Ronnie Spector, 1960s music icon who sang ‘Be My Baby’, dies at 78

by Mark Kennedy | The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – Ronnie Spector, the cat-eyed, beehive rock ‘n’ roll siren who sang 1960s hits like “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain” . The girl group Ronettes has died. She was 78 years old.

Spector died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer, his family said. “Ronnie lived her life with a gleam in her eyes, a playful attitude, a wicked humor and a smile on her face. She was full of love and gratitude,” said a statement. No other details were revealed.

The Ronettes’ sexy looks and powerful voices – along with songwriting and help from Phil Spector – transformed them into one of the leading acts of the girl-group era, touring England with the Rolling Stones and befriending the Beatles.

Spector, along with his sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, created hits with pop masterpieces such as “Baby, I Love You,” “Walking in the Rain,” “I Can Hear Music” and “Be My Baby,” which were the most popular hits in the world. Co-Spectre, written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.

“We weren’t afraid to get hot. That was our gimmick,” Spector said in his memoir. “When we saw The Shirells walk on stage with their elaborate party dresses, we went in the opposite direction and looked at our bodies. into the tightest skirt we could find. Then we would get on the stage and raise our legs to show them even more. ,

Spector, born Veronica Bennett, and his multiracial bandmates grew up in the Washington Heights area of ​​Manhattan. He began singing and dancing in clubs as Ronnie and the Relatives, becoming notable for his liberal use of eyeliner and mascara.

“The louder they applauded, the more mascara we’ll be applying next time,” she wrote in her memoir. “We didn’t have a hit record to capture their attention, so we had to be influenced by our own style. It wasn’t planned; we just took the look we were born with and grew it.”

The Ronettes – Spector (then known as Veronica Bennett), from left, Nedra Talley and Estelle Bennett – travel to the United Kingdom in 1964. The trio toured England with the Rolling Stones and befriended the Beatles. (Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In March 1963, Estelle Bennett managed to arrange an audition in front of Phil Spector, known for his big, brass and drum style, known as the “Wall of Sound”. In 1963 he was signed to Phillies Records. After being signed, he sang backup for other acts until Spector had a group record of “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You”.

The group’s first album, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica, was released in 1964. Five of its 12 tracks made it to the US Billboard charts.

“Nothing excites me more than just being on stage, having fun and flirting and turning a blind eye to people and things like that,” she told People Magazine in 2017. “I just have so much fun. It’s the best feeling when I go out and they say, “Ladies and gentlemen…” – my heart stops for a minute- “… Ronnie Spector And the Ronettes!” Then I just go there and the crowd reacts the way they do and I can sing forever.”

After touring Germany in 1967, the Ronettes broke up. Spector married Ronnie in 1968, then she said he locked her in his Beverly Hills mansion. Her 1990 autobiography “Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts and Madness” tells a tragic story of abuse. Both got divorced in 1974. Phil Spector was jailed in 2009 for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson and died in 2020.

Ronnie Spector’s influence was felt far and wide. Brian Wilson became obsessed with “Be My Baby” and Billy Joel wrote “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” in Spector’s honor. Amy Winehouse often cited Spector as an idol.

Martin Scorsese used “Be My Baby” to open his 1973 film “Mean Streets”, and the song appears in the title sequence of “Dirty Dancing” and the closing credits of “Baby Mama”. It also appeared on TV in “Moonlighting” and “The Wonder Years”.

When the Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones recalled opening for the trio in England in the mid-1960s. “They could sing their way through the wall of sound,” Richards said. “They didn’t need anything. They touched my heart there and then and they touch it still.”

After the Ronettes broke up, Spector continued to tour and make music, including “Take Me Home Tonight” with Eddie Money, the recording of Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and the 1999 EP. She Talked to Rainbows”. ,” which included her first recording of “Don’t Worry Baby,” written for her by Brian Wilson.

In 2006, they released “Last of the Rock Stars”, their first album in 20 years and featured performances by the Raconteurs, Keith Richards, Patti Smith and the Ravonets. In 2010 she released a doo-wop Christmas EP titled “Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever” and in 2016 released “English Heart”, her cover of 60s UK songs.

She is survived by her husband, Jonathan Greenfield, and two sons, Jason and Austin.