Ronnie Spector Has Died At 78
In the past couple of weeks, we’ve lost Betty White, Sir Sidney Poitier, and Bob Saget. And here comes another wave of sadness, because Ronnie Spector, the lead singer of The Ronettes, died today. She was 78.
Ronnie’s family announced the sad news in a statement, saying that she died from cancer while with her family, including her husband of 39 years and her manager, Jonathan Greenfield.
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.
Ronnie Spector was born Veronica Yvette Bennett on August 10, 1943 in NYC’s Spanish Harlem. While some of us as teenagers started our own pop groups that “performed” for the mothballs, rakes, and grease stains in our parents’ garage, teenage Ronnie started a legit group with her older sister Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley. They were originally called Darling Sisters but changed their name to The Ronettes.
In the early 1960s, after playing shows around NYC, they were signed to Colpix Records. Their singles with Colpix really didn’t go anywhere, but they started to find success as dancers. Disc jockey Murray Kaufman, aka “Murray the K,” hired The Ronettes to dance at his shows, and later they sang back-up, and then he invited them to fully perform as The Ronettes. During that time, they amped up the glamour and the hair. And this was before Bumpits!
When The Ronettes got sick of Colpix not doing shit for their careers, Estelle contacted Phil Spector and asked him if they could audition for him. Phil had seen them dance before and agreed to see them. Phil ended up signing them.
The Ronettes’ first single with Phil Spector’s record label was Be My Baby, a girl group masterpiece and a perfect pop song. And the song features backing vocals from Darlene Love, Sonny Bono, and Cher! via BBC
Ronnie flew out to Los Angeles – minus her two bandmates – to record the song at Gold Star Studios, the birthplace of Phil Spector’s famous Wall of Sound. Spector, a notorious taskmaster, insisted on 42 run throughs by the band before he finally hit record. Darlene Love was among the backing singers, as was Sonny Bono and his new girlfriend, a then unknown teenager called Cher.
It was a hit and is considered one of the greatest songs of the 1960s and one of the greatest girl group songs of all-time. It’s one of my favorites too thanks to Ronnie’s voice. I don’t have Spotify but if I did, Be My Baby would be on my Spotify Wrapped every single year.
After Be My Baby became a hit, they released more singles like Baby, I Love You, (The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up, Do I Love You?, Chapel of Love, Walking In The Rain, and several Christmas songs. They only made one studio album, 1964’s Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica. They also opened for The Beatles in 1967.
After their tour with The Beatles ended, they broke up. Estelle Bennett died in 2009. The Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
Ronnie married Phil Spector in 1968. They had three children together, including son Donté Phillip and twins, Louis and Gary, who Phil adopted without telling her. In 1990, Ronnie released her memoir Be My Baby (and it’s being turned into a movie starring Zendaya). Ronnie wrote in her book that throughout their marriage, Phil psychologically tortured and abused her and kept her as a prisoner in their mansion. Ronnie was finally able to get away from him and filed for divorce. Their divorce was finalized in 1974 and she agreed to give up her future royalties because Phil threatened to send a hit man after her.
When Ronnie tried to rebuild her career, Phil made it hard for her to sing her classics and denied her and the other Ronettes royalties. In 1998, The Ronettes sued Phil for $10 million for unpaid royalties and licensing. It took the case FOREVER to make it to court (10 years) and eventually Phil was ordered to pay $2.6 million but after going through appeals, the decision was later overturned. The court did rule that Ronnie is entitled to her cut of royalties despite her signing them over to Phil in her divorce. The Ronettes sued Phil again in 2010 for unpaid royalties.
Phil Spector died last year in prison where he was serving 19 years to life for the murder of Lana Clarkson.
Ronnie married Jonathan Greenfield in 1982 and they shared two sons: Austin Drew and Jason Charles.
Ronnie has continued to make music and tour throughout the decades. In 1986, Ronnie was back on the charts when she sang parts of Be My Baby on Eddie Money’s Take Me Home Tonight:
Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes inspired many artists including Amy Winehouse. When Amy died in 2011, Ronnie paid tribute to her with a cover of Back To Black.
Rest in peace, Ronnie Spector.