan Ryba/Zuma Press/PA Images

It's true that the media often has a habit of overlooking respect and sensitivity when it comes to getting headlines out quickly, and this time they have gone a step too far by underplaying the fact that music producer Phil Spector was a brutal killer. 

In many obituaries, actress Lana Clarkson was merely a footnote in a long memorial of Spector's life and work. But the headline that really struck a nerve was from BBC News, who initially reported: "Talented but flawed producer Phil Spector dies aged 81".

They have since changed it to something a little more palatable ("Phil Spector: Pop producer jailed for murder dies at 81") but not before the internet could have their say.

"He murdered Lana Clarkson. Unforgivable reporting", said Labour MP Apsana Begum, while many went a step further by pointing out all the other "talented but flawed" criminals out there, comparing him to Fred West, Harold Shipman and Peter Sutcliffe who all had careers, but they were ultimately irrelevant.

We surely couldn't imagine such a headline if Jimmy Savile's death came after he was publicly disgraced for his sex crimes, or if Gary Glitter had died, or R. Kelly, or Ian Watkins. But that's probably a huge amount of naivete and idealism on our part. 

To recap, Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison in 2009 for the 2003 shooting of Hollywood actress Lana Clarkson. The pair had met in the early hours of the morning at the House of Blues in LA before retiring to Spector's house, where an hour later his driver heard a gunshot. Spector was seen leaving the house holding a gun and quoted as saying "I think I just shot her". He would later claim the incident as "accidental suicide", saying she "kissed the gun".

Even if you did believe the Lana's death was a tragic accident, Spector's history was against him. His former wife Ronnie Spector alleged that she suffered years of psychological abuse at the hands of her husband, eventually "escaping" from their home and later claiming that he threatened to hire a hitman to kill her. Two of their sons, Gary and Donté, would also claim sexual abuse and being held "captive" as children. 

Whether or not these damning claims were true, they certainly weren't the only accusations of aggression and violence that Spector faced during his career.

More uncomfortable headlines came from Rolling Stone ("Phil Spector, Famed ‘Wall of Sound’ Producer Convicted of Murder, Dead at 81") and Reuters ("Influential rock producer Phil Spector, who changed pop music and was convicted of killing actress Lana Clarkson, died at the age of 81"). Both placing heavy emphasis on the felon's career rather than the very serious crime that ended it. It might seem subtle, but it's further evidence of how much people value a person's talent over their victims.

We see it time and time again with celebrities who seem to get away with deviant behaviour for years despite incriminating headlines and blatant accusations, just because of how much people love their art. Not only that, but there's a culture of idolatry within the true crime world, with famous murderers like Charles Manson, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy receiving a kind of admiration for their mystery and brutality - extra points given if their crimes have inspired iconic books or movies. 

"Who's your favourite serial killer?" is a common question among consumers of true crime documentaries and biographies. Unfortunately, it's a natural human thing to want to immerse oneself in the morbid and the grotesque, and discover what drives people to commit crimes that most of us couldn't contemplate in our wildest nightmares. But issues arise when we divert our empathy away from the victims, and forget the agony that these "fascinating" monsters have unleashed onto so many people.

In the case of Phil Spector though, murder appears to be, for many people, merely another area of intrigue for an iconic music genius who changed production in a number of important ways. Now we're not saying it's unethical to enjoy the art he created, but it's important to do so with the strong awareness that his talents do not minimise his crimes, and remembering Phil Spector means to remember the woman whose life he unapologetically destroyed.