Ronnie Spector Dead At 78

Jack Kay/Daily Express/Getty Images

Ronnie Spector Dead At 78

Jack Kay/Daily Express/Getty Images

Ronnie Spector, best known for leading groundbreaking ’60s pop group the Ronettes, has died. She was 78. Spector’s family confirmed the news in a post on the singer’s website, writing, “Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today after a brief battle with cancer. Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on her face. She was filled with love and gratitude.”

The full statement is below:

Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today after a brief battle with cancer. She was with family and in the arms of her husband, Jonathan. Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on her face. She was filled with love and gratitude. Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or saw her.

In lieu of flowers, Ronnie requested that donations be made to your local women’s shelter or to the American Indian College Fund. A celebration of Ronnie’s life and music will be announced in the future. The family respectfully asks for privacy at this time.

Born Veronica Bennett in 1943, Spector grew up in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. She began singing in local clubs as Ronnie And The Relatives with her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley. She became especially recognized for her liberal use of cat-eye eyeliner and a beehive hairstyle. In 1963, Estelle arranged for the group to audition for producer Phil Spector, and they were signed to Phillies Records that same year, soon recording now-classic hits like “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You.” In 1964, they released their debut record, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica.

After the Ronettes broke up in 1967, Ronnie married Phil Spector, though she later said he kept her locked in their Beverly Hills mansion. She chronicled the abusive relationship in her 1990 autobiography Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness. (Phil Spector was convicted for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson and sentenced to 19 years to life in prison. He died in prison last year.)

After the Ronettes broke up, Spector continued touring and recording, notably singing the 1986 pop gem “Take Me Home Tonight” with Eddie Money. “Be My Baby” also influenced Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” and Spector recorded her own version of the song in 1997 with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. In 1964, Spector released her first solo single, “So Young,” and after 1980, she released five studio albums: Siren (1980), Unfinished Business (1987), Something’s Gonna Happen (2003), Last Of The Rock Stars (2006), and English Heart (2016). She also released 1999’s EP She Talks To Rainbows, which featured a version of the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby” — a track originally wrote for her by Brian Wilson. (Wilson was famously obsessed with “Be My Baby,” listening to it constantly and contemplating its allure.) In 2007, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Ronettes.

Numerous modern pop stars have cited Spector as an influence, most memorably the late Amy Winehouse. When Winehouse died in 2011, Spector released a version of the single “Back to Black” as a tribute.

“Nothing excites me more than just being onstage, having fun and flirting and winking to the guys and stuff like that,” Spector told People 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 there and the crowd reacts the way they react and I can go on singing forever.”

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