"To Know Him Is to Love Him" by the Teddy Bears was Phil Spector's first song to top the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, written and produced when he was only 19, back in 1958. The title of the song was taken by Spector from the epitaph on his father's headstone, who had tragically committed suicide 9 years earlier. He was found dead in the Spector family's driveway from carbon monoxide poisoning, a garden hose attached to the car's exhaust poking through the driver side's window. Spector expressed his feelings the only way he seemed to know how - by writing and producing an emotional teenage pop song. The melody of the song's soaring middle eight, sung with an unaffected innocence by Annette Kleinbard, was taken, according to Spector, from a Richard Wagner symphony (if there could ever be proof of reincarnation, the links between Spector and Wagner would be the first piece of evidence).
Like some of Spector's later girl group songs, such as "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)" and "River Deep, Mountain High", it is a macabre love song. The singer's love is unrequited, with the object of her affection ignorant of her deep love. The way Kleinbard sweetly sings "just to know him is to love, love, love him, and I do", followed up by a plaintive circling background chant of "and I do" from Spector, there is a deep impression that the singer's love is as eternal and expansive as the universe itself. Other lyrics in the song, such as "there'll come a day when I'll walk alongside of him" and "someday he'll see that he was meant for me", could just as easily be Spector talking about his dad as it could a girl talking about a romantic infatuation.
Musically speaking, the instrumentation is simple. All I hear is a guitar, a piano, and a set of drums. This was before Spector had dreamed up the now famous 'Wall of Sound', before he was an omniscient demigod in the eyes of Brian Wilson, but the song sounds all the more real and intimate because of it. Still, the echo-laden production lets the listener know that this is indeed a Spector song. While the chords are not overly complex, at the same time there is a touch of pop music sophistication to what Spector does here. The song instantly feels familar, yet it is musically varied enough to still be interesting.
After the song became a nationwide success, both Spector and Kleinbard bought expensive sports cars. One day, as Kleinbard was driving to Charlton Heston's house, she took a turn too fast and drove off of a cliff (I should mention that car accidents were strangely common amongst pop stars in the 60's). She likes to joke now that Heston had asked her to "drop in" and that she took it literally, nearly landing her car in the famous actor's backyard. While she was recovering in a hospital from the injuries she sustained in the car accident, Spector formed a new group without her and moved on. By the time she was out of the hospital Spector told her that he had no need for her. Shocked and very hurt (when talking about this incident on a television show a few years ago, she could barely hold back her tears), she had no choice but to move on. Move on she did, co-writing the theme song to Rocky and even having a years long romance with Elvis Presley, who demanded to meet the singer when he heard "To Know Him Is to Love Him" on the radio while he was stationed in Germany in 1958.
For Spector, abandoning those who helped him become successful as soon as he no longer required their services became a lifelong habit. Spector never trusted anyone, and he would never truly let anyone into his inner emotional world. He told his first wife that he didn't need love. You have to wonder if it all had something to do with his father leaving him so suddenly, when Spector was only 10. Spector would spend his later years a recluse and is now infamously behind bars for murdering a young actress. I like to think that you can hear his vision of the love he could never realize in the flesh somewhere in all of the echo and reverb in his heavenly, ethereal Wall of Sound.