ENTERTAINMENT

Ronnie Spector, ’60s icon who sang ‘Be My Baby,’ dies at 78

Jan 12, 2022, 3:48 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:41 pm
ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 21:  Singer Ronnie Spector performs onstage during the 2017 NAMM Show at the ...
ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 21: Singer Ronnie Spector performs onstage during the 2017 NAMM Show at the Anaheim Convention Center on January 21, 2017 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for NAMM)
(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for NAMM)

NEW YORK (AP) — Ronnie Spector, the cat-eyed, bee-hived rock ‘n’ roll siren who sang such 1960s hits as “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain” as the leader of the girl group The Ronettes, has died. She was 78.

Spector died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer, her family 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,” a statement said. No other details were revealed.

Tributes flooded social media, with Stevie Van Zandt saying it was an honor to produce her, to Brian Wilson, who wrote on Twitter: “I loved her voice so much and she was a very special person and a dear friend.”

The Ronettes’ sexy look and powerful voices — plus songwriting and producing help from 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.

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 Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.

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

Spector, born Veronica Bennett, and her multiracial 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.

“The louder they applauded, the more mascara we put on the next time,” she wrote in her memoir. “We didn’t have a hit record to grab their attention, so we had to make an impression with our style. None of it was planned out; we just took the look we were born with and extended it.”

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 signed to Phillies Records in 1963. After being signed, they sang backup for other acts until Spector had the group record “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You.”

The group’s debut album, “Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica,” was released in 1964. Five of its 12 tracks had made it to the U.S. Billboard charts.

“Nothing excites me more than just being onstage, having fun and flirting and winking to the guys and stuff like that,” she told People magazine in 2017. “I just have so much fun. It’s just 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 out there and the crowd reacts the way they react and I can go on singing forever.”

After touring Germany in 1967, the Ronettes broke up. 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 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 frequently 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 in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones remembered opening for the trio in England in the mid-1960s. “They could sing all their way right through a wall of sound,” Richards said. “They didn’t need anything. They touched my heart right 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, recording Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and recording the 1999 EP “She Talks to Rainbows,” which included her first ever recording of “Don’t Worry Baby,” written for her by Brian Wilson.

In 2006, she released “Last of the Rock Stars,” her first album in 20 years and it featured appearances by the Raconteurs, Keith Richards, Patti Smith and the Raveonettes. In 2010 she released a doo-wop Christmas EP called “Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever” and in 2016 released “English Heart,” her covers of songs from Britain in the ’60s.

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

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Entertainment

woman leans off skyscraper for video content...
Larry D. Curtis

Sundance: ‘Fantastic Machine’ entertains while examining relationship between humans and camera

While the Utah's political leaders grapple with laws to combat the dangers of social media, Utah's Sundance Film Festival premiered "Fantastic Machine," turning the camera lens not only the camera but what it has meant to humans — spoiler: it has drastically changed us.
2 days ago
M&M's are piled in a container on January 24, 2023 in Miami, Florida. M&M's announced that its mult...
Danielle Wiener-Bronner

How M&M’s is making the most of its spokescandies controversy

Following the flood of attention its characters are going on an "indefinite pause," handing off spokesperson responsibilities to actress and comedian Maya Rudolph.
2 days ago
Justin Bieber attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolita...
Associated Press

Justin Bieber sells rights to ‘Baby,’ rest of music catalog

Justin Bieber's record-breaking pop hits from "Baby" to "Sorry" are no longer his after the superstar sold the rights to all his early career music.
2 days ago
The sun sets on Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2022. ...
AJ Willingham

Disney’s Splash Mountain fans are getting their hands on whatever souvenirs they can

Walt Disney World's iconic Splash Mountain ride is officially closed, but hardcore Disney fans are going to creative lengths to keep pieces of the attraction forever.
2 days ago
Actor Jeremy Renner was trying to stop his snow-removal tractor from sliding and hitting his grown ...
Paul P. Murphy

Sheriff: Jeremy Renner was crushed by snowplow as he tried to save nephew from injury

Actor Jeremy Renner was trying to stop his snow-removal tractor from sliding and hitting his grown nephew when he was pulled under the vehicle and crushed on New Year's Day, according to a Nevada sheriff's office incident report.
2 days ago
Sesame Street co-founder Lloyd Morrisett (C) with Sesame Street characters Abby Cadabby (L) and Coo...
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

Lloyd Morrisett, who helped launch ‘Sesame Street,’ dies

The co-creator of the beloved children’s education TV series “Sesame Street,” Lloyd Morrisett has died. He was 93.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Ronnie Spector, ’60s icon who sang ‘Be My Baby,’ dies at 78