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Ronnie Spector obituary: Ronettes singer brought edge to girl group

‘Be My Baby’ and ‘Baby I Love You’ were among the many songs by the Ronettes, a 1960s girl-group that brought a passionate, bad-girl edge to pop’s girl-group sound. Ronnie Spector, the lead singer of the Ronettes, died on Wednesday at the age of 81. She was 78 years old.

According to her family’s statement, she died after “a brief fight with cancer.” The message did not include any other information.

Three young ladies from the Ronettes — Ronnie, born Veronica Bennett, her sister Estelle, and their cousin Nedra Talley – changed the virginal paradigm that had dominated female pop groups since the 1940s with their high-piled hair, tight clothing, and sexual appearances.

“We weren’t terrified of being in the sun. Spector wrote in her biography Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness (also known as My Life as a Fabulous Ronette) in 1990 that the group’s gimmick was to dress like a baby.

In her memoir, she writes, “when we watched the Shirelles walk on stage in their wide party costumes, we immediately went in the opposite direction and compressed our bodies into the tightest skirts we could find.” Once we were on stage, we’d raise them even higher to show off our legs even more.”

When they sang songs like Be My Baby, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963, they did it over Phil Spector’s soaring “wall of sound” production, which made them sound like streetwise lovers (“We’ll make ’em turn their heads everywhere we go”).

Be My Baby was a timeless piece of 1960s pop that managed to convey both innocence and grit at the same time, earning it widespread acclaim among performers of the era. Mean Streets, the hit 1987 television sitcom Moonlighting, and Dirty Dancing’s title sequence are all examples of how this song has been used.
In 2007, during his address inducting the Ronettes into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones recalled hearing the group warming up backstage while they were on the road together in the 1960s. The singers were able to sing all the way through a wall of sound, according to him. “They didn’t need anything at that point.”

Later, Ronnie Spector opened up about the abuse she suffered while married to Phil Spector, which she later revealed. When the Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they made a point of omitting the name of their former producer. At the age of 81 in January 2021, Spector passed away. He had been condemned to prison for the 2003 murder of a lady at his house.

The Ronettes had a streak of hit singles from 1964 to 1965, including The Best Part of Breakin’ Up and Walking in the Rain, and they became a household name for a period of time. They were a part of the Beatles’ 1966 American tour, and Estelle Bennett, Spector’s older sister, was romantically involved with both George Harrison and Mick Jagger at the time. The group’s appearance and sound established them as a popular choice.
As a result of the Ronettes’ demise, Ronnie Spector became engaged to Phil Spector the next year. According to her storey, he had virtually held her prisoner during their relationship, surrounding her with guard dogs and taking her shoes away, among other erratic and psychologically abusive behaviours, during which she had felt trapped.

“I’d get drunk so I could go to treatment, just to get out of the house,” she told the New York Times in a 2000 interview. “I’d get drunk so I could go to rehab, just to get out of the house.”

The Ronettes filed a lawsuit against Phil Spector for unpaid royalties in the late 1980s, claiming that they had been paid less than $15,000 when they signed with his Philles Records label in 1963 and that they had never received another payment after that. The legal struggle would last for 15 years in the end.

According to Ronnie Spector, who testified during the trial, her husband hindered her singing career and coerced her into signing a 1974 divorce settlement in which she agreed to surrender all future record royalties. Her testimony stated that the defendant informed her, “I’m going to kill you,” and then went on to say, “I’m going to hire a hit guy to kill you.” a yardstick by which to judge
The gang was awarded $2.6 million in 2000, but the judgement was reversed on appeal two years later, and their families later stated that they ended up earning significantly less than that amount.

According to Ronnie Spector, “I was so governed by Phil, and now I have my own views,” he said at the time. “Now that this case is done, all I can think about is the future: to my future as a rock ‘n’ roll singer.”

Hair from a beehive
Veronica Yvette Bennett was born on August 10th, 1943, in New York City, and grew up in the Washington Heights neighbourhood of the borough of Manhattan. After hearing Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, she began singing with her sister and cousin while she was in her teens. Estelle Bennett, who worked at Macy’s and attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, was instrumental in creating the group’s signature appearance, which included beehive hair, tight costumes, and a lot of makeup.

The young women’s racial and ethnic backgrounds made them stand out in a segregated society at the time. The Bennett sisters were of African-American Indian and Irish descent, whereas Talley was of African-American Indian and Puerto Rican descent.

After signing with Colpix Records in 1961, the Ronettes issued a number of singles under the name Ronnie and the Relatives, including the hit track “I Want a Boy.” Phil Spector signed the group to Philles after they performed during an audition in 1963. During that summer, the single Be My Baby, written by Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich, was released.

Throughout the 1970s, Ronnie Spector cooperated with Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Billy Joel, and Bruce Springsteen in an attempt to restore her career after her divorce from producer Phil Spector. However, it wasn’t until 1986 that she had huge success with her duet with Eddie Money, Take Me Home Tonight, which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard singles chart and won her a Grammy nomination.

Artist working as a lone wolf
In the following years, she recorded music as a solo artist, including work for the underground independent label Kill Rock Stars, and put on a concert tour.
During the holiday season, she performed at the BB King Blues Club and Grill in New York on a regular basis, and she published a holiday EP in 2010. For longstanding Ronettes fans, it was a throwback to the group’s legendary 1963 holiday album, A Christmas Gift for You, on which they sang songs such as Frosty the Snowman, Sleigh Ride, and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, among others.

Estelle Bennett died in 2009, and her daughter disclosed that her mother had suffered from mental illness and had been homeless for a period of time before her death.

Spitler is survived by Jonathan Greenfield, her husband of nearly four decades and former manager, and their two adult kids, Jason and Austin. She was predeceased by her parents.

English Heart (2016), which includes interpretations of Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood and How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, was released in 2016. Her final two albums of cover songs, The Last of the Rock Stars (2006) and English Heart (2016), both released in 2016, were met with a lukewarm reception. She, on the other hand, was delighted to be the one who got to choose her materials.

The singer-songwriter stated in 2007 that “every song is a little bit of my life.” “I’m just a slum girl who had a dream of becoming a singer.” Beyond the Beehive, a biographical one-woman play, premiered in 2012. Women in rock music, ranging from Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders to Amy Winehouse, have made significant contributions to the genre.