Ronnie Spector, 60s Pop Icon and “Be My Baby” Singer, Dies at 78


Ronnie Spector, known for singing iconic 1960s hits such as “Be My Baby” and “Walking in the Rain,” died of cancer on Wednesday, according to a statement from her family.

Ronnie Spector, 78, led girl group the Ronettes and was known for her cat eye makeup and beehive hair that became synonymous with the era. A native of New York who grew up in East Harlem, Spector quickly became an international sensation.

The band’s powerful appearance and vocals – along with the writing and production assistance of Phil Spector – made them one of the leading groups in the girl group era, touring England. with the Rolling Stones and befriending the Beatles.

Estelle Bennett Vann, Ronnie Spector and Nedra Talley Ross of the vocal trio “Ronettes” pose for a portrait in 1964.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Born Veronica Bennett, Ronnie Spector began performing in New York City with his older sister, Estelle Bennet, and their cousin Nedra Talley. The teenage group’s fame was launched after winning an amateur contest at the famous Apollo Theater.

In 1963, Women were signed to the label of Phil Spector, the “wall of sound” music producer who helped create hits for some of the biggest boy groups of the era, including the Beatles and the Beaches. Boys.

The group released their debut album under the name Ronettes in 1964, and five of their 12 tracks hit the US charts.

The Ronettes, who split in 1967, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, where they were credited with producing “some of the greatest music of the century.”

In an inductee essay for the group, Rob Bowman called the Ronettes “the sexiest, hipster, and perhaps the most sounding girl group of all time.”

“While their recording careers lasted less than six years and they only placed a handful of singles on the charts, songs such as ‘Be My Baby’, ‘Baby, I Love You’ and “Walking in the Rain” was bigger than – hit recordings which made Ronettes an indelible part of the sound memory of early and mid-1960s rock, “Bowman wrote.

Ronnie Spector married Phil Spector in 1968, but the couple divorced in 1974.

She wrote about their time together in her memoir, “Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness,” describing her former husband as abusive and controlling. He was convicted in 2009 for the murder of actor Lana Clarkson and died in prison last year.

But Ronnie Spector’s legacy goes far beyond his former marriage and the Ronettes, influencing the musical years for years to come. Amy Winehouse, who also made cat eye makeup and beehive hair a part of her look, has frequently cited Spector as an idol.

She toured solo after the Ronettes split and continued to do hits including “Take Me Home Tonight” with Eddie Money, recording Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and the 1999 EP “She Talks to Rainbows.

In an interview with People magazine in 2017, Ronnie Spector said she didn’t initially think the Ronettes would be successful “because of our looks and our biracial.”

She thanked the gay community for helping launch the group and supporting it over the years.

“Our career started working in the Village in gay cafes,” she said. “And then when I got back from California, where do you think I started? I started at Continental Baths, a gay club. This is how I started my return to show business.

She is survived by her husband, Jonathan Greenfield, and her two sons, Jason and Austin.

“Ronnie has lived his life with a sparkle in his eyes, a brave demeanor, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on his face,” his family said Wednesday. “She was filled with love and gratitude. Her cheerful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in anyone who has known, heard or seen her.

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