“Be My Baby” singer Ronnie Spector has died at the age of 78

Ronnie Spector, the cat-eyed rock ‘n’ roll whistle who sang ’60s songs like “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain” as the leader of the girl group The Rounts, is dead. She was 78 years old.

Her family said Spector died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer. “Ronnie lived her life with a sparkle in her eyes, a brave attitude, a sinister sense of humor and a smile on her face. She was filled with love and gratitude,” a statement said. No other details were disclosed.

Tributes poured in on social media, with Stevie van Zandt saying it was an honor to be produced, and Brian Wilson tweeting: “I loved her voice so much she was a very special person and a dear friend.”

The Ronettes’ sexy form and powerful vocals—plus songwriting and assisting from Phil Spector—turned into one of the major acts of the girl group era, touring England with The Rolling Stones and befriending the Beatles.

Spector, along with her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nidra Tally, has recorded hits such as “Baby, I Love You”, “Walking in the Rain”, “I Can Hear Music” and “Be My Baby” which was co-written by Spector Jeff Barry and Eli Greenwich.

Ronitz on Hlapalu
The Ronettes (LR Estelle Bennett, Veronica Bennett, and Nedra Talley) perform on the NBC TV music show “Hullabaloo” in December 1965 in New York City, New York.

Getty Images

“We weren’t afraid to be hot,” Spector said in her diary. “This was our gimmick.” “When we saw The Shirelles walking on stage in baggy party dresses, we went in the opposite direction and squeezed our bodies into the tight skirts we could find. Then we would go out onto the stage and lift them up to show our legs even more.”

Spector, born Veronica Bennett, and her colleagues grew up in the Washington Heights area of ​​Manhattan. They began singing and dancing in clubs like Rooney and Relatives, and became notable for their liberal use of eyeliner and mascara.

“The louder they clap, the more mascara we wear next time,” she wrote in her diary. “We didn’t have a successful track record of getting their attention, so we had to make an impression with our style. None of it was planned; we just threw on and expanded the look we were born with.”

Ronnie Spector in Tots
Ronnie Spector performing on stage at Tots nightclub, Chicago, Illinois, April 28, 1981.

Paul Natkin / Getty Images

In March 1963, Estelle Bennett was able to arrange an audition for Phil Spector, known for his massive, brassy and drum style nicknamed “The Wall of Sound”. They were signed to Phillies Records in 1963. After they were signed, they sang backup for other acts until Spector had the group record “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You”.

The group’s debut album, “Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes features Veronica”, was released in 1964. Five of their 12 songs reached the US Billboard charts.

“Nothing excites me more than just being on stage, having fun and flirting and winking at guys and things like that,” she told People magazine in 2017. “I had so much fun. It’s the best feeling when I go out and they say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen…’ – my heart stopped for a minute – ‘… Ronnie Spector and Ronitz! to sing forever.”

After touring Germany in 1967, the Roents family broke up. Spector married Ronnie in 1968, then said he kept her in their Beverly Hills mansion. Her 1990 autobiography, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness tells a sad story of abuse. The couple separated in 1974, Phil Spector was imprisoned in 2009 for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson and died in 2020.

The influence of Ronnie Spector was widely felt. Brian Wilson became obsessed with the song Be My Baby and Billy Joel wrote “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” in honor of Spector. Amy Winehouse often cited Spector as a fetish.

Martin Scorsese used “Be My Baby” to open his 1973 film “Mean Streets” and the song appears in the title sequence “Dirty Dancing” and the closing credits of “Baby Mama”. She has also appeared on TV 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 the trio’s opening in England in the mid-1960s. “They can sing all their way right through a wall of sound,” Richards said. “They didn’t need anything. They touched my heart there and then they still touch it.”

The 22nd Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame??  show
Keith Richards, Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes and 2007 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame presenter and host.

Kevin Mazur

After Ronitz separated, Spector continued to tour and compose, including “Take Me Home Tonight” with Eddie Money, Joel’s recording “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and recording of the 1999 EP “She Talks to Rainbows,” which It included her first ever recording of the song “Don’t Worry Baby” written by Brian Wilson for her.

In 2006, she released “Last of the Rock Stars”, her first album in 20 years, which featured the Raconteurs, Keith Richards, Patti Smith and the Raveonettes. In 2010 she released an amazing Christmas album called “The Best Christmas Ronnie Spector Ever” and in 2016 she released “English Heart”, the covers of her songs from Britain in the 1960s.

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


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