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Ronnie Spector, lead singer of The Ronettes, dies aged 78



Ronnie Spector, singer of the 1960s hits Be My Baby and Baby, I Love You as part of The Ronettes, has died at the age of 78, her family said in a statement on Wednesday.

Spector, the leader of girl group The Ronettes, died surrounded by family and in the arms of her husband Jonathan, after a brief battle with cancer, the statement said.

“Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humour and a smile on her face. She was filled with love and gratitude,” the family said.

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

Spector, alongside her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, scored hits with pop masterpieces like Baby, I Love You, Walking In The Rain, I Can Hear Music and Be My Baby, which was co-written by Phil Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.

“We weren’t afraid to be hot. That was our gimmick,” Ronnie Spector said 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.”

Ronnie, born Veronica Bennett, and her bandmates grew up in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. They began singing and dancing in clubs as Ronnie and the Relatives, becoming noteworthy for their liberal use of eyeliner and mascara.

In March 1963, Estelle Bennett managed to arrange an audition in front of Phil Spector, known for his big, brass-and-drum style dubbed the “wall of sound”. They were then signed to Phillies Records in 1963. After being signed, they sang back-up for other acts until Phil Spector had the group record their famous hits.

The group’s debut album, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica, was released in 1964. After touring Germany in 1967, The Ronettes broke up.

Phil Spector married Ronnie in 1968, then she said he kept her locked in their Beverly Hills mansion. Her 1990 autobiography Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness tells an unhappy story of abuse. The couple divorced in 1974. Phil Spector was sent to prison in 2009 for the murder of actor 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 her honour. Amy Winehouse frequently cited Ronnie as an idol.

She is survived by her husband Jonathan Greenfield, and two sons, Jason and Austin. – Reuters/PA



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