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RONNIE SPECTOR,
1943-2022

Ronnie Spector, the commanding vocalist whose songs with The Ronettes set the gold standard for 1960s girl groups, died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer. She was 78.

Spector's husband, Jonathan Greenfield, and family were at her side. In a statement, they said, “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.”

The Ronettes, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, released only one album and had a mere five Top 40 hits, but those records, chiefly "Be My Baby," "Walking in the Rain," "Baby I Love You” and "The Best Part of Breaking Up," influenced scores of musicians, from The Beatles and The Beach Boys to The Ramones and Amy Winehouse, whose personal style was modeled on Spector. Over the last three decades, Spector was celebrated as a model of perseverance as well as a singular talent, much like another vocalist who recorded for Phil Spector in the early ‘60s, Darlene Love.

Born Veronica Bennett in New York’s Spanish Harlem, Spector started singing as a teenager with her sister, Estelle Bennett, and their cousin Nedra Talley, billing themselves as The Darling Sisters and Ronnie and the Relatives.

Famed New York DJ Murray the K discovered them when they were singing and dancing at New York’s Peppermint Lounge, hiring them for his Brooklyn Fox Theater rock 'n' roll revues. They changed their name to The Ronettes and signed with Colpix Records in 1961.

Less than two years later, they left Colpix for Phil Spector and Lester Sill’s Philles Records. The label refused to release their first four recordings and used the songs as filler on The CrystalsGreatest Hits.

The first Ronettes single, “Be My Baby,” was released in August 1963 and peaked at #2 that fall. It led to their touring England with The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds. When The Beatles did their final U.S. tour in 1966, they hand-picked The Ronettes to open the shows.

A few years later, Spector signed with The Beatles’ Apple Records, releasing “Try Some, Buy Some,” written and produced by George Harrison, with a backing band that included Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr.

In the 1970s Spector and The Ronettes recorded for A&M and Buddah but failed to chart. By the middle of the decade, artists were bringing her into the studio as a guest vocalist.

Billy Joel wrote "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" in 1976 as a tribute to Spector. She recorded it with backing by Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band in 1977. Springsteen associate Southside Johnny did a duet with her on the Asbury Jukes’ 1976 debut album. She also performed with them in concert. A 1986 duet with Eddie Money, “Take Me Home Tonight”—bearing the refrain "Just like Ronnie sang, 'Be my little baby'"—reached #4 and spent half a year on the singles chart. Later on she collaborated with Joey Ramone and The Misfits.

Spector released multiple solo albums, the most recent being The Last of the Rock Stars in 2009 and a collection of British Invasion covers, English Heart, in 2016.

She created a biographical one-woman show, Beyond the Beehive, in 2012 that played New York and London.

She and Phil Spector were married in 1968 and divorced in 1974. Spector forfeited many of her professional rights to get out of the marriage and in June 2000, after a 15-year legal battle, won a landmark decision that eased the way for ‘50s and ‘60s artists to collect past-due royalties.

Details of a celebration of Ronnie Spector’s life and music will be announced. 

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