Ronnie Spector, the rock ‘n’ roll siren with eyeliner and high hair who performed 1960s hits like “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You,” and “Walking in the Rain” as bandleader The Ronettes, died. He was 78 years old.
Spector died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer, his family said. “Ronnie lived his life with a spark in his eyes, a gritty attitude, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on his face. She was full of love and gratitude,” they said in a statement. No other details were provided.
The Ronettes’ sultry style and powerful voices — aided by Phil Spector’s lyrics and production — made them one of the most famous artists of the girl group era, taking them on tour in England with the Rolling Stones. and to be friends with the Beatles.
Spector, along with his sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, scored hits with such classics as “Baby, I Love You,” “Walking in the Rain,” “I Can Hear Music,” and “Be My Baby,” co-written by Spector. , Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.
“We weren’t afraid of being sexy. That was our secret,” Spector said in his memoir. “When we saw The Shirelles walk onto the stage in their big party dresses, we went the other way and encased our bodies in the tightest skirts we could find. Then we went on stage and put them up to show off our legs a little more.”
Spector, whose real name was Veronica Bennett, and her multiracial bandmates grew up in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. They began singing and dancing in clubs like Ronnie and The Relatives, becoming famous for their liberal use of eyeliner and mascara.
“The more they clapped, the more mascara we put on next time,” she wrote in her memoir. “We didn’t have a hit to get their attention, so we had to make an impression with our style. None of that was planned, we just took the style we were born with and expanded on it.”
In March 1963 Estelle Bennett landed an audition with Phil Spector, known for his style with basses and amplified percussion nicknamed “wall of sound”. They signed with Phillies Records that same year and after that they did backing vocals for other artists until Spector had the group record “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You”.
The group’s debut album, “Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica,” was released in 1964. Five of its 12 songs charted in the United States.
“Nothing excites me more than being on stage and having fun and flirting and winking at guys and stuff like that,” she told People magazine in 2017. “I just have so much fun. It’s the best feeling to walk out when they say ‘ladies and gentlemen’… my heart stops for a minute… ‘Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes!’ then simply go out and let the public react the way it reacts, I can start singing non-stop”.
After touring Germany in 1967, The Ronettes broke up. Phil Spector married Ronnie in 1968, after she went on to say that he kept her locked up in his Beverly Hills mansion. Her 1990 autobiography “Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness” tells a sad story of abuse. The couple divorced in 1974. Phil Spector was sentenced to prison in 2009 for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson and passed away in 2020.
Ronnie Spector’s influence was greatly felt. Brian Wilson became obsessed with “Be My Baby” and Billy Joel wrote “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” in honor of Spector. Amy Winehouse used to cite Spector as her idol.
Martin Scorsese used “Be My Baby” at the beginning of his 1973 film “Mean Streets”, the song appears in the sequence of “Dirty Dancing” titles and the ending credits from “Baby Mama” (“Mom on request”). He also appeared on television in “Moonlighting” and “The Wonder Years”. “
When The Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones recalled opening for the trio in England in the mid-1960s. “They could sing through the wall of sound,” Richards said. “They didn’t need anything. They touched my heart right there back then and they still touch it.”
After The Ronettes split, Spector continued to tour and make music, including “Take Me Home Tonight” with Eddie Money, he also recorded Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and the EP ” She Talks to Rainbows” from 1999, which included her first recording of “Don’t Worry Baby”, written for her by Brian Wilson.
In 2006 he released “Last of the Rock Stars”, his first album in 20 years with collaborations from The Raconteurs, Keith Richards, Patti Smith and The Raveonettes. In 2010 he released a Christmas EP titled “Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever” and in 2016 “English Heart”, an album of covers of British songs from the 1960s.
She is survived by her husband, Jonathan Greenfield, and her sons, Jason and Austin.