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Ronnie Spector, rock icon behind ‘Be My Baby,’ dead at 78

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Ronnie Spector, the powerhouse vocalist and teenage ingenue behind the ’60s rock band the Ronettes, died on Wednesday at 78.

“Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today,” her family wrote in a statement, adding that the star lost “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,” they continued.

“Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or saw her.”

Spector, born Veronica Yvette Bennett in 1943, was known for singing Ronettes hits including “Be My Baby,” “Baby, I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain.”

The Ronettes: Nedra Talley (from left), Veronica Bennett aka Ronnie Spector (from left) and Estelle Bennett
Redferns

Her trademark beehive and unapologetic bad-girl swagger made waves in the music industry when the rock group first hit the airwaves in 1963.

“We weren’t afraid to be hot. That was our gimmick,” Spector wrote in her memoir. “When we saw The Shirelles walk on stage with their wide party dresses, we went in the opposite direction and squeezed our bodies into the tightest skirts we could find. Then we’d get out on stage and hike them up to show our legs even more.”

The group’s first album, 1964’s “Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica,” was an instant hit, with five of its 12 tracks making it to the top of the Billboard charts.

In 1968 at age 25, after the Ronettes split, she married Phil Spector, the infamous Wall of Sound producer behind the group’s hits.

“When I was working with Phil Spector, watching him create in the recording studio, I knew I was working with the very best,” she recently wrote on Instagram. “He was in complete control, directing everyone. So much to love about those days. Meeting him and falling in love was like a fairytale. The magical music we were able to make together, was inspired by our love. I loved him madly, and gave my heart and soul to him.”

But Ronnie, who has spoken in depth about the abuse and vindictiveness she suffered at the hands of her first husband before and after their 1974 divorce, also referenced the bad times.

Ronnie Spector was just 18 when she was discovered by producer Phil Spector.
Ronnie Spector was just 18 when she was discovered by producer Phil Spector.
Michael Ochs Archives

“As I said many times while he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband. Unfortunately Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio. Darkness set in, many lives were damaged. I still smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and always will. The music will be forever. Phil Spector 1939-2021,” she wrote.

Ronnie had previously accused him of pulling a gun on her, forcing her to sign a divorce settlement that reportedly cut her out of future records earning, and even lobbying the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to not induct her.

The couple had three adopted children — Donté Phillip and twins Louis and Gary. In 2009, Phil was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in 2003. He died in prison in 2021.

In 1982, she married her manager Jonathan Greenfield and they had two sons, Austin Drew and Jason Charles.

Ronnie Spector
Ronnie Spector in 1978
Getty Images

Fans immediately paid tribute to her life and legacy on Twitter. One wrote, “Ronnie Spector. A rock and roll hero. A total badass. A survivor who took back her power. My admiration for her runs deep. May she Rest in Power.”

Another added, “Deeply saddened to hear that we lost Ronnie Spector today. She made pop music much cooler than it was, influenced everyone from Amy Winehouse to Missy Elliot. With the Ronettes, Ronnie smashed the girl group mold/allowed inspiring acts like [Patti LaBelle] to soar.”

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




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