LOS ANGELES – Ronnie Spector, the cat-eyed, bee-studded rock ‘n’ roll siren who led the 1960s to sing hits like « Be My Baby », « Baby I Love You » and « Walking in the Rain » Girl group, the Ronettes, has died. She was 78.
Spector died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer, her family said. “Ronnie lived her life with a wink, a brave attitude, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on her face. She was filled with love and gratitude, ”it said in a statement. Further details were not revealed.
The sexy look and the powerful voices of the Ronettes – plus songwriting and production assistance from Phil Spector – made them one of the leading acts of the girl group era, toured with the Rolling Stones through England and made friends with the Beatles.
Spector achieved hits with her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley with pop masterpieces such as « Baby, I Love You », « Walking in the Rain », « I Can Hear Music » and « Be My Baby ». written by Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.
“We weren’t afraid to be hot. That was our gimmick, ”Spector said in her memoir. “When we saw the Shirelles on stage in their baggy party dresses, we went in the opposite direction, forcing our bodies into the tightest skirts we could find. Then we went on stage and hiked it up to show our legs even more. ”
Spector, née Veronica Bennett, and her multiracial bandmates grew up in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. They began singing and dancing in clubs as Ronnie and the Relatives, and became known for their lavish use of eyeliner and mascara. « The louder they applaud, the more mascara we’ll put on next time, » she wrote in her memoir. “We didn’t have a hit record to get their attention so we had to make an impact with our style. None of this was planned; We just took the look we were born with and expanded it. ”
In March 1963, Estelle Bennett managed to arrange an audition for Phil Spector, known for his great wind-and-drum style known as the « Wall of Sound ». They were signed to Phillies Records in 1963. After they were signed, they sang as a backup for other acts until Spector had the group albums « Be My Baby » and « Baby I Love You ».
The group’s debut album, « Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica » became Published in 1964. Five of the 12 tracks made it into the US Billboard charts.
« Nothing excites me more than just being on stage, having fun and flirting and winking at the guys and stuff, » she said People Magazine in 2017. “I just have so much fun. It’s just the best feeling when I go out and they say: « Ladies and gentlemen … » – my heart stops for a minute – « … Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes! » Then I just go out and the audience reacts like this how they react and I can go on singing forever. ”
After a tour of Germany in 1967, the Ronettes split up. Spector married Ronnie in 1968, then she said he locked her in her Beverly Hills mansion. Her autobiography « Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Minirocks And Madness » from 1990 tells an unfortunate story of abuse. The couple divorced in 1974. Phil Spector was jailed for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2009 and died in 2020.
The influence of Ronnie Spector was widely felt. Brian Wilson was obsessed with « Be My Baby » and Billy Joel wrote « Say Goodbye to Hollywood » in Spector’s honor. Amy Winehouse often referred to Spector as an idol.
Martin Scorsese used « Be My Baby » to open his 1973 film « Mean Streets, » and the song appears in the title sequence of « Dirty Dancing » and the credits for « Baby Mama. » « . It 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 remembered it for the mid-1960s for the Having opened the trio in England. « You could sing through a wall of sound, » said Richards. “You didn’t need anything. They touched my heart on the spot and they still touch it. «
After the Ronettes split up, Spector continued touring making music including » Take Me Home Tonight « with Eddie Money, recordings of Joel’s » Say Goodbye to. » Hollywood « with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and recordings of the 1999 EP » She Talks to Rainbows « which included her very first recording of » Don’t Worry Baby « written for her by Brian Wilson.
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In 2006 she released “Last of the Rock Stars”, her first album in 20 years, which featured performances by the Raconteurs, Keith Richards, Patti Smith and the Raveonettes. In 2010 she released a doo-wop Christmas EP entitled « Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever » and in 2016 she released « English Heart », her cover versions of songs from the UK in the 60s.
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