Ronnie Spector, Co-Founder of ’60s Girl Group The Ronettes, Dead at 78
Ronnie Spector, the famed singer of the famous 1960s girl group The Ronettes, has died. Spector, who became known for the group’s hits including “Be My Baby” and “Walking in the Rain,” passed away on Wednesday, January 12, 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”: a statement released to People.
The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, and the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 for their song “Be My Baby.”
Ronnie Spector, born Veronica Yvette Bennett, joined her sister Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley to form “The Darling Sisters” in 1957, which would later become The Ronettes. After signing with Phil Spector‘s Philles Records in 1961, the group would go on to record a series of chart-topping hits propelling the band to achieve their greatest success. Now working with record producer Spector, came a series of life-changing events that began with changing the group’s name and eventually led into an affair with the then-married Phil Spector, whom Bennett would go on to marry in 1968.
That marriage would later turn into a well-documented physically and emotionally abusive, turbulent relationship that would subject her to years of horrific abuse that would end in divorce in 1974 . Ronnie Spector would battle addiction to alcohol during and after her marriage to Spector ended. It was at the end of the marriage and subsequent divorce that she signed over all rights of the group’s master recordings to Phil, leaving her nearly broke for the majority of her adult life. It would take a ten-year-long legal battle against Phil Spector to win a one million dollar judgment, just a pittance of the group’s royalties. Interestingly, Ronnie Spector would die just days before the one-year anniversary of Phil Spector’s death who died on January 16, 2021 at the age of 81.
The Ronettes released just one studio album, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica (1964), that contained the group’s biggest hits including “Be My Baby” (1963), “Baby, I Love You” (1963), “The Best Part of Breakin’ Up” (1964), and “Walking in the Rain” (1964). The Ronettes would record several compilation albums with different artists throughout the group’s short-lived career. Bennett was the lead on The Ronettes’ biggest hits from the early-to-mid–1960s, including 1964. The Ronettes were also part of a landmark album from 1963 titled A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, including their great renditions of “Frosty the Snowman,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Other artists on the album were Darlene Love, The Crystals, and Bob B. Sox and the Blue Jeans.
She went on to a solo career that would not repeat the success she had with The Ronettes, releasing a total of four studio albums and several EPs over the next 20 years, including Siren (1980), Unfinished Business (1987), Something’s Gonna Happen (2003), Last of the Rock Stars (2006), and English Heart (2016).
Spector’s later success was due in part to the Eddie Money song “Take Me Home Tonight,” singing backing vocals and appearing in the music video with this:
Take me home tonight
I don’t want to let you go ’til you see the light
Take me home tonight
Listen honey, just like Ronnie sang, “Be my little baby”
Atlanta musician Glenn Phillips correctly noted:
Ronnie Spector was a game changer: She was responsible for a large number of white teenage boys raised in a segregated America to get their first crush on a woman of color. What a woman and what a talent she was.