Ronnie Spector, ’60s pop icon and ‘Be My Baby’ singer, dies at 78

Ronnie Spector, known for singing iconic 1960s hits such as “Be My Baby” and “Walking in the Rain,” died Wednesday of cancer, according to a statement from her family.

Ronnie Spector, 78, led girl group the Ronettes and was known for rocking the cat-eye makeup and beehive hair that became synonymous with the era. A New York native who grew up in East Harlem, Spector quickly became an international sensation.

The band’s appearance and powerful voice, as well as songwriting and producing the aid of Phil Spector – turned them into one of the premier acts of the girl group era, touring England with the Rolling Stones and befriending the Beatles.

Born Veronica Bennett, Ronnie Spector began performing in New York City with her older sister, Estelle Bennett, and their cousin Nedra Talley. The teenage band’s stardom was launched after winning an amateur competition at the famed Apollo Theatre.

In 1963, the women were signed to the label of Phil Spector, the “wall of sound” music producer who helped create hits for some of the biggest boy bands of the day, including the Beatles and the Beaches. Boys.

The band released their first album as the Ronettes in 1964, and five of their 12 tracks reached the US Billboard charts.

The Ronettes, who broke up in 1967, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, where they were recognized for producing “some of the greatest music of the century”.

In an induction essay for the group, Rob Bowman called the Ronettes “the sexiest, hippest, and possibly the most resounding girl group of all time”.

“While their recording career spanned less than six years and they only placed a handful of singles on the charts, songs such as ‘Be My Baby’, ‘Baby, I Love You’ and ‘Walking in the Rain’ were bigger than the hit recordings that made the Ronettes an indelible part of early and mid-’60s rock sound memory,” Bowman wrote.

Ronnie Spector married Phil Spector in 1968, but the couple divorced in 1974.

She wrote about their time together in her memoir, “Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness”, describing her former husband as abusive and controlling. He was convicted in 2009 of the murder of actor Lana Clarkson and died in prison last year.

But Ronnie Spector’s legacy went far beyond his former marriage and the Ronettes, influencing musical years for years to come. Amy Winehouse, who also made cat eye makeup and beehive hair part of her look, frequently cited Spector as an idol.

She toured solo after the Ronettes broke up and continued to hit hits including “Take Me Home Tonight” with Eddie Money, recording Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and the 1999 EP “She Talks to Rainbows.”

In a 2017 interview with People magazine, Ronnie Spector said she didn’t initially think the Ronettes would make it “because of our looks and our biraciality.”

She thanked the gay community for helping start the group and keeping it going over the years.

“Our career started working in the Village in the gay cafes,” she said. “And then when I came back from California, where do you think I started? I started at Continental Baths, a gay club. That’s how I started my return to show business.”

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

“Ronnie lived his life with a twinkle in his eye, a brave attitude, a mischievous sense of humor and a smile on his face,” his family said Wednesday. “She was filled with love and gratitude. Her cheerful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or saw her.”

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