Ronnie Spector, the swaggering 1960s pop queen with the sky-high beehive whose seductive, quavering vocals fueled multiple successes for The Ronettes, including "Be My Baby," has died, according to her family. She was 78 years old.
"After a brief struggle with cancer, our darling earth angel, Ronnie, quietly left this world today," the family announced. "She was in the arms of her husband, Jonathan, and surrounded by relatives. Ronnie always had a glint in her eye, a sassy attitude, a wicked sense of humor, and a smile on her face." "Be My Baby," according to Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, is the best pop recording ever made.
The music elite began to pay tribute to Spector's brilliance. "I just heard the news about Ronnie Spector and I don't know what to say," Wilson posted on Twitter. "I adored her voice, and she was a really remarkable person and a great friend to me. This simply tears my heart. Ronnie's music and passion will go on in perpetuity." Spector's "mark on rock and roll is indelible." according to Joan Jett.
Veronica Bennett, born in New York City's Spanish Harlem area, founded the Ronettes with an older sister and a cousin when she was still a teenager in 1961. They didn't become renowned until two years later when they auditioned for music producer Phil Spector, the inventor of the 1960s' "Wall of Sound" style, who signed them to his label. They toured the country with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars, fueled by the huge success of "Be My Baby," their debut song for Spector, and reeled off a string of pop singles over the following several years, including "Baby I Love You," "Walking in the Rain," and "Do I Love You?"
According to Ronnie Spector's website, the Ronettes headlined over artists such as The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and The Yardbirds in England, and then opened for the Beatles on their last US tour in 1966. The band disbanded in 1967. Ronnie married Phil Spector, with whom she had a turbulent relationship, soon after. In 1974, the couple divorced.
Ronnie Spector characterized her husband as dictatorial and emotionally abusive in her biography, "Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness."
She famously commented on social media following his death last year, "he was a fantastic producer, but a poor spouse." By the mid-1970s, Ronnie Spector had established a new solo career. Although she never achieved the financial success of her heyday in the 1960s, she returned to Top 40 radio in 1986, singing with Eddie Money on his single "Take Me Home Tonight."
Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes sued Phil Spector for about $10 million in royalties and licensing costs in 1988. He was finally compelled by a court to pay the Ronettes royalties twice a year. Phil Spector was eventually convicted and sentenced to 19 years in jail for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson. He died in prison. Ronnie Spector continues to produce and perform music well into her seventies.
Her relatives stated that she "was overflowing with love and appreciation Her cheerful tone, humorous demeanor, and enchanting presence will live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew, heard, or saw her. Ronnie asked that donations be sent to your local women's shelter or the American Indian College Fund in lieu of flowers. A tribute to Ronnie's life and music will be unveiled in the near future. At this time, the family respectfully requests privacy."