Jesse Grant / Getty Images for NAMM
Singer Ronnie Spector, who founded girl group The Ronettes in 1961, has died after a brief battle with cancer. She was 78 years old.
“Our beloved earthly angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today,” her family wrote on the singer’s website on Wednesday. “She was with her family and in the arms of her husband, Jonathan. Ronnie lived her life with a sparkle in her eyes, a brave demeanor, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on her face. She was filled with love. love and gratitude. Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in everyone who knew, heard or seen her. “
Spector was born in Spanish Harlem. While still a teenager, she founded The Ronettes, which also starred her older sister Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley. “Be My Baby”, “Walking In The Rain” and “Do I Love You” were part of the series of pop hits recorded by the girl group.
She was married to Phil Spector, the producer and screenwriter of many of these hits. Spector mistreated her and forbade her to play; they divorced in the early 1970s; Ronnie Spector recounted the abuse in his 1990 memoir, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Mini Skirts, and Madness.
She recorded “Be My Baby” at the age of 16, as she told WHYY’s Fresh air in 1987. “It was amazing because I was over there in California recording,” she recalls, “and I had never left New York. I had never been out of New York. York all my life. And there, I’m on a plane to California on my own, without the other two Ronettes, just to star. And I mean, I remember being in the women’s bathroom there. New York airport singing in the toilet, music or whatever, and I don’t play any instruments. So it was like you had to learn it over and over again. “
The Ronettes have been the headliners of major rock groups, including the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. The Beatles selected the group to join their American tour in 1966.
As a result of the abuse, Ronnie Spector struggled to restore his career. But she was encouraged by Bruce Springsteen, the E Street Band, and Billy Joel.
Joel had written a song called “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” with the sound of Ronettes in his ear, and Springsteen was in the middle of a legal battle with a former manager who kept him from recording. Guitarist and producer Steven Van Zandt took the opportunity to bring Spector back to the studio with the E Street Band – to record a cover of Joel’s song.
After Spector’s death, Van Zandt wrote about Twitter: “It was an honor to produce her and encourage her to come back to the stage where she remained for the next 45 years. Her record with the E Street Band has helped us support each other in very precarious times.”
In 1986, she had a memorable solo on Eddie Money’s 1986 hit “Take Me Home Tonight”. Money advises, “Listen, honey, it’s like Ronnie is singing …” before Spector rushes in. to sing “be my little baby” – followed by his famous “oh, oh, oh”.
The Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. His latest solo album, English heart, was released by the 429 label in 2016.
Family writes that instead of flowers, Spector asked for donations to be made “to your local women’s shelter or American Indian College. Funds.”
A celebration of the life and music of Spector will be announced at a later date.