NEW YORK, Jan 13 ― Ronnie Spector, the cat-eyed rock ‘n’ roll singer behind the 1960s group the Ronettes, whose era-defining hits included the classic Be My Baby, died yesterday. She was 78 years old.
“Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today after a brief battle with cancer,” read a family statement.
“Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on her face,” the statement added.
Born Veronica Greenfield in New York’s Spanish Harlem on August 10, 1943, Spector was the daughter of an African American-Cherokee mother and Irish American father.
She formed the musical group later known as the Ronettes with her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, gaining traction in the New York area with their soulful songs of young love, before signing in 1963 with the then legendary producer Phil Spector ― who she would go on to marry.
With their vampy, heavily lidded eyes, sky-high beehive hairstyles and skirts cut above the knee, the Ronettes delivered a string of hits during their early 1960s heyday, including Baby, I Love You and (The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up, along with the beloved Be My Baby that in 1999 was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Along with the Supremes, the Ronettes were among the period’s premier singing groups, and the only girl group to tour with the Beatles, opening for them on their 1966 tour.
Inducting the trio into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones recalled opening for the Ronettes in the 1960s.
“They didn’t need anything. They touched my heart right there and then and they touch it still,” Richards said.
The Ronettes broke up in 1967 following a European concert tour.
In 1978, Ronnie married Phil Spector ― once the king of rock ‘n’ roll producers, who in 2009 was jailed for murder.
The pair divorced in 1974, and in her autobiography the singer chronicled years of horrifically abusive behaviour perpetrated by her ex.
Following the breakup of the Ronettes, Spector continued a solo career, which included a number of collaborations with artists like Eddie Money and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
In 2006 she dropped Last of the Rock Stars, an album that included features from Richards and Patti Smith.
“She was filled with love and gratitude,” read her family’s statement.
“Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or saw her.” ― AFP